Funny how I just posted a clip on my last blog of Robert Redford in “The Natural” and today Kerry Wood announces his retirement. The reason I mention the clip is during it, Robert (Roy Hobbs) speaks of his regret of missing 16 years of baseball due to an unfortunate incident. He speaks of how he could have broken all the records; walked down the street and had people say “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in the game”. Here’s that clip again. (I love it so much I like sharing it)
I am betting that if Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood who has announced his retirement today had not been besieged with injuries in his career, he too could have broken many records and claimed to be “the best there ever was”.
When Kerry came to the Cubs as a barely wet behind the ears 21 year old (to the big show, he was in the minors with them before) he had already become a phenomenon at his high school and in the minors. We all remember his fifth career start May 6, 1998 when he struck out 20 batters throwing a one hit shutout against the Houston Astros, tying Roger Clemens’ record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game and breaking Bill Gullickson’s single-game rookie record of 18 strikeouts in 1980. Not bad for a kid.
So in 1998, Kerry Wood was named Rookie of The Year. What a promising, amazing start to a career that had so much potential.
Unfortunately during spring training in 1999 Wood underwent surgery on his elbow and missed the entire season. This was only the beginning of a career filled with ups and downs. Despite his continuous injuries, in 2003 he was instrumental in the Cubs playoff appearance and was selected that season for the All Star game.
Throughout his career which included a 2 year stint with the Cleveland Indians and a year with The New York Yankees, he suffered a barrage of injuries including strained triceps and a torn rotator cuff.
In late 2010 Wood returned to the Cubs. He reportedly turned down higher offers from other teams to keep his family in Chicago.
Since 2007 Wood had transitioned to a relief pitcher due the continued injuries he suffered. At the opening game at Wrigley this year, Wood blew a 2 run lead and the Cubs lost. Perhaps for Wood, that was a sign. Last week in a game against the Atlanta Braves, wood threw his glove and cap into the crowd after losing the game.
It’s hard to imagine a career that began with such incredible force to end in such a sense of defeat.
The mind and the body don’t always see eye to eye. When that 21 year old kid pitched that unbelievable game in 1998 his mind was on baseball. He was going to break records. He would be the best there ever was. His body told him otherwise.
But what Kerry should hold onto are the memories he brought to Chicago. When he is remembered it will be for the highlights of his career, not the injuries. He knows it’s time and I believe he is making a wise choice.
He was a Natural. He will walk down the street and people will say that he was the best Rookie pitcher there ever was in Chicago. He should have no regrets.