There was a time when I wrote, on these very same pages, of my love for Kerry Wood. Take a look, and I’ll see you when you get back.
Oh, hey! Great to see you again.
Unless you’ve been scaling Everest this month, you know Kerry Wood announced his retirement from baseball. It took many in Cubs Nation by surprise. I wasn’t one of those shocked by the news. He struggled coming out of the pen in 2012. His command was off. I watched him pitch and thought he looked like a man who didn’t have his “stuff” anymore. He was frustrated. I didn’t want to see him like this. I especially didn’t want to hear the Wrigley Field “faithful” booing him.
And so it was, on the morning of May 18, 2012, news of Kerry’s retirement hit the internet. And hit it hard. Forget the upcoming elections. Never mind the big NATO weekend. Don’t even think about the Preakness. Everyone in Chicago was talking about Kerry Wood. And I was uncomfortably glad. Good for Kerry. But then…
The Cubs announced Kerry’s plans to retire…after his next appearance. My whole view changed. Why would he be pitching again? Was I wrong in assuming he was leaving the game because his performance hadn’t been up to his own standards? I struggled to keep the warm fuzzy Cub fan on my right shoulder and the hard jaded jerk on my left shoulder from strangling each other. The Fan wanted the big send-off; The Jerk kept quoting Chuck Noll, that if you think you might not be able to get the job done, it’s time to get on with your life’s work.
I can write this blog post now because I was wrong about the last baseball appearance in Kerry Wood’s career. He came in from the bullpen, the crowd roared, he struck out a batter, handed the ball to his (fill-in) manager, and walked into the arms of his son, whilst the crowd roared again. But what if things hadn’t worked out so well? What if Kerry had come in and walked a guy or two, or maybe given up a couple of hits? or runs? What if Jamie Quirk had given him every opportunity to get that last batter out, yet Woodie couldn’t locate his pitches? After all, that is how his season had started. And wasn’t that the reason he was walking away from the game? in May?
One can easily make the case that the way this team is going, letting Kerry Wood pitch one last game isn’t going to hurt them. Heck, letting the Reuschel Brothers pitch one last time probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on this season for the Cubs. And I won’t argue that with you. But this could have been a disastrous ending, one that none of us would have wanted to see. Who knows what Kerry would have flung into the stands if his grand exit from the game had gone awry. Thankfully, it didn’t. He did it his way, and we all got a little misty in the process.
I hope Kerry doesn’t walk into the sunset. I hope he goes to the booth, or to the front office, or wherever the Cubs think he could so some good. Like me, he’s a Cub man for life. This city needs him. I need him. And I’m glad we all got to cheer for him one last time. I’m glad it was a great end to a good career, and not a Cub end to a man who deserved better.