'It's just an honor': Wood, Aramis to enter Cubs Hall of Fame

January 13th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Neither nor  knew why they were instructed to travel to Cubs Convention this weekend. That changed on Friday night, as the pair of Cubs greats listened to a video montage and heard the voices of their oldest sons.

As part of the opening festivities, Wood and Ramirez learned that they were going to be inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame later this summer.

“I was just trying to clean the tears off quick,” Wood said. “Both of us, when the boys started talking, we're like, ‘Ahh.’ You're just so caught off-guard.”

“That’s hard to put into words,” Ramirez said. “It’s just an honor -- just an honor. I was surprised. I didn’t know what was going on.”

The Cubs landed Wood -- a kid from Irving, Texas, with a fastball scouts dream of -- with the fourth overall pick in the 1995 MLB Draft. Wood went on to spend a dozen of his 14 Major League seasons with the North Siders, carving his name into club lore and the baseball history books at points in his career.

Wood is most famous for his outing on May 6, 1998, when in only his fifth career game in the big leagues, the 20-year-old righty racked up 20 strikeouts against a talented Astros offense. With an overpowering heater and physics-defying curveball, Wood equaled the record for whiffs in a nine-inning game and posted the highest nine-inning Game Score (105) in MLB history.

That 20-strikeout one-hitter became the signature moment of Wood’s 1998 National League Rookie of the Year campaign. That summer, he set a single-season Cubs record with 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings, ending the season with 233 K’s in 166 2/3 innings. It was the first of four 200-plus strikeout showings for Wood with Chicago.

Wood led the Majors with 266 strikeouts in 2003 and finished his Cubs tenure with 1,470 strikeouts, ranking third all-time in team history behind Fergie Jenkins and Carlos Zambrano. Wood was named to two All-Star teams -- in 2003 as a starter and then again in ‘08 after he reinvented himself as a closer. He pitched in four postseasons for the Cubs, helping them come within one win of reaching the World Series in ‘03.

Those playoff runs meant the most to Wood as he reflected on his career.

“You play to win,” he said. “When I was a Cub, I got to play in the playoffs four times. And so those four years are special.”

After stops with Cleveland and the Yankees, Wood finished his career where it began. Fittingly, he ended things with a strikeout. On May 18, 2012, Wood took the mound in the eighth and faced one batter, Dayán Viciedo of the White Sox, and put him away with a breaking ball.

Wood then walked off to a rousing ovation at Wrigley Field, where he doffed his cap for the final time and was greeted at the dugout by his young son.

“We've got great pictures of it and great video of it,” Wood said. “And now he's taller than me. It was very special.”

Wood and Ramirez’s careers with Chicago overlapped for seven seasons. On July 23, 2003, the Cubs reeled in the third baseman and outfielder Kenny Lofton in a five-player trade with the Pirates. Rather than being a temporary solution, Ramirez put a stop to the revolving door that had lasted decades at third.

In the 30 years after Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santo held down the hot corner, the North Siders cycled through 18 Opening Day third basemen (11 for just one-year stints). Once Ramirez joined the fold, he found a home with the Cubs for nine of his 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, making two All-Star teams (2005 and ‘08), picking up one Silver Slugger Award and playing in three postseasons.

Over 1,124 games for Chicago, Ramirez hit .294 overall, launching at least 25 homers in seven seasons and topping 100 RBIs four times. His .531 slugging percentage with the Cubs is the third-best mark in team history behind only Hack Wilson (.590) and Sammy Sosa (.569). Ramirez also ranks fifth in Cubs history in OPS (.887) and seventh in homers (239).

“I love the Cubs,” Ramirez said. “I think I had my best years of my career with the Cubs. I love the city. My family loved the city. I love the fans. It couldn’t end up any better for me than to be a Cubs Hall of Famer.”