White Sox lookback, Part 1: Dropped 3rd strike
Oral history of controversial play in Game 2 of ALCS vs. Angels
CHICAGO -- On the night of Oct. 26, 2005, history was made on the South Side of Chicago.
That history actually was being finished at Minute Maid Park in Houston, with shortstop Juan Uribe slickly fielding pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's grounder up the middle and throwing to Paul Konerko at first to complete a 1-0 victory and a four-game World Series sweep of the Astros. It was the first championship since 1917 for the White Sox, the first in the Jerry Reinsdorf ownership era and a moment that was celebrated for weeks and years to follow.
Chicago will be honoring the 10-year anniversary of this championship during the weekend of July 17-19 at U.S. Cellular Field. This latest celebration presents a chance to look back at key moments from that postseason run, with a special focus on the World Series, with the words coming primarily from the participants themselves. Here is Part 1.
American League Championship Series, Game 2: The dropped third strike ... or was it?
Boston, the defending World Series champion, was dispatched in three games by the White Sox during the AL Division Series, and manager Ozzie Guillen's crew looked to be the favorites against Anaheim in the ALCS. The Sox held home-field advantage at U.S. Cellular Field, the Angels were without ace Bartolo Colon, and they had just finished off a grueling five-game series win over the Yankees before making the trip from Anaheim to Chicago for Game 1.
Paul Byrd pitched the Angels to a surprising 3-2 victory in Game 1, making Game 2 a crucial contest for the White Sox before going to the West Coast. The game was tied at 1 in the ninth, with Mark Buehrle having gone the distance for Chicago, when A.J. Pierzynski appeared to strike out against Kelvim Escobar for the third out to send the game to extra innings.
Pierzynski ran to first on what he thought was a dropped third strike by catcher Josh Paul, and home-plate umpire Doug Eddings allowed him to stay there. Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna swiped second and scored on Joe Crede's walk-off double, propelling the White Sox to their first of four straight victories over Anaheim.
Ken Williams, White Sox executive vice president and general manager of the 2005 team: "It looked like [Paul] dropped it to me. He did."
Reinsdorf, the White Sox chairman: "I wasn't at that game because it was Kol Nidre [the start of the Jewish high holiday, Yom Kippur], but I was watching it at home. I thought he had struck out and that the inning was over. I was as confused as everybody else was."
Konerko, the White Sox captain who retired after the 2014 season: "The only time in all the playoffs I had a shred of thought [that] we weren't going all the way was when we fell down one game to the Angels. The Angels were a very well-built team, and they still are. The way they run things with [Angels manager Mike Scioscia], it's like they are not a team that's going to give you anything. They are a real tough team to play against.
"So when we fell down, 1-0, it was like definitely a thought after the game, 'OK, who knows how this is going to go. It has been a good run.' A little bit of hesitation."
Williams: "I get it. It's like watching a football game. What was the catch [for] the Cowboys? Dez Bryant, this year [in the playoffs]? If you are a Cowboys fan, that is a catch all day long. If you are a Packers fan, that is not a catch. The rule is the rule. So it depends on your vantage point."
Konerko: "I think the replay shows the guy caught the ball and it was strike three, but that's sports. You are always trying to angle and position your team and yourself to get a call. Sometimes you do things and force the umpire or the referee, whatever sport it is. You are always playing as hard as you can outside the play. That means sometimes it's outside the whistle or the play and you force a guy to make a bad call. That's exactly what happened."
Reinsdorf: "I asked A.J., 'What made you react like that?' He said the year before when he was in San Francisco, he was on the other end of that. So he remembered that. I've seen the replay over and over again. There's certainly one angle where it looks like he caught the ball. There's another angle where it looks like the ball touched the ground. So, the play was what the umpire called.
"Obviously, that was a key play, because if we lose that game, which we still might not have lost, because it was a tie game, so we still might have won the game ... if we lost that game, we are down 0-2 in a best-of-seven [series]. It really would have put us in a hole."
Next up: World Series, Game 1.