May 06, 2018

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

It was May 6th, 1998, and a younger Wonderduck is running a RadioShanty somewhere in Duckford.  This particular store had a DirectTV dish on the roof for demo purposes, and while it usually had the "attraction channel" running, it could also pick up WGN out of Chicago.  So, at 1pm I clicked over to watch the Cubs take on the Houston Astros, the team leading the National League in hitting/offense.  The Cubbies had a rookie taking the mound in only his fifth major-league start... some kid named Kerry Wood.


His first pitch was a rising fastball that clonked off the umpire's mask... maybe not the most auspicious way to begin a game.  And then...?
The 20 strikeouts tied the major league record for a 9 inning game.  By Bill James' game score metric, this was the best pitched game ever.

And it wasn't even close.  Wood had a near-100mph fastball, but it was his curveball that was his out pitch.  Watch the last pitch he throws, to then batting average leader Derek Bell. It would have broken the shin of anybody in the left-handed batter's box... but it starts out belt-high, center of the plate.  Bell couldn't not swing at it, but he also couldn't not miss it.

20 years.  

Edit: Shortly after I posted this, the weekly baseball show "Hit and Run" on the sports-talk station I listen to devoted most of their four hours to The Game.  Along the way, they mentioned a story I'd never heard before.

Astros second baseman and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was one of two men to reach base in the game, getting hit by a pitch in the 6th inning.  Once he trotted down to first, he said to Cubs first baseman Mark Grace while gesturing towards Wood "Thank him for me."

This is a guy who hit .325 that season, with 210 hits, 51 doubles, 20 homers, and 50 stolen bases... and he knew that he couldn't touch Kerry Wood that day.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:23 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 338 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Brad Ausmus has the unenviable distinction of being the only player to be on the losing end of TWO 20-strikeout games (having been on the Tigers when Clemens threw his for Toronto). 

As for Derek Bell, he got an Astros Christmas carol in his honor back on the old Astrosconnection.com. 
Derek Bell, Derek Bell, Derek Bell suck
Derek Bell swing and Derek Bell adjust
Griping and moaning about being moved down to sixth
Batting .213!

Posted by: Mrs. Will (Kathryn) at May 06, 2018 11:21 AM (h8yX6)

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