’20K’ Day: Remembering the 22nd anniversary of Kerry Wood’s remarkable Cubs’ performance


CHICAGO, IL – MAY 6: Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs pitches during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros 06 May at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. This was only Woods’ fifth major league start as he tied the major league record with 20 strikeouts winning the game 2-0. (Photo credit should read DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – The only highlights that fans of Major League Baseball have to watch at the moment come from the past thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So over the past six weeks, television networks along with rooters themselves have gone into the archives or YouTube to relive some of the favorite contests

The good news for Cubs’ fans is that Wednesday represents the anniversary of one of the greatest games ever pitched in franchise history.

You could say that May 6th is “20K” day. Kerry Wood made that so in 1998.

On a mostly grey, average spring day early in the season, the rookie pitcher delivered a gem against the Astros in front of 15,758 lucky fans that were at Wrigley Field that afternoon.

Over the course of nine innings, Wood tied a major league record by striking out Houston 20 batters, becoming the first Cubs’ player to accomplish the feat. It’s only happened five times in a nine-inning game in history, with four different pitchers accomplishing the feat – Wood, Roger Clemens (2), Randy Johnson, and Max Scherzer.

The feat took place in Wood’s fifth major league game, having made his debut on April 12th of that year in Montreal.

He struck out the first eight batters he face then fanned eight of the last nine Astros, including Derek Bell on his 122nd pitch to finish off the masterpiece.

“Here comes the hook!” exclaimed WGN play-by-play announcer Chip Carey before the pitch, and after it produced a swinging strikeout, teammates mobbed Wood on the mound.

What made the appearance so impressive was his incredible control on the afternoon. He didn’t walk a batter the entire afternoon, hitting just one and allowing just one hit, which was a bit controversial.

Leading off the third inning, Ricky Gutierrez hit a grounder towards third base and it went off the top of the glove of Kevin Orie, then rolled into left field. It could have been ruled an error, but Gutierrez was awarded the base hit, and in the end, would deny Wood at no-hitter as well.

Yet that wasn’t about to take away from the glory of an incredible afternoon for Wood – one that’s worth remembering at a time where the past is all MLB fans have.


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