The first ever professional baseball game I went to was Kerry Wood’s 20-K, one-hitter against the Houston Astros on April 12th, 1998.
I was six years old, so I don’t remember much of anything from that game, but I do remember being told over and over again that I was witnessing MLB history.
That day Chicago Cubs fans and I fell in love with Kerry Wood.
Fast forward to May 18th, 2012, and 14 years after that historic day, Wood announced he would be retiring from baseball.
Wood would be brought in to pitch part of the 8th inning against the rival White Sox. In his last appearance as a Cubs and as a MLB player, he struck out Dayan Viciedo.
It was a perfect ending to a career that could be labeled as unfulfilled.
It’s true that Kerry Wood never lived up to his true potential. Instead, he fell into the very prevalent scenario in the sports world of a talented athlete whose talent was chipped away by seemingly endless injuries.
It’s true that Wood never won over 14 games as a starting pitcher. It’s true that Wood’s career win/loss record will stand as an unimpressive 86-75.
But what is also true is that Wood became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 1,000 strikeouts in terms of games played (134) and innings pitched (853).
And what is even more important than both of those records is that he also very much loved Chicago and its fans. Cub fans saw that, and we loved him because of it.
He never gave up on the team, and we never gave up on him.
Despite all the dashed potential, Cubs fans love and will always have a special place in our hearts for Kerry Wood.
It may not have been the career Wood or Cubs fans would’ve liked to see, but Cubs fans found a friend, and to me that’s far more important.