Wood relives 20 K game at Museum
The only other time Wood had been to Cooperstown was in 2008 when his Cubs were scheduled to face the Padres in what turned out to be the final Hall of Fame Game, an exhibition that was cancelled due to rain.
Despite early success, such as winning the 1998 National League Rookie of the Year Award and leading the majors with 266 strikeouts in 2003, and ending with a career strikeout per nine innings of 10.3174, which ranks fifth on the all-time list, Wood says he doesn’t contemplate what might have been if not for the injuries.
“You can’t do that. There’s a thousand other players with their own ‘what ifs?’” he said. “I had a 14-year career at the highest level the game has to offer and had a blast doing it. I came back from injuries where I was told I wasn’t going to be able to do it, and was able to prove people wrong.
“I had a career that may not have ended the way everyone expected it to. I was only able to start for half of it, but I was able to make myself relevant anyway. I couldn’t go out and throw 120 pitches anymore, but I could go out and throw 50. I always said as a starter, ‘Man, I’d love to come in and just close and throw as hard as I could for an inning or two.’ I got a chance to do that and made that All-Star team and enjoyed my role in the pen.”
As a child, Wood did admit that he always had a special affection toward a fellow Texas fireballer who has a bronze plaque in Cooperstown.
“Nolan Ryan was my hero growing up. He was my idol. I tried to emulate the leg kick and everything else. He was my guy,” Wood said. “I actually got a chance to watch his last no-hitter (on May 1, 1991, in Arlington, Texas). I got tickets at the grocery store of all places and talked my dad into getting home from work and taking me. We crossed paths a few times during my career. Just a tremendous guy.”
According to Wood, his son pitches as well as plays first and third. “The one thing I didn’t want him to do is pitch and that’s what he likes to do. But he can move the ball – I could never do it. He’s got a good change-up already.”
Bill Francis is the Senior Research and Writing Specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum