No.1: Kerry Wood ties MLB record 20 K’s in his rookie season
Kerry Wood in his fifth major league start for the Chicago Cubs would etch his name in the history books with one of his hero’s and fellow Texan, Roger Clemens. Wood also would break the major league record for strikeouts by a rookie in a single game. The previous record holder was Bill Gullickson of the Montreal Expos, when he struck out 18 in 1980.
On that day against the Houston Astros, Wood was dominant. Wood claimed that his slider was his pitch of choice to get the strikeout, but his fastball was untouchable. It had movement on it and at times reached 100 mph on the radar gun.
In a report published by cbsnews.com, Wood said that he wasn’t sure how many strikeouts he was up to. “I had no idea how many I had going into the last three innings. After the first inning, I knew I had three and I lost track after that.” But in classic “Kid K” fashion, he would acknowledge the fans as the driving force behind his late inning performance. “I’m going to give most of the credit to the fan. They were in it the whole game. My adrenaline was racing. Definitely I think that is what got me through late in the game. I was worn out, I was tired.”
His stat line still boggles the minds of many Cubs fans and is considered one of the best pitching performances in the history of baseball. His line reads as follows: nine innings pitched, one hit, no runs, no walks, and 20 strikeouts on 122 pitches.
The one hit by Houston’s Ricky Gutierrez on a ball hit to third baseman Kevin Ollie. The ball hit his glove, some say it should have been an error, others say it was the correct call.
What should also be noted about the game, Wood did this against a strong Houston Astros team. With names like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell, and Moises Alou. Biggio and Alou finished in the top five in the NL MVP voting that season.
Wood chose his No.34 jersey in tribute to Clemens and Nolan Ryan, who both wore the number. After the game, Wood would be in the record books with Clemens and would start drawing comparisons to Ryan.
If not for his injuries, Wood very well could have gone down in history as the best pitcher the Chicago Cubs ever had, and probably would have been in the same conversation as Clemens, Ryan, and Randy Johnson as one of the most dominant strikeout pitchers.
Next: Final thoughts