On the Friday single season tickets went on sale, it was a crazy ass day at work, and I had forgotten until lunchtime. On a whim, I went out to the Cubs site. Other years, there would be no chance at any "premium" games, but this time, there were no posted notices about sold out games, so I figured WTF, I have never attended a "Crosstown Classic" at Wrigley. Maybe this is my chance. After a reasonable time in the new, improved "waiting room", I got into what was today's game, selected 2 for "best available", since I figured nothing would come up, and bang! I got two in the 200 section, five rows up.
For $74 face per ticket, plus all the vig Ticketmaster tacks on. Ended up $98 a ticket. Didn't even faze me; I was just amazed I was able to get in.
When they came in the mail, my wife asked me the hell I was thinking? Were these tickets from a scalper? No, straight from Ticketmaster. Were they front row for $98 apiece? No, not....exactly. It's probably going to be either freezing or 100 degrees. Hope it's not in the sun? I dunno, don't think so, I replied. I was right, btw.
Beautiful day today, got in the car, headed out for the 100 mile one way trip to the game. We listened to music heading down today. First game of the year for me. Started out freaked out about the whole NATO in Chicago thing, the protesters, street closures, bus and train reroutings. But traffic was as light as I have ever seen it on a Friday of a Cub game. Got to the neighborhood, parked, went to game K, and my first stop, as always, is to buy a media guide.
The guy selling the guides said "Ain't it great news about Kerry Wood retiring? We need to work on Soriano next...."
My heart skipped, I swear. Yeah, I have been out on Facebook and out here lately, asking him to step away while he still had his dignity. Well, I figured that train had already left, with his ERA over 8. I thought the only way he could save face, and have a real hero's end, would be to hang around, pitch to a guy here and there for the rest of the year. Then, maybe by the end of September, we'd be 25 games out, and his ERA would have normalized to something reasonable, and then he could come in and get one last save throwing nothing but fastballs to some late-season call-ups, and then he could call it a day.
Apparently he and/or the Cubs couldn't wait that long. And I thought I had missed it. The guide vendor said he retired. Usually (see: Ryne Sandberg, 1994) when a guy announces a retirement while on a bad team, it is immediate. I felt bad that I came a game late; story of my life, a day late.
Usually, my wife and I like to sit in our seats and watch the pre-game warmups, but I was agitated because I felt like I missed something. So I made her go to the insipid Captain Morgan Club with me. While we sipped our 10 dollar drinks and was bombarded by a third rate DJ, I noticed on one of their TVs that the story was, actually, that "sources indicate Wood would retire after his next appearence". Nope, that's a new one. Ain't ever heard that one before. But! Maybe he will get a chance today. The Sox suck, right? Maybe we'll get a lead today, and he can come in for one last all-fastballs save. It doesn't give him a chance to finish up with a season's ERA under 8. But maybe he can put up one last stat, a save, and go out that way. Could be worse.
We went back up to our seats, and I made a silent vow that I hardly ever do. Since I knew that this might be Woody's last game, I vowed to stay until the last out, even if my back was killing me, even if the game wasn't close, even if the sky grew dark and cold and rained hissing hailstones, even if Joey Bagadonutz and his fellow assclowns from Alsip were sitting next to us.
This game, this meaningless affair between the weak and the lame, all of a sudden got huge! I didn't understand, and my wife sure as hell didn't understand, why I paid a fortune and took a day off of work to watch two lousy teams. But now, somehow, I managed to get us to what might just be the single most eventful game of the year! God, sometimes, You're funny, You know that?
It was the strangest thing to be at the game today. There sure were a lot of things that went down that normally would have pissed me off. Between Konerko's first inning homer, the reprehensible call at second base on DeJesus' double when Beckham tackled him, Konerko getting (accidentally) faced by a pitch, then LaHair (purposely) having one thrown at his head, having Samardzija drive in the tying run then turning around and letting Beckham take the lead back, and not to mention all the lousy scumbag Sox fans there....
...as an aside? Two things: women that wear the black and grey Sox gear? Look cheap. Don't care who you are, you look cheap. Second? You dudes? Do you have any t-shirts back at your trailer that talk about your team WITHOUT also putting mine down? Take a look at us, we all wear Cubs stuff, and NONE of it mentions anything about the Sox. Why? Because the Sox don't effin' matter. Not to us, not to this town, nowhere. Nobody cares about you. Worry about yourselves. Leave us out of it
So, I had plenty to be mad about, but you know what? None of it mattered at the time. All I knew was it was the 8th inning, we were down by a run, and this is no place for Kerry Wood's last outing. This is not hero stuff. But, look, here he comes, with one out and one on in the 8th, down a run.
This was crazy? Why now? Russell was also warm, put him in. Save Wood in case we go ahead and we need a save in the 9th. There was also another voice in my mind. "Why now? The game's still close. What if he lets it get away?" I know that Sveum was out of the game after his argument on the DeJesus debacle, and who's managing? Jamie Quirk? Is this his idea? No wonder he didn't get the manager job? This makes no sense. This will never...
...and Wood mowed Viciedo down on three pitches.
Well! Now I get it. Let's let him get the third out, and then take the lead in our half, and what's Quirk doing now?
He's taking Wood out now? There's still another out. He can't get a win this way? Kerry Wood's very last appearence as a big league pitcher was as a ROOGY?
"Actually I'm kind of glad Jamie came out and took me out of the game because I had no idea I was going to get the next guy out."
What does that tell us? Apparently, Wood is worse off than any one of us ever guessed. If he came in and got one strikeout, in the middle of the 8th inning, in the first game of a Cubs/Sox series when both teams are under .500, and THAT was good enough? That's the one he's going to remember? Sure looks like they were wanting this particular chapter written and closed, ASAP. Either he really believes he's lost it, and one strikeout is as good as it will ever be, or the team was going to release him, and this was the bargain that allowed him to save a small shred of face.
I'm really sorry, folks. I have read Kurt and Paul Sullivan and Phil Rogers and Cubs Den and have reached deep into my heart to remember the bright, blinding promise of 1998, the 20 Ks and him and Sosa carrying an otherwise lousy team to a Wild Card. I remember 2003, the greatest Cubs season of my lifetime, and the game he won in Atlanta to clinch the NLDS, the only postseason series the Cubs have won in my lifetime. All the injuries, the elbows, the shoulders, the knees, the surgeries, the day in 2006 when he was going to throw one more time and if it hurt, he would quit right there and then. Meeting up with Jim Hendry at Ron Santo's funeral after two years away, and coming back one more time. Then, yeah, I got chills this January when Pat Hughes announced the signing of the "newest" Cub who is of course the oldest Cub. Nobody has soared so high and crashed so hard as Kerry Lee Wood, and honestly, I thought he deserved one more exciting day in the fading sun, finishing off an opponent, closing a game as the old stands shook and the goofy-ass song played and all the Chads and Trixies sang and he bumped fists with all of Theo's young guys who are someday going to bring a pennant to this godforesaken place.
But a dropped third strike for the second out in the 8th inning of a meaningless game? That's good enough to end a baseball life?
That was the saddest end to a Cub career I have ever witnessed, or ever care to.