It's a shame all sports heroes don't get the end their careers like Kerry Wood.
Wood, the hard-throwing Texan, burst onto the scene in 1998, earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the Cubs.
Friday he pitched in his final game at Wrigley Field. In a true class move the Cubs let Wood enter the game for one final pitching performance. They knew he was going to retire, they wanted the final appearance.
Wood, 34, had three good fastballs left in his right arm. He sat down Dayan Viciedo of the rival Chicago White Sox for a final strikeout.
Then he walked off the field to a huge ovation, hugged his son Justin, and strolled into the sunset.
To appreciate how Wood left, you have to remember how he arrived.
Wood came storming out of Grand Prairie to be the next Nolan Ryan. Wearing No. 34 on his back he struck out 20 Astros at Wrigley Field on May 6, 1998. That day he was so masterful.
Allowing just one hit, he also hit a batter. After that it was pure cheese. Fastballs tailing away from hitting, a nasty slider. He was the man on the mound and nobody could touch hit.
Wood recorded 1,000 K's in 134 games, that's 853 total innings. He was pitching like a flamethrower.
Then came injuries, stints with other teams in different league. Tommy John surgery, torn triceps, injured knees. Wood never could get to reach his full potential, not after being on the disabled list more than 12 times.
So Wood retires with an 86-75 record, 3.67 ERA and 63 saves with a total of 1,582 K's.
What could have been... you often wonder, if he had been healthy.
But don't go holding any fundraisers for Wood, in his big league career he was paid more than $70 million total bucks.
Wood can't pitch any more. But he can enjoy a nice life with his family. He said he loves Chicago and no place worship sports heroes like the Windy City.
He can always remember his final day in the big leagues. He struck out one more batter and left Wrigley Field with the fans still cheering and calling his name.
Who can ask for more a sendoff better than that!
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