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updated: 5/21/2012 7:01 PM

Readers make their pitch over Wood's best qualities

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  • Now that Kerry Wood's pitching career has come to a close, Cubs fans are reflecting on why Wood became one of their favorite players.

      Now that Kerry Wood's pitching career has come to a close, Cubs fans are reflecting on why Wood became one of their favorite players.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Now that the weekend hoopla from the Cubs-White Sox series and the Kerry Wood retirement is over, the Cubs can get back to business as usual with a road trip to Houston and Pittsburgh.

Later this week, we'll take a look at the rough road ahead for the Cubs. They're beginning a stretch of 16 of 19 games away from home before they come back to a tough interleague schedule, with Detroit and Boston, in the middle of June.

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But first, it was nice to get so many thoughtful responses to my Sunday piece examining the possible reasons for the immense popularity of Kerry Wood among Cubs fans.

I still don't know the answer, but I posted three theories: Wood's 20-strikeout game in 1998, his willingness to battle back from countless injuries, and his presence in the Chicago community.

There are no doubt other reasons. Some of our readers came up with theories of their own.

Longtime reader Craig writes: "I think it is an 'all of the above' thing. Wood is special for sure; maybe (Ryne) Sandberg is there with him, but that would be it. There is something about the talent that he had combined with the devastation the injuries caused, followed by the class with which he kept getting back up that makes him special.

"To reach into my literary side, Wood is a baseball version of a tragic hero: the stature way beyond the norm, greatness marred by the tragic flaw (injuries/mechanics), the strength he exhibited even in 'defeat' (only in the what-might-have-been sense). His story moves me even now, at my age and with all my cynicism."

Gary from Pingree Grove says he thinks "Kerry Wood was a guy you really liked to follow -- terrific talent, nice family, nice guy, community involvement in charities, hard worker, tough guy, all great qualities.

"It is just a shame that because of injuries and perhaps a delivery that was prone to injuries, he never really became the pitcher we thought we would be after that 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998.

"But if Mark Prior was the poster boy for fragility, Wood was the poster boy for toughness."

Another longtime reader, Mike, says: "I can think of a few things that I think hold up against the test of time and can be attributed to his popularity: the 20-strikeout performance, when his off-speed pitches looked like Wiffle-ball stuff.

"Coming back from injury (when he probably shouldn't have, as evidenced with what happened in spring 1999) to pitch in the playoffs when Cubs squeaked in through the wild-card door in 1998.

"Blasting the game-tying home run in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS, then manning up after the game and shouldering the blame (rightly or wrongly).

"I think in general, just always being a gamer and overall giving the Cubs his best."

And Tim chimed in with another take: "I think the answer as to why he is beloved is pretty easy: He led the Cubs to the only postseason series (they have) ever won in our lifetime (the 2003 NLDS against the Braves). This cannot be understated -- we have still only won ONE playoff series in the last 103 years. Kerry Wood was the reason why, and we appreciate it.

"This is why I think we have a huge selling point for acquiring good players: baseball immortality if you win here."

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