Friday, November 14, 2008

Bye Bye Kerry Wood

A Cub-career eulogy for Kerry Wood from blogger Scott Simkus. I suspect some exaggeration when he talks about how loved Wood is among Cubs fans (I've never really heard that before), but it's a heartfelt ode to a player he obviously loved:

Aside from the John Holmes fastball and Chip Hilton personality, he was flawed, like you and I. Whether or not it was true, he became the paragon of untapped greatness. The promise of what still could be. He was hope, dressed up in baseball pants.

When Cubs fans pulled for him, prayed for him to stay healthy, wished that he might one day return to his form of early ’98 and finally put it all together for one triumphant Cy Young season, they were really rooting for themselves.

Who among us doesn’t secretly believe there’s a greater version of ourselves locked up inside? If we could only stay healthy, quit smoking, lose weight, work harder, get a break in our careers, be given an opportunity to shine. Who among us isn’t secretly, irrationally hoping to “put all together” one day and triumph over fate?

5 comments:

Alex said...

as a cubs fan don't think he is overstating how much we like kerry. it's not going to feel quite right seeing him in another uniform.

Alex said...

wow, i should have read the post before commenting. no one likes him as much as mr cub. feel free to mock me.

Anonymous said...

I think what he means is with those for whom history starts in 1998- i.e. younger fans- Kerry Wood is "tha man." Hard to quibble with that.

Tim Kelly said...

I did not click through to read what he wrote in its entirety, but I can tell you what I think from personal experience.

I am a die-hard Cub fan, I was raised that way by my father. I was only 7 in '84, I remember that team well but didn't experience the heartbreak that many fans old enough to process the disappointment probably did.

In '89, I was fully along for the ride, we even went on our first family vacation ever (to Cincinnati) to catch the Cubs on the road (I got to see Jerome Walton extend that hitting streak in person, it was awesome). But I did not experience the heartbreak others did in the playoff failure of '89 because I was dealing with the loss of my father, who had passed away in late September.

The years between '89-'98 were long, the Cubs did not put up much of a fight. But when Kerry Wood struck out 20 Astros in May of '98 things changed. He provided the hope of the future for myself and many other fans like me. The loss to Atlanta in '98 was only mildly disappointing, as we knew we were outclassed by that Braves team, but the future was bright.

I went down to Mesa, AZ in '99 for Spring Training to see Kerry and the Cubs get ready to build on the success of '98, and I was there to see the last pitch he'd throw before Tommy John surgery. There would be many more trips to the DL in the future and things did not go so well between '98-'03.

But in '03 he was healthy again, and along with Mark Prior the Cubs were a force unlike any I had seen in Cubbie-blue. Against the Braves in the first round, the Cubs went 2-0 in Woody's starts and he went on to win Game 3 in Florida in the NLCS. Game 7 was a heartbreaker, Kerry was gassed, but he was doing everything he could to win, even smoking a HR to the bleachers in left.

After that season, the Cubs went downhill and Kerry continued to visit the DL. I thought he was going to retire mid-season in '07 but he magically turned a corner with that arm and came back, finishing in the post-season once again and becoming the closer the following year.

Kerry Wood is my age, and my fanboy ramblings about him are unsettling, even to me. But he has been a part of 4(!) Cubs teams who have made the post-season. He has consistently professed his love for my city and our fans. He has taken the injuries he has suffered to heart, saying in the past that he "owes" something to the Cubs and trying to make up for lost time.

I own three jerseys, the Cubs road, home, & alternate, and all of them have "Wood 34" on the back. I will miss him.

Michael M said...

Kerry wood represents another era more than anything. He leaves behind a lot of team history. We got comfortable with him eventually.