Remembering Wood's masterpiece
Tuesday marks 10-year anniversary of 20-K game
CINCINNATI -- Tuesday is the 10-year anniversary of Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game against the Houston Astros, and the Cubs right-hander can still remember certain counts, pitches, and where he went for dinner to celebrate.
Wood's performance in the one-hitter, a 2-0 Cubs win, tied the Major League record for most strikeouts in a game, set by Roger Clemens, twice. The Cubs right-hander set the National League record and also the Major League rookie record with his performance, which many consider one of the most dominating at Wrigley Field ever.
"I can remember counts, and certain counts I had against guys and certain at-bats," Wood said Monday. "I remember warming up before the game. I remember how I felt that morning and what I had for dinner that night."
So, where did the then 20-year-old rookie go to celebrate? He went to a Bennigan's restaurant on Michigan Avenue.
It was sunny at Wrigley Field that day when Wood threw the first of 122 pitches, but it started to drizzle in the seventh. Home-plate umpire Jerry Meals didn't interrupt history.
"I said, 'He's getting ready to call it, he's probably going to call the game,'" Wood said. "I was in the middle of the count with a hitter, standing on the mound thinking, 'He's getting ready to call it,' and obviously, he never did."
Wood wasn't keeping track of his Ks, not like the fans who were holding up cards in left field.
"I knew I had a lot," he said. "I didn't know I had 20. I didn't find out I had 20 until after the game, during the interview. I knew they only had one hit. I knew I had a chance to throw my first complete game. I knew I had no walks."
Ten years later, Wood is the Cubs closer.
"If you'd asked me about that then, I probably would've said, 'No chance,'" he said.
In his 10-year career, Wood has pitched in 225 Major League games, but he admitted to not remembering details of those as vividly as he does of the 20-K game. There were 15,758 at Wrigley for that game. At least, that's the official count.
"I think I've met everybody who was at the game," Wood said. "Fifteeen thousand? I've met about 26,000. Every now and then people say, 'I was there.' I've met every last one."
Where were you on May 6, 1998?
In 1998, Carlos Zambrano was pitching for the Mesa Rookie League team, Lou Piniella was managing the Seattle Mariners, and Felix Pie was a 13-year-old in the Dominican Republic.
Jim Riggleman, who was the Cubs manager in '98, and now is a bench coach with Seattle: "I think it was Kerry's fifth start in the big leagues. It was early in the year, May 6, it was cold and overcast in Chicago that day. We didn't have any thoughts going in that day other than Kerry has a great arm and this was his fifth start. He had a completely dominating performance against a very good ballclub. It was a very good lineup. In the words of their guys, they had no chance. It was a completely dominating pitching performance and guys like Billy Williams and Ron Santo, who were lifelong Cubs who have experienced a lot of games there, and were victims of [Sandy] Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs, said that Kerry's game was more dominating than Sandy's perfect game. The numbers would indicate that.
"Twenty strikeouts, no walks and the only hit was an infield single, in a close ballgame. I think the game Sandy pitched it was 1-0. This game was 1-0 most of the way and I think it ended up 2-0. It was just electrifying, the way he was throwing that day. I only had five years at Wrigley Field, but to me, I would guess that it is the greatest game pitched in the history of Wrigley Field. That is saying something because of the history there. He probably pitched the greatest game ever there.
"His talent indicated that on any given day, something similar could happen, but nobody could expect something like that. It was a combination of extraordinary performance against a very good offense. Houston had [Craig] Biggio, [Jeff] Bagwell, Derrek Bell, [Moises] Alou -- they won the division that year. I don't think I will ever see a performance like that again ... he was outstanding from the first inning on. The focus of the day was trying to win the game. Their guy, Shane Reynolds, threw a very good game. Somewhere around the seventh or eighth inning, someone brought it to my attention that Kerry had 16 or 17 strikeouts. You are not counting them along the way. What he was doing at that point was secondary to the game. I was trying to get a couple more runs and we were not able to do that with their guy. It was a great day."
Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber: "I was with the Pirates, and at Three Rivers Stadium, and we were doing PFP [pitchers fielding practice]. They had the game on the video scoreboard, and I was on the mound, watching. It was amazing."
First base coach Matt Sinatro: "I was the bullpen coach with Seattle. I thought, 'Yeah, this guy's good.' That's the first thing I thought."
ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer Peter Gammons: "I watched it on TV, and I remember watching it and saying, I could not believe his breaking ball. I was talking to people on the phone and doing some work at home, and said, 'How does anybody hit that?' I thought about comparing it to the Clemens game on April 29, '86, and they were very different styles. Woody had such a great breaking ball, and Roger was command, fastball, power. Roger also had a much bigger strike zone than Woody did. I can't remember who was umpiring for Clemens, because it was a huge strike zone."
Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall: "I didn't see it live. In 1998, I was in high school, and was probably at baseball practice. I remember my dad saying something about somebody striking out 20. I said, 'Wow, that's almost everybody.'"
Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly: "I was broadcasting for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I remember people saying Kerry Wood is doing something crazy. It may be the most unhittable performance ever."
Cubs coach Ivan DeJesus: "I was coaching in the Minor Leagues for Houston and watched the game on TV. I remember seeing Wood's first start as a pro in Daytona Beach [in the Minors]. He threw a no-hitter for five innings. He was dealing that day."
FOX analyst and former big league catcher Tim McCarver: "It was awesome, to say the least. I was very impressed. He was a baby. When Clemens did it the two times, it looked like he was toying with them -- it's a grown man playing with kids. The futility of their swings was telling. Obviously, when you strike out that many, you have futility stuff."
Cubs pitcher Rich Hill: "In '98, I was in high school, probably at baseball practice. I remember the big home run race better that year. I was shagging fly balls at Milton High School [when Wood struck out 20]. I struck out 17 in a game in high school. You get your name in the paper if you do that."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.