This tweet will be the defining question every Cubs fans will to have to ask themselves after it was announced today that Kerry Wood will be retiring. While disappointment and unfulfilled potential aren’t strangers to the North Side of Chicago, this latest case is probably one that will hit home more than most ones.
I still remember May 6, 1998 pretty well. I was 11 yrs old at the time and in my prime of being a Cubs fan. I say this because I’ve always said I’m both a White Sox and Cubs fan while growing up. But after the debacle that was the 2003 postseason (Bartman Incident) and back-2-back years of the Cubs failing to win a single playoff game despite winning consecutive division titles (2007-08), my patience for the Cubs is about as strong as their bullpen is right now. Being born and raised on the South Side of Chicago while having a father who is a die-heart Cubs fan led to an interesting dynamic. My father would always ask me what the Sox did. When it came to his beloved Cubs, everybody within a 20 mi radius of my father’s voice would know the surprising thrill of a Cubs win and the usual agony of a Cubs defeat. Both had their share of entertainment. A 3+ game winning streak mostly led to euphoric expectations that finally this was their year. And the imminent losing streaks led my father to his constant badgering of saying “THESE CUBS ARE PATHETIC…THEY ARE!” The irony of his lifelong allegiance to the Cubs came full circle in three consecutive years after the tragedy in 2003.
- 2004: Boston Red Sox end their 86 yr World Series drought in spectacular fashion by coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the ALCS before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals.
- 2005: Chicago White Sox end their 88 yr World Series drought sweeping the Houston Astros.
- 2006: St. Louis Cardinals win their 10th World Series defeating the Detroit Tiger 4-1 after only winning 86 games in the regular season.
(Does anybody else see how many rivalries were both directly and indirectly affected by this 3 year span?)
What I found funny was how my father, the avid Cubs fan, called me the day of the White Sox parade screaming in celebration while I was stuck in West Lafayette, IN for my freshman year at Purdue. Not only did the parade come by his job he was lucky enough to catch a souvenir from one of the floats. Not bad for a faux-Sox fan I guess. He did get us some World Series hats, again which amused me.
So what does all of this have to do with Kerry Wood? Maybe this tweet of mines will shed some light as I answer the question from the tweet up top:
No matter how many injuries he had or what other team he played for, I always found myself rooting for Wood. Was it the fact he’s seems to be such a great guy off the mound that plays into effect, sure. But more than that he had the talent and potential to be a great pitcher. He was the kid from Texas with the big arm who would lead the Cubs not only into the next millennium, but also to a World Series. Sure Cubs’ fans have had the pleasure for cheering on some of the greatest names baseball has seen, but it’s almost heartbreaking Kerry Wood’s name can’t be added to that list. Yes Wood has some great moments for the Cubs but compared to the likes of Ernie Banks, Ryan Sandberg, and Mark Grace sadly his tenure on the North Side doesn’t quite stack up. The inconsistency with Wood was extremely frustrating when everybody could see how devastating his slider was compared to when he had absolutely no control over it. One of my teachers from high school who coached baseball a good portion of his life would tell us in class he could tell “if Woody had his stuff” from the 1st inning. He pointed out more than not if he had control of his slider and curve at the start then things would look good. And things look great for the majority of the 2003 season for not only Woody but the whole Cubs team. Even after the mind-numbing experience that was Game 6 of the National League Championship Series aka the Bartman Incident, many Cubs fans found salvation that Wood was taking the hill in Game 7. After this home run optimism again was at its peak for Woody and the Cubs:
But sadly we know how this story ends.
I didn’t wanna make this blog all about his stats and comparisons of other pitchers because quite frankly it didn’t feel right to do so at this moment. The point of this blog post was to express how even though I’m not (nor ever have I’ve been) the biggest Cubs fan, today is a very sad day for me. Sure doing the hop-step and kiss-chest pound combo made famous by Sammy Sosa was fun growing up, but it was Kerry Wood who was the 1 of the few Cubs I always liked and respected. When he went to the Cleveland Indians, I still found myself cheering when he closed a game out and thought that the Cubs, despite all his injuries and struggles, shouldn’t have got rid of him. So seeing that Kerry Wood ended his career leaving in the same manner in which he’s left an unforgettable impression in fans mind, a strikeout, I take some happiness in that.