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.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Reader Comment of the Day
No, it's not a regular feature, but ShysterBall commenters are the best damn commenters in the land, and going forward I'm going to make a point to highlight particularly good ones. Like this one from reader Tim Kelly, who responded to the Kerry Wood post thusly: