Pierzynski's quick thinking sent '05 White Sox on their way

Opinions mixed as to whether catcher struck out in key moment of ALCS Game 2

Pierzynski's quick thinking sent '05 White Sox on their way

The official 10-year-anniversary celebration for the 2005 White Sox World Series championship team takes place on July 17-19 at U.S. Cellular Field. But MLB.com will be featuring some top moments and performances throughout this current campaign before, during and after that anticipated reunion. Today's installment features A.J. Pierzynski's strikeout that wasn't in Game 2 of the ALCS.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Of the standout moments during A.J. Pierzynski's eight-year-stint with the White Sox, none may be more memorable and certainly more meaningful than his strikeout that wasn't in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series at U.S. Cellular Field.

The apparent swing-and-miss took place against the Angels' Kelvim Escobar on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. Or did it? Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings thought differently.

Pierzynski took a detour back from running to the dugout and raced to first base, with Eddings not giving a definitive out call as catcher Josh Paul rolled the ball back to the mound after thinking he made the catch. The ruling eventually was that the ball hit the dirt, leaving Pierzynski safely clapping his hands at first, followed by pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna stealing second and then scoring on Joe Crede's walk-off double to wrap up the first of eight straight wins to close out the World Series title.

Ten years later, with the anniversary celebration well underway for that 110-win team (99 in the regular season; 11 more in the postseason) and the revamped 2015 squad hoping to reach the same lofty level, the question still arises as to whether the White Sox got a break. Opinions seem to be mixed, even on the winning team's side.

"It looked like he dropped it to me," said White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams, who was general manager at the time. "He did."

"I thought he had struck out and that the inning was over," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who watched that particular game from home. "I was as confused as everybody else was."

"The replay shows the guy caught the ball and it was strike three, but that's sports," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "You are always trying to angle and position your team and yourself to get a call."

Credit goes to Pierzynski for forcing the decision and forcing Los Angeles' agitation. Reinsdorf asked Pierzynski what made him react as he did, and Pierzynski responded that he was on the other end of the same play while catching the year before in San Francisco.

"You are always playing as hard as you can outside the play, and that means sometimes it's outside the whistle or the play, and you force a guy to make a bad call," Konerko said. "That's exactly what happened."

"I've seen the replay over and over again," Reinsdorf said. "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."

Already down one game in the series to a Mike Scioscia-managed crew that Konerko referred to as the toughest team that he faced during 16 years with the White Sox, Game 2 became a must-win for the White Sox. Pierzynski's strikeout would have sent the contest to extra innings, where the White Sox still could have won, but the catcher's quick thinking never let it get that far.

According to Williams, the decade-long reaction to this play is similar to the mixed reaction for the recent Dez Bryant catch/no-catch in the Cowboys' NFL playoff game against the Packers.

"If you are a Cowboys fan, that is a catch all day long. If you are a Packers fan, that is not a catch," Williams said. "The rule is the rule. So it depends on your vantage point."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.