'I just never saw a ball break like that'
Sunday will be the 20th anniversary of one of the most dominant pitching performances ever: The day a 21-year-old Kerry Wood stepped onto the mound and struck out 20 Houston Astros. It was domination of the highest order, with future Hall of Famers like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio simply shaking their heads as they strode from the plate.
"I just never saw a ball break like that," Bagwell told Alyson Footer and Carrie Muskat in the comprehensive oral history of the game.
Wood was aware of that, as well. "I felt it change in about the first part of the fourth inning," the hurler said. "Bagwell's second at-bat -- that's when I buckled him on back-to-back breaking balls, and that's when I really felt everything click in was Bagwell's second at-bat."
Just look at the curveball that completely locked up the deep-squatting slugger:
There's no hitting that. In honor of all those strikeouts, and the unhittable breaking balls, here are four more of Wood's nastiest offerings:
Strikeout No. 2
Derek Bell's swing is one you use on hanging breaking balls. And if you were at the plate, you might assume the ball was going to hover belt-high, ready to be crushed. It didn't hover, though. It smashed its way toward the ground.
Strikeout No. 16
Just look at the anguish on Dave Clark's face when he found his body simply could not hold up his bat.
Strikeout No. 19
A slider that no batter should ever swing at. Up and in, it broke toward Bill Spiers' armpits and he was still helpless to hold up.
Strikeout No. 20
The final K was a fitting sendoff. Bell was helpless against a slider that slid all the way to the opposite end of the strike zone.