Many White Sox fans were not very thrilled when they heard the news that Kenny Williams had brought in A.J. eight short years ago. Major League baseball fans across the country had heard the rumors about A.J. as a player as well as a person, that he was classless, dirty, etc… Many Sox fans already despised him from his time on the rival Minnesota Twins and hearing the rumors that he had kicked his San Francisco Giant’s trainer in the groin didn’t positively affect their opinion of him. Skeptics were concerned that he might negatively affect the team’s chemistry. Fortunately, those thoughts could not have been more wrong.
Ozzie Guillen once said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.” That may be, but Pierzynski received nothing but love from Sox fans and was one of the most popular players among fans during his 8 year stint on the south side, and deservedly so. From the moment that Anthony John Pierzynski put on that White Sox uniform, fans saw a true winner, a guy that loves to win, and a player that’ll do whatever it takes to get the W. Fans appreciated his hard work, his consistent bat, and his talented ability to call games from behind the plate. A.J. is one of the best in the game in this regard, something that is unfortunately often overlooked and doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Phil Humber and Mark Buehrle can both attest to this. A.J. caught Humber’s perfect game this past season as well as Buehrle’s no-hitter in 2007, not to mention helping to bring a World Series Championship to Chicago in 2005. A.J. was always the guy to get on his teammate’s backs, and every team needs a guy like that. He was also the guy standing on the field this past season urging fans to go vote teammate Jake Peavy into the All-Star game for the AL final vote, showing what kind of teammate he is.
Everyone remembers A.J. running to 1st base on the controversial dropped 3rd strike in the 2005 ALCS and his run in with former Chicago Cub Michael Barrett. There are many stand-out A.J. moments, but my most memorable A.J. moment came at the halfway to St. Patrick’s Day game in 2006 in which A.J. hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th. The stadium was electric and I will never forget the moment. What is your favorite A.J. moment?
If you look in this past Thursday’s Chicago Tribune, you will see this thank you from A.J. and his family:
A.J. will return to the Cell on August 23rd and for the first time in his career, A.J will not only play at an opposing team’s stadium and not be booed, but receive a well-deserved standing ovation as well. Tyler Flowers has some big shoes to fill. Best of luck to AJ and the rest of his career.