Jeff Bagwell recalls Kerry Wood 20-strikeout game: ‘The whole day was surreal'

Tim Stebbins
NBC Sports Chicago

Jeff Bagwell put together a Hall of Fame career from 1991-2005, but the former Astros first baseman was on the wrong side of history one game 22 years ago.

On May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood delivered one of the best pitching performances in baseball history, tossing a complete game shutout on one hit while striking out 20 Astros.

"The whole day was surreal," Bagwell said Wednesday on David Kaplan's ESPN radio show. "Sometimes, you have to go and say, ‘Hey man, that guy's just better than me.' And at that particular game, he was better than all of us, and that's putting it mildly."

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Bagwell told Kaplan he remembers watching Wood warmup, where he estimated the then-20-year-old right-hander was sitting 93-94 mph with his fastball. Wood's first pitch fastball sailed past catcher Sandy Martinez' glove, hitting home plate umpire Jerry Meals' mask, and Bagwell's eyes popped.

"I looked at [Astros manager Larry Dierker] and said, ‘That's not 93, 94,'" Bagwell said.

Bagwell struck out three times that game, and he recalls one at-bat that was downright unfair.

"There's one at-bat there where I get 3-1 and I think he threw me a 3-1 slider for a strike and a 3-2 curveball for a strike," Bagwell said. "I just walked off, I said, ‘What are you gonna do there?'

"There's nothing I can do at that particular point with those pitches. He was just better than me. I think I had one good pitch to hit the entire game."

(That at-bat starts at 52:00 of the following clip.)

Recording a strikeout hat trick is never ideal but looking back on it, all Bagwell can do is tip his cap to Wood.

"As the game went on, it was kind of more of, ‘What is this going on?' For me personally, it's the best pitched game I've ever seen in my life," he said. "I've just never seen a guy throw as hard and spin a breaking ball like he did that day.

"I've been with Randy Johnson and [Roger Clemens and Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole], and this was just another level."

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Jeff Bagwell recalls Kerry Wood 20-strikeout game: The whole day was surreal' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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