CHICAGO – One of the greatest pitching performances in the history of Major League Baseball turns 25 on Saturday – and it’s a contest fans saw on Channel 9.
The number that stood out that day was 20, and it came from a rookie pitcher wearing No. 34.
Stepping to the mound on a mostly cloudy day at Wrigley Field on May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood dazzled the 15,758 fans who were at the matinee to watch the Cubs face the Astros.
In just his fifth major league start, the rookie tied a major league record by striking out 20 hitters in a 2-0 victory over Houston. The nine-inning, 122-pitcher performance didn’t include a single walk with Wood hitting only one batter and surrendering just one infield hit.
After what he described as a bad pregame bullpen session, Wood would proceed to strike out 12 batters in the first six innings before turning it on late. He struck out the side in both the seventh and the eighth inning as he entered the ninth with the shot to either tie or break the MLB strikeout record.
He fanned Bill Spiers to start the inning to get to 19, but almost to the disappointment of fans, Wood gave up a grounder to Craig Biggio on the second pitch. Jeff Blauser fielded it and threw to first base for the second out as Derek Bell was next to the plate.
Getting the hitter to a 1-and-2 count, Wood went with the curve ball that was unhittable the entire day and got Bell swinging for his record-tying 20th strikeout.
The pitcher was mobbed on the mound as he became only the second pitcher at that time to strike out 20 batters in a game. Roger Clemens pulled off the feat twice, doing so with the Red Sox on April 29, 1986 against the Mariners and again against the Tigers on September 18, 1996.
On May 11, 2016, then Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer would join the group as he struck out 20 batters against Detroit.
WGN News Now took a look back at that moment in the latest edition of “Channel 9 Was There” – a look back at how the station covered major sporting events throughout the years. Larry Hawley has this edition in the video above.