From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Kid K’s coming out party
Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.
To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the second part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
5/6/98—Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game
Kerry Wood may have been inexperienced in 1998, but what he did on May 6 against the mighty Houston Astros can’t be taught. In only his fifth major league start, facing one of the most potent offenses in baseball, Kid K made history by striking out 20 batters. His final line: 9 IP, 1 H, 20 K, 1 HBP, 0 BB.
“Honestly, I’m thinking, ‘I haven’t walked anybody yet,’ because I never pitched a game at all—the whole minor leagues—[in which] I wasn’t told, ‘You’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys,’” Wood said.
The opposing Astros, who eventually ran away with the NL Central crown, led the NL in runs scored per game and on-base percentage that season, and they were second in batting average. Their powerful lineup boasted a pair of 1998 All-Stars in Craig Biggio and Moises Alou, as well as slugger Jeff Bagwell.
Wood’s 20 strikeouts were the most ever for an NL pitcher, and they tied Roger Clemens’ major league record. The game is now widely considered the most dominant nine-inning performance in baseball history.