I am not a Cubs fan but I love the game of baseball too much to dislike the Cubs. So even though my loyalty resides at 35th & Shields, I keep a close eye on what happens at 1060 W. Addison.
I am only a year older than Kerry Wood, so I was a senior at DePaul University that cold, cloudy weekday in May of 1998 when he had his coming out party and stuck out 20 in only his fifth major league start. That even alone reinvigorated Chicago baseball before the so called home run chase between Mark McGuire & Sammy Sosa. And though the home runs that summer captivated us, so did this young Texan throwing fireballs.
And who could forget that play in game for the last playoff spot vs the San Francisco Giants and though Kerry was sitting out for the first of his many injuries it seemed a star was born. But then he missed the whole next season and it wasn't until 2003 that he'd be magical again and those of us on the south side watched in anticipation to see how far this Cubbie team could go and how great this young pitcher could be again.
Who could forget his two wins in the opening round vs the Atlanta Braves and his homerun in game seven vs the Florida Marlins, it was like a cup of coffee after the Steve Bartman hangover from the game before but just not enough.
Kerry was a guy you always rooted for because he seemed to have all the talent in the world but could not stay healthy. He appeared to be a good guy outside of a few slip ups (including last weeks meltdown of throwing his glove & hat in the stands), and though some in the media have called him a mascot for still being with the team despite not being effective, you have to reward loyalty (even if ownership seems to want him here over the general manager and coach), because Kerry turned down more money to be remain a Cub this past offseason.
Ernie Banks he is not in terms of wins and personal numbers but the man has worked to try and be healthy and play for the team that drafted him. And for that those of us who root for the other team in town will give him his due for a 14 year playing career that had some magical moments and a never give up attitude that inspired us all.