The next time you see A.J. Pierzynski in a White Sox uniform, feel free to take a moment to thank the one man who helped bring the contentious catcher to the South Side in the first place.
I think I was conceived because Hawk Harrelson was alive, Pierzynski joked during an interview for Inside Look: A.J. Pierzynski, which premieres Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.
Pierzynski was being sarcastic, but in reality, if it wasnt for the longtime White Sox broadcaster, a family friend of the Pierzynski family since A.J. was a sophomore in high school, the backstop would have ended up somewhere like Baltimore or Tampa. Both teams offered him a contract, but Chicago was the only place he wanted to be.
We kept going to Kenny, and Kenny was like 'I don't know, I've heard all these bad things, and I don't know, I've gotta talk to my people, Pierzynski said. Finally, I guess Hawk got a hold of him, sat down and told him he'd take care of me, so Kenny finally consented and I've been here ever since.
While some players last their whole careers without making a single ripple of controversy, Pierzynski has been in the middle of the ocean, hanging ten on 20-foot waves, infamously surfing his way from one embroilment to the other.
Rangers manager Ron Washington not selecting him to the All-Star team is merely the latest public squabble involving the White Sox catcher, but certainly not the first.
That would be the notorious blowup that occurred in 2004 when Pierzynski was with the San Francisco Giants. In a story that ran in the Oakland Tribune that season, Pierzynski almost caused a mutiny among the Giants pitching staff.
The pitchers arent happy with him. If they can trade him, that would be fine with me, one player said. Another called him a cancer.
Several pitchers questioned Pierzynskis work ethic. He was accused of giving his teams signs to the opposition and for criticizing Giants pitchers to the Padres Phil Nevin while Nevin was hitting.
After years of speculation, Pierzynski wanted to set the record straight.
Basically one guy came out and said that.
I brought up Brett Tomko, the Giants pitcher who has long been associated with throwing Pierzynski under the bus.
Well, he says he didn't, Pierzynski said. But I know Matt Herges, he said some things, some other guys said some thingsyou know, they have their right, and one of the things I was accused of was getting the other team signs. Anyone that knows me, I would never in a million years give the other team, tell the other team what's coming. Whats funny is the guy who wrote the article, wrote this article and never asked me about it. He just wrote the article, and then it became a national perception that I was doing all these things when nobody still had ever asked me about it. That's the one thing I get most mad about.
After giving up Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to acquire him from Minnesota, the Giants released Pierzynski after just one season.
With the perception of being a clubhouse cancer, it wasnt exactly the greatest situation to walk into as a free agent.
It wasn't hard to get a job. I could've had a job, but it was hard to get the right job, Pierzynski said. It was hard to find a job where I could come in and play everyday and not basicallyyou always had to earn your spot, but really without coming in and trying to basicallystart over, almost like a first-year guy.
Pierzynski instantly found a home with the White Sox, who in that first season won the 2005 World Series.
As for the 2004 Giants, safe to say A.J. wont be invited to any future reunions?
I don't know about that. There's still some guys on that team that I talk to. Scott Eyre, a former White Sox guy, I talk to all the time. As far as that goes, I don't know the answer to that, because if you look at it, we didn't have a bad year. I didn't have a bad year. We missed the playoffs on the last day.
Unless he and the White Sox strike a deal sometime this summer, Pierzynski will become a free agent after this season. Kenny Williams wont need a pitch this time from Hawk Harrelson to sign him.
On pace for career-highs in home runs and RBIs, Pierzynski might be taking care of that all by himself.