The Top 20 Cub HR Of All Time - #19 Kerry Wood 5/2/2000

It figures, doesn't it, that one of the top home runs, among the most memorable, was hit by a pitcher? (Hint: this won't be the last pitcher HR on this list, either.)

Kerry Wood is still among the most popular of Cubs. 2008 will be his tenth season in a Cub uniform -- there aren't that many players who have played that long in a Cub uniform since 1945; Ernie Banks, Bob Rush, Don Kessinger, Randy Hundley, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Rick Reuschel, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa, Greg Maddux and Shawon Dunston are the others.

And after his spectacular rookie season in 1998, he blew out a ligament in his elbow in his first spring training start in 1999 and missed the entire season.

When 2000 started, hopes were high for him to come back. But he began the season on the DL, and it took until May 2, the first game of a series against the Astros, for him to make his season debut. The Cubs had gotten off to a poor start and it was clear, even that early, that 2000 wasn't going to be a very good year on the North Side. They entered that series 10-17, tied for last place, already eight games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

But entering Wrigley Field the night of May 2, there was a buzz, because "Kid K" was going to take the mound for the first time in over a year. He started out a bit shakily, allowing a single to Roger Cedeno and wild-pitching him to second. Later in the first he walked Ken Caminiti, and issued another walk to Billy Spiers in the 2nd. His first strikeout followed -- he K'd Astros pitcher Jose Lima to end the second inning.

And the buzz got even louder in the bottom of the inning when, after a pair of doubles gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead and they scored again when Damon Buford reached on an error, Wood came to bat. He promptly smacked a two-run homer to a rousing ovation. My recollection is that it left the yard entirely and landed on the roof of what was then a small house just west of the beige-colored building at the corner of Waveland & Kenmore.

He threw six innings that day, allowing one run, walking four and striking out four, a successful return. The rest of 2000 wasn't as kind to him -- he wound up 8-7 in 23 starts with a 4.80 ERA, including this ugly pasting by the Cardinals on September 22, in which he walked eight in 1.1 innings before Don Baylor mercifully yanked him.

But all of us who were there will remember the "welcome back" home run that Kerry hit on May 2, 2000. He's not likely to hit many, or any, more home runs for the Cubs as long as he's a relief pitcher, because relievers just don't get that many at-bats (he only had one AB in 22 appearances in 2007).

And one other note, which I learned in doing a bit of research for this post. That HR gave Wood dingers in consecutive regular-season at-bats. He homered in his final at-bat of 1998, against the Reds on August 31.

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