It was stunning, but not surprising, news. On the morning of Friday May 18, 2012, news broke that Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood intended to retire. He’d been having a very rough time of it in 2012 after years of battling injury.
Now that his career is over, it makes sense to take a look back. Below are Wood’s career highlights; these are his bests (and worsts): most important games, milestones, and other odds and ends from his career:
First Cubs tenure
April 12, 1998: At the tender age of 20, Wood makes his big league debut. He’s the youngest player in baseball at the moment. It starts out perfectly for Wood: He fans the first batter he faces, Mark Grudzielanek. Wood allows four runs in 4.2 innings and loses, 4-1, to Montreal.
April 24, 1998: In the third start of his career, Wood walks in two runs in the bottom of the second inning. They are the first of 18 runs Wood will walk in din the majors. He faces 12 batters and allows seven runs in what will be the second-shortest start of his career (1.2 innings).
May 6, 1998: Perhaps you’ve heard of this one. Appearing in just his fifth career game, Wood puts on one of the greatest displays of pure pitching dominance ever. Wood ties Roger Clemens’ record by fanning 20 Astros in a complete-game shutout. He hits one batter and allows a single down to third base (and I know many who still maintain that Kevin Orie should’ve gotten to it to make it a no-hitter). His Game Score is 105, the highest mark ever in a nine-inning game. Wood is an instant star.
May 11, 1998: Following up his 20-K game, Wood fans 13 batters, giving him a record-tying 33 strikeouts in two consecutive appearances.
June 20, 1998: Wood is a pretty good hitting pitcher, and he’ll hit seven regular-season home runs and one postseason homer. Today he nails the first of them.
July 21, 1998: It’s a big deal in Chicago. Wood, the bright young hope of the day, faces the ace who got away, ex-Cub Greg Maddux. For one day, at least, Wood and the Cubs get the better of it, winning 3-0. Wood fans 11 in 7.2 innings.
Aug. 26, 1998: Against the Reds, Wood fans 16 men, the second-highest total of his entire career. He guides the Cubs to a 9-2 win in eight innings of pitching. He throws 133 pitches in this game, also the second-highest total of his career. He’ll soon land on the DL for the first time.
Aug. 31, 1998: Wood has his most clutch moment at the plate. In the bottom of the fourth with the Cubs trailing, 4-3, Wood belts a two-run home run to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead, and that’s the final score. However, the Cubs will shut down Wood after this game for the rest of the regular season. It’s the first of many injury concerns for Wood.
Oct. 3, 1998: NLDS Game Three: And now for the dumbest thing the Cubs ever did with Wood. Never mind that Wood missed the entire month of September with an elbow shredded so badly he’ll miss all of 1999. Never mind that the Cubs are already down two-games-to-none in a best-of-five NLDS to a 106-win Braves team. The Cubs haul him to the mound anyway, apparently thinking he’ll be some sort of magic elixir. He pitches well, allowing just one run in five innings, but that’s as far as he can go, and the Cubs lose, 6-2.
May 2, 2000: After missing all of 1999 and April 2000, Wood makes his return facing the same team he fanned 20 times in a game, Houston. He gets the win, allowing one run in six innings with four strikeouts. Oh yeah, in his first at bat he belts a two-run homer off Jose Lima.
June 16, 2000: I once heard that Bill James did a study showing that ballplayers tend to do a bit better on their birthdays than normal. Kerry Wood didn’t get that memo. On his 23rd birthday, Wood has a rough go of it. Against the Expos he allows four runs in five innings. Wood will have just one more birthday outing in his career and it’s among his worst. On June 16, 2002 Wood is tagged for eight runs on six walks (but just two hits) in four innings.
Sept. 6, 2000: Wood surrenders the first of three leadoff homers in the game when Rockies shortstop Neifi Perez goes deep against him in Chicago. He’ll later allow leadoff dingers to Ray Durham and Jimmy Rollins.
Sept. 22, 2000: Wood suffers through the shortest start of his career, lasting just 1.1 innings before getting yanked. While it’s short in terms of outs, it sure takes long enough as he walks eight of the 13 batters he faces. He walks in two runs and lets another score on a wild pitch against St. Louis.
May 25, 2001: Aside from his 20-K game, this is the best performance of Wood’s career. Against Milwaukee, Wood is nearly perfect, fanning 14 while surrendering just one hit and two walks in a 1-0 complete game victory. Mark Loretta lines a single to left against him to lead off the seventh to avoid the no-hitter. Wood’s Game Score is 97, which is higher than any other Cubs pitcher has ever attained in a nine-inning game.
Sept. 24, 2001: Pittsburgh’s Craig Wilson makes history against Kerry Wood when he belts a pinch-hit homer, Wilson’s seventh pinch-hit bomb of the year. It’s one of only two pinch-hit homers Wood ever allows.
April 26, 2002: It might be the best pitching performance by anyone starting against Kerry Wood when Dodger hurler Odalis Perez allows just one base runner in nine innings. The runner is Corey Patterson, who hits a leadoff single in the seventh—and is promptly erased in a double play. Wood and the rest of the Cubs staff don’t have it, as the team falls, 10-0.
June 22, 2002: Wood is supposed to be the starting pitcher for the Cubs this afternoon at Wrigley against the Cardinals, but then everyone gets the bad news. In a massive shock, star Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died in his sleep the previous night, and today’s game is postponed. Wood will start tomorrow and lead the Cubs to an 8-3 game in a rather somber atmosphere in Chicago.
Sept. 2, 2002: Wood makes the history books with a four-strikeout inning against the Brewers. Wood owes it all to catcher Todd Hundley who lets not one but two swinging strike threes get away from him. Thus Milwaukee gets five outs in the frame. Other pitchers have had four Ks in one inning, but this is the only one to begin with a leadoff groundout. (Hundley also commits a fielding error.)
Aside from that, Wood enjoys his best game ever at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs as the Cubs win 17-4 (in a game they once led 17-0).
Sept. 8, 2002: Another start, another hit. Wood gets a hit for the fifth consecutive game, his best hitting streak ever. He’ll tie this mark with another five-game hitting streak in 2003.
March 31, 2003: For the first time in his career, Wood gets the honor of the Opening Day start. It goes as well as you can hope, with the Cubs pummeling the Mets 15-2. Wood throws only five innings, but then again it’s 10-2 when he leaves. Wood even gets an RBI single along the way. He’ll start next year’s Opening Day, too, and win that one, 7-4.
May 10, 2003: It’s time for another personal high for Kerry Wood—most pitches in one game. The oft-injured hurler unleashes 141 pitches in just seven innings against the Cardinals. He fans eight and walks three. There are just a lot of really deep at-bats. Most notably, opposing pitcher Woody Williams works Wood for 11 pitches before grounding out in the seventh. None of the 29 batters he faces sees just onepitch, and 18 last at least five pitches. It comes in a stretch where he throws 100 or more pitches 15 times in 16 starts, with 97 in the other one. Including the postseason, he’ll throw 4,008 pitches in 2003 and will never be that effective afterward.
June 7, 2003: Ouch. It’s one of the most regrettable plays of Wood’s career. In an interleague game against the Yankees, Wood collides with young first baseman Hee Seop Choi while going for a pop up. Choi is injured—so injured that an ambulance is brought onto the field to take Choi off. Wood is okay, but Choi never really recovers with the Cubs.
July 4, 2003: It’s a not-so-happy Independence Day for Wood, who according to Game Score has the worst start of his life. His line: 3 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 6 BB, and 1 K for a Game Score of 14. Predictably, Wood and the Cubs lose, 11-8 to the Cardinals.
July 15, 2003: Wood appears in his only All-Star Game. He pitches the fourth for the NL, fanning Edgar Martinez and Troy Glaus while allowing a single to Garrett Anderson. Wood will be selected to another All-Star Game later in his career, but he won’t appear in that one.
July 19, 2003: For only the second time in his career, Wood wins a 1-0 game with a complete game shutout. Wood allows just two hits while walking five in his victory over the Marlins.
July 20, 2003: For the second straight outing, Wood gets tagged for a grand slam home run. Last time it was Bobby Abreu and today it’s Edgar Alfonzo. Wood allows just four slams in his career, and these are the last pair of them. The Cubs lose both outings.
Aug. 11, 2003: In the top of the seventh Wood fans Jeff Kent for career strikeout No. 1,000. It’s taken him just 853 innings to do it, which makes him the fastest person to reach this milestone.
Sept. 30, 2003: NLDS Game One: Wood brings his A-game versus the Braves today. He fans 11 and allows two runs on just two hits to deliver a win to the Cubs to kick off the postseason.
Oct. 5, 2003: NLDS Game Five: In the winner-take-all game, Wood twirls his second straight gem of the postseason. He allows one run in eight innings as the Cubs win, 5-1. It clinches their only postseason series victory since 1908.
Oct. 10, 2003: NLCS Game Three: For six innings, Wood is on top of things, holding the Marlins to just one run. Then he melts down in the seventh and Florida takes the lead. Chicago manages to come back and win in extra innings, 5-4.
Oct. 15, 2003: NLCS Game Seven: Clearly, it’s the biggest game of Wood’s life. However, after pitching terrific in the postseason so far, he doesn’t quite have it tonight. He allows three runs to the first four batters faced thanks to a triple, walk, and homer. Then he calms down and shuts down Florida completely for several innings. He also helps his own cause, belting a two-run homer in the second inning to tie the game in the game in a signature Kerry Wood moment.
However, he hits a wall in the fifth inning, and ends up allowing three runs there and another in the sixth. Wood, and the Cubs, lose, ending their dreams of claiming a pennant.
April 30, 2004: More than any other batter, Wood owns Reggie Sanders. In 16 at bats lifetime against Wood, Sanders fans 10 times. But give the devil his due, Sanders gets his only hit against Wood here, a solo home run. He also grounds out and fans against Wood. Though Wood fans 10, the Cubs lose 4-3 to the Cardinals.
Aug. 8, 2004: It’s Wood at his least Wood-iest. He pitches six full innings for the Cubs but doesn’t record a single strikeout. It’s by far the longest outing of his career without a K.
Aug. 14, 2004: Wood has an all-around dominant day. On the mound, he pi ches eight shutout innings against the Dodgers. At the plate, Wood smashes a home run.
Aug. 22, 2004: For Wood, the anti-Reggie Sanders is Jeff Kent. The second baseman owns Wood: He’ll post a 1.514 OPS against him by batting 13-for-37 with five walks, three doubles, and five homers. Today is the best Wood will ever be against Kent. Wood fans him the first two times Kent comes up, and then hits him the next time. Wood has 12 starts against Kent’s teams, and Kent reaches base in all of them. Despite his success against Kent, Wood can’t get out of the fifth inning today.
Oct. 1, 2004: Well, that was embarrassing. For the only time in his career, Wood serves up a gopher ball to the opposing pitcher—Atlanta’s Mike Hampton. At least it was a good hitting pitcher.
April 8, 2005: I have no idea how complete records for this stat are, but officially Wood pulls of the last regular season pickoff in his career today when he nabs Milwaukee’s Brady Clark in the third inning.
June 6, 2006: For the 178th and final time, Kerry Wood gets the start. Against Houston, Wood has to leave in the fourth inning with an injury. He won’t appear on a big league mound for the next 14 months. His remaining 257 games will all be in relief.
Oct. 6, 2007: NLDS Game Three: In the Cubs’ tepid performance while getting swept by Arizona in the NLDS, Wood gets the unenviable assignment of mop- up duty in the last game. He pitches the ninth with the Cubs trailing 4-1 and promptly gives up a homer for an insurance run as the Diamondbacks complete their sweep.
April 3, 2008: He’s worked as a reliever in the past, but today Kerry Wood makes his debut as a closer. Against the Brewers, he fans two and allows a hit in a scoreless inning of relief for the save. He’ll be the closer this year and for a bit with Cleveland.
Oct. 2, 2008: NLDS Game Two: Wood has spent his entire career with the Cubs so far, but his contract is up at the end of the year, and this proves to be his final appearance before heading elsewhere. It comes in a one-sided sweep of the Cubs by the Dodgers. Wood pitches the top of the ninth with the Cubs trailing 9-1 and surrenders a run to make it 10-1.
April 21, 2009: Cleveland’s defense pulls off a double play in six straight innings—and then the Indians put Wood in the game. After a DP in the third through eighth innings, Wood fans two to avoid maintaining the streak in his inning of scoreless relief.
June 23, 2010: In the bottom of the ninth, Jimmy Rollinsconnects on a Wood offering for a game-ending two-run walk-off home run. It’s the only walk-off blast Wood ever surrenders. As it happens, Rollins also hit one of the only three leadoff shots against Wood. This won’t be a good year for Wood in Cleveland, which is why the Indians send him to the Yankees in midseason.
Sept. 10, 2010: Wood makes a bit of history. He pitches a scoreless seventh for the Yankees against Texas, making him one of 19 pitchers who will go in the game (11 Rangers, eight Yankees). New York loses, 6-5 in 13 frames.
Sept. 26, 2010: As bad as Wood was in Cleveland, he’s fantastic in New York. Today marks his 21st consecutive appearance without allowing a run. He’s fanned 24 while allowing 12 hits and 13 walks in 23.1 innings in that span. He’ll allow a run in his next time out (his last one of the season), and had allowed a run in his second game with New York, but that’s it.
Oct. 7, 2010: ALDS Game Two: Wood pitches in all three games of New York’s sweep of the Twins, but in the other two games he pitches fairly poorly. Today he delivers, fanning two in an inning of scoreless relief.
Oct. 20, 2010: ALCS Game Five: Wood pitches in four of the six games of the Yankees’ unsuccessful ALCS against the Rangers, and this is his best performance. He pitches a full two innings allowing one hit while fanning three. The man who singles is later picked off, allowing Wood to face the minimum six batters in two innings.
April 2, 2011: Wood makes his triumphant return to the Cubs today. He went to the Cubs despite the fact he could’ve gotten more money from other teams (including the White Sox), but decided he’d rather have some involvement with the Cubs now and after his playing days. He walks the first batter he faces but recovers to fan two others in one inning of middle relief.
April 7, 2012: That must be frustrating. Wood surrenders a home run to Washington second baseman Danny Espinosa to conclude a 10-pitch at bat. It’s the longest battle that ever ends in a home run against Wood. At one point, Espinosa fouls off five straight pitches. While Wood has had a rough go of it in 2012, at the time of his retirement announcement this is the sole homer he’s allowed on the year.
April 11, 2012: Wood has had a terrible time of it in 2012, but even the sad, bad final season has its moment. Pitching one inning of relief against the Brewers, Wood strikes out the side one last time.
May 8, 2012: You can kind of tell Wood is thinking of calling it a career. Entering a game in the eighth against Atlanta tied 1-1, Wood allows two runs His ERA rises to 14.54. On his way back to the dugout, a frustrated Wood throws his glove and hat into the stands. After the game, when reporters ask him about his tossing, an unusually churlish Wood curtly tells the reporter that’s irrelevant and walks away. The inability to get outs is getting to him.
May 18, 2012: In the morning, news breaks that Kerry Wood plans to retire during this weekend’s Chicago Crosstown Classic series against the White Sox. Prior to game time, it’s reported that Wood wants to appear on the field one more time this series.
Well, in the eighth inning Wood is called on to face Dayan Viciedo with one out. Wood fans him, and is then pulled from the game after facing his one batter. He gets to hear the roar from the crowd as he walks off the field. And that ends his career.