The unofficial end of summer for me has long been the end of the Major League Baseball regular season. Each year we get the ups and downs of each team and the stories of great triumph and sometimes tragedy.
This season was no different, with several compelling storylines. The Oakland A's made the playoffs with one of the lowest payrolls in the game. The Baltimore Orioles were also predicted to finish at the bottom of the always tough AL East but now find themselves in baseballs postseason. Mike Trout exploded onto the scene as a 20 year old rookie who thrust himself into the AL MVP race, which has seemingly divided all of the baseball experts new and old. Miguel Cabrera who is at the other end of the AL MVP argument won the first Triple Crown in over 40 years.
However, my favorite story of the year took place at Wrigley Field on a Friday afternoon in the middle of May and featured the cross-town rivalry of the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.
Kerry Wood had returned to the Chicago Cubs after two injury filled seasons in the American League splitting time between the Cleveland Indians and then the New York Yankees. Wood was a 21 year old fire-balling phenom with the Cubs who unanimously won the 1998 Rookie of the Year award. In 2003 he led the league in strikeouts and almost guided the Cubs to their first World Series in over 100 years. Arm problems and team futility never allowed Wood to reach his full potential over the course of a 14 year career.
Earlier that day in the middle of May Wood had announced that he would retire following the teams next game because he wanted to put on the uniform one more time. Wood's career may not have worked out the way he wanted but that final day was a Hollywood script that nobody could have ever dreamed up.
There were many people nationally and locally who said that he would not get into the game, but all of that changed in the eighth inning. Cubs manager Dale Sveum called on Wood to face White Sox OF Dayan Viciedo. Wood struck him out on three pitches and was pulled, then received a five minute standing ovation from the home crowd at Wrigley.
As Wood left the mound for the final time we saw the exact reason he wanted to put the uniform on one more time. You knew why this was going to be a special moment in an absolute lost season for the Chicago Cubs. Waiting to greet him in an identical white #34 Cubs jersey, was the biggest Kerry Wood fan in the world. His 9 year old son Justin.
Sometimes you just can't make it up. This is why for me, baseball will always be the greatest game.