This Day In Sports: When the Cubs’ Kerry Wood was relatively fresh

May 6, 1998: Chicago Cubs rookie Kerry Wood ties Roger Clemens’ major league record for most strikeouts in a game, fanning 20 batters in a complete game one-hitter, a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros. Wood allowed only two baserunners, one on an infield single and the other on a hit-by-pitch. Some still consider it to be the best single-game pitching performance of all-time. And it was only Wood’s fifth major league start.

Wood would go on to be named National League Rookie of the Year, but his career-long injury issues began the following season. After tearing his UCL in spring training in 1999, Wood underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. Following a middling 2000 season, he regained his dominance in 2001. Wood topped the 200-strikeout plateau in four of his first five seasons, including 266 Ks (along with a career-high 14 wins) in 2003.

Ultimately, though, Wood’s major league career would be marred by 16 stints on the disabled list. A possible precursor was his overuse in high school. After being selected fourth overall by Chicago in the 1995 MLB Draft, Wood started both ends of a doubleheader in the Texas state tournament and threw a total of 175 pitches. The Cubs were none too happy, but that didn’t keep them from piling up his innings once they got him. Finally, they moved Wood to the bullpen in 2007 to try to preserve his arm. He became the team’s closer in 2008, but the Cubs elected not to re-sign him after that season.

Wood pitched for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees before returning to the Cubs in 2011. But early in the 2012 season, Wood was struggling and decided to retire. He had a career record of 86-75 with a 3.67 ERA and 1,582 strikeouts. The single-game record still stands. Clemens had fanned 20 batters twice, in 1986 and 1996. Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals tied the mark in 2016.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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