LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It’s a recurring dream and one I do not claim sole ownership. I think most boys and men that have played baseball dream of baseball. It’s probably the same for running, boxing, and bowling, but this is about baseball.
Even when you have moved well beyond playing years, you cannot avoid subconscious thoughts of what it would be like to do things on a baseball field no one has ever done. Someone like Kerry Wood.
Kerry Wood retired from baseball last week at the age of 34. His greatest moment may have come as a rookie for the Cubs in 1998 when he struck out 20 batters. That is the kind of game you dream about.
This season Woods struggled to stay healthy. His 0-2 record and 8.64 ERA are not the kind of numbers we will remember.
It was on May 6, 1998 when Woods started his fifth game for the Cubs. The only hit he allowed was an infield single. It may have been just as amazing that anyone was able to get a bat on the ball the way Woods was dealing. His fastball touched 100 mph and a slider dropped so sharp it seemed evade the bat. You can compare any no-hitter that has ever been thrown and will never see a more dominating performance.
Now Wood can only dream of baseball.
Apparently John Grisham has baseball dreams as well. The author best known for legal thrillers has a best seller now about baseball. Calico Joe was the greatest phenom the game has ever seen. He is hitting home runs on every at bat until he surprises everyone with a bunt. It is the same dream I have had since playing Little League at Greer Field for House Oil. Nights when I can’t sleep I still have the same dream.
The fictional Joe Castle was from Calico Rock, Ark. He also played for the Cubs in the summer of 1973. He hit 21 home runs in 38 games before his career ended in tragedy. Telling any more would ruin the story of a book that is about much more than baseball.
In an interview, Grisham said almost all baseball stories have to be sad because like the game they are about unfulfilled potential and will break your heart.
Maybe Kerry Woods does not fall into the category of unfulfilled potential. He did leave the game when he chose and struck out the last batter he faced. Maybe the sadness for Woods is the end of youth. You can still be a kid as long as you are playing baseball for a living.
Now he can only dream of baseball like the rest of us.