Here’s one of the reasons why:
It was May 15, 2003. Cubs were in Miller Park to finish a series with the Brewers. I was working for the courier company, and had to drive to Milwaukee to pick up the gear from the umpires and send it to the next city. I got there about the 7th or 8th inning and settled into my seat. On the loading dock. Security wouldn’t let me into the tunnel like they were supposed to. So, I sat there with a security guard and watched the rest of the game on tv. The rest of the 17-inning game, that is.
Corey Patterson’s 2-run homer in the top of the 17th won it for the Cubs. But what happened leading up to the win helped cement my man-crush on the Big 3-4. (We have nicknames for each other; he’s The Big 3-4, and I’m The Guy Who Can’t Be Within 50 Feet)
Woodie pitched 7 innings of shut-out ball. 3 hits, 2 walks, 13 strike outs. His pitch count was up to 119, so Dusty pulled him. In came Antonio Alfonseca, a man so large, he barely fit his circumstances. (Extra credit for the first person to point out the author of that line). It took less than an inning for him to give up the lead on a solo home run to Scott Podsednik. Yeah, I know. Scott Podsednik.
Anyone watching the game saw the same thing I saw in extra innings, and I hoped everyone noticed it. We’ve all seen countless athletes get upset with teammates. We’ve seen starting pitchers storm down the tunnel when a save is blown. Instead, I watched Kerry Wood, in the dugout with his teammates, cheering them on, supporting them, even doing the rally hat thing. THAT is what being on a team sport is all about. It’s not about calling your own press conferences, it’s not about changing your name so you’re more noticeable (Kerry TreintiQuatro?) He could have pouted, slammed his glove, tossed his hat, hated on a Gatorade cooler. But he didn’t. He wanted to be a part of the team; He wanted to be a Cub.
On my way out the tunnel to leave the ballpark, Kerry and his wife were walking to the parking lot. I actually had to slow down and let them pass. I wanted to jump out of my truck and tell him that I had noticed what he did, and how much it meant to me, as a Cub fan, to see him do what Gracie might have done. Or what Ernie might have done. I didn’t. It didn’t seem like an appropriate thing to do, so I just waved as I dove past them. Now I’ll say it.
Thanks Kerry. Thanks for the 90’s. Thanks for your presence in our community. And thanks for coming back home. I’ve missed you. We’ve all missed you.