Hendry forever linked to Kerry Wood

CHICAGO -- Kerry Wood's final day in the major leagues had former Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry fondly remembering the past.

Hendry and Wood are forever linked from the day the latter was drafted to their eventual playoff success and finally one last go-around in a Cubs uniform beginning last season.

“We started together in ’95, I was the minor-league director and he was our first-round pick that year,” Hendry said Saturday on ESPN 1000’s Talkin’ Baseball show. “We got along and got the whole process started. Obviously through my general manager years he was an integral part in the beginning of us doing well."

Hendry considers Wood’s victory in Game 5 of the 2003 National League Division Series as one of the more important games in Cubs history and the injuries to Wood and Mark Prior the following season some of the darkest days.

Through it all, his link with Wood was a powerful one.

“I try to get past just the wins and losses and realize the human being he is, and our relationship and how much he meant to so many lives,” Hendry said.

After making his retirement official Saturday in front of family and teammates, Wood also recalled his special bond with Hendry.

“He’s just a great friend,” Wood said. “Obviously we had the business side of the relationship, but as the business side kind of wore off we became friends fairly quick. I’ve known him for a long time and the one thing I respect about him, in his position he always told guys the truth and never beat around the bush. He never tried to sugar coat anything. You’ve got to respect that. You may not like to hear it all the time. Jim Hendry was great to me and great to my family. He's a tremendous person.”

Injuries, of course, never let Hendry, or anybody else, see just how good Wood might have been.

“I think if he was still a starter and (had) been able to carry that on he could have been as good as anybody was in the game,” Hendry said. “The (2003) series against Atlanta, the Braves were maybe the best team in the game. Kerry went through them twice in high fashion. Game 5 was a gem for the Cubs. If he could have stayed healthy he would have been the guy or a top 5 guy in the game for years. Even after Tommy John surgery he came back effectively. After that then the shoulder started to get him.”

Hendry said he knew a few days in advance that Wood’s next outing would be his last. As a special assignment with the Yankees he has been on the road this past week. But checked his cell phone and SportsCenter to see if the outing had taken place.

Now that Wood’s career is in the books, Hendry recalled what made Wood so beloved in Chicago. His view is that what essentially made Wood a great teammate is also what the fans latched on to as well.

“The great thing about him, all the time the frustration was huge, the discomfort was huge but he was always a great teammate,” Hendry said. “He was always supportive of the guys when he was on the DL. A lot of guys get caught up in their own bubble and worry only about themselves, but he was a great teammate on our good teams or bad, whether he was pitching or was hurt.

“It's a shame he didn’t have more success but he represented the Cubs terrifically and I think people picked up on that, that he always had time and didn’t change whether it was winning a playoff game, striking out 20 or on the DL.”