Bell about to ring for Crosstown Classic
A recap of last season's fireworks before Cubs, Sox meet again
NEW YORK -- Michael Barrett isn't proud of the punch he delivered to A.J. Pierzynski's jaw.
He knows about the T-shirts that say, "Who says the Cubs can't hit?" and feature his right-handed jab. The scene will be replayed and rehashed this weekend when the Cubs and White Sox square off in Interleague Play, and any time the two catchers step near each other on the field, everyone will be watching.
It's over, Barrett said.
Did you miss it? Last May 20 at U.S. Cellular Field, the Chicago White Sox loaded the bases against the Cubs in the second inning. It was Game 2 of their Interleague series. Brian Anderson hit a sacrifice fly and Pierzynski raced home, colliding head-on with Barrett at home plate.
Pierzynski then slapped the plate before he got up, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 39,387. Barrett grabbed Pierzynski and delivered a punch with his right hand. Both benches emptied.
"My reaction today was a result of that play," Barrett said after the game. "It was a great play on [Pierzynski's] part."
Pierzynski made a statement when the two teams met again at Wrigley Field on July 1, hitting a game-winning, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Ryan Dempster for an 8-6 White Sox win.
The two teams square off in Round 1 this weekend at Wrigley Field, and Barrett is ready for anything. He did talk to Pierzynski in the rematch series after the punch.
"I tried to communicate with A.J. that hitting him was not right and that I felt bad for that," Barrett said Tuesday in New York. "But I never got a chance to really talk to him face to face about other things. It's something that, over time, I'm sure we'll do. That will help put things behind him and I personally.
"As far as the series goes, I think that for the team's sake, I think we've pretty much put [the incident] behind us. You never know what can happen. I'm certainly prepared to be able to deal with whatever happens. I always prepare for the worst-case scenario."
Barrett has tried to downplay the incident.
"It's not something that I'm proud of," he said. "It's something that happened. It was a reaction that happened. I would hope that by now A.J. understands it wasn't something I premeditated by any means. It wasn't because of hard feelings. It was just a reaction.
"He's a guy I certainly have a lot of respect for, the way he plays the game," Barrett said. "He has a tremendous track record as far as winning percentage."
Expect the TV cameras to be focused on the two catchers. If you're watching at home, you'll probably see the McDonald's TV ads featuring Pierzynski and Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. In one commercial, Zambrano puts shaving cream on Pierzynski's hand while he's sleeping, and Pierzynski slaps himself in the face. In another, Pierzynski strips one of Zambrano's eyebrows while he's sleeping.
When Zambrano returned to Cubs camp after the shoot, he said he didn't realize Pierzynski was such a nice guy. Barrett doesn't have a personal relationship with the White Sox catcher. It's strictly professional.
"As far as my personal relationship with A.J. goes, I have no hard feelings for him," Barrett said. "It's something that happened, and I hope he and I can both put it behind us and we can play good, hard, clean baseball and go from there."
2006 Recap: Cubs vs. White Sox
May 19 at U.S. Cellular Field: White Sox 6, Cubs 1
Greg Maddux gave up six runs on nine hits and five walks over 5 2/3 innings as Mark Buehrle outdueled the 40-year-old pitcher. "I looked in the fourth inning and saw that he had 23 balls and 20 strikes," Buehrle said of Maddux. "I don't think there's many times he'll throw more balls than strikes. We were fortunate we caught him off his game." Paul Konerko drove in three runs, and Jim Thome hit his 17th homer of the season to lead the White Sox.
May 20 at U.S. Cellular Field: White Sox 7, Cubs 0
This is the game Barrett would like to forget. In the second inning, the White Sox loaded the bases on three consecutive walks by Rich Hill, and Anderson hit the sacrifice fly that prompted the incident between Pierzynski and Barrett. Hill gave up seven runs on five hits and five walks while striking out two over four-plus innings.
May 21 at U.S. Cellular Field: Cubs 7, White Sox 4
Jacque Jones hit a tie-breaking two-run homer, and Barrett added an RBI triple in a four-run eighth inning to give the Cubs the win and avoid a sweep. Aramis Ramirez hit a pair of solo homers to back Zambrano. "It's the largest one for us this year, especially to come back late," then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the win. Barrett and Pierzynski avoided a rematch, but Zambrano said something to the Sox catcher as he rounded third after a home run. Said Zambrano: "I shouldn't say anything to [Pierzynski] and just keep going in the game. For me, that was my mistake. My bad. Let him talk, let him play the way he knows how to play."
June 30 at Wrigley Field: White Sox 6, Cubs 2
There were no punches thrown and no punch in the Cubs offense when the series resumed at Wrigley Field. Juan Uribe drove in five runs to back Jon Garland, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 1997. Lefty Sean Marshall took the loss, despite striking out six over six innings. Marshall did plunk Pierzynski in the fifth, and the White Sox fans at Wrigley were upset. "I didn't mean to hit him, of course," Marshall said of the curve that got away.
July 1 at Wrigley Field: White Sox 8, Cubs 6
Ramirez drove in five runs, nearly hitting for the cycle. Jones hit a tie-breaking homer in the seventh. The Cubs turned three clutch double plays. But it was Pierzynski's three-run homer off Dempster with two outs in the ninth that gave the White Sox an 8-6 win. "This one goes right to the heart," Baker said. Dempster suffered his fifth blown save of the season and took it hard. "I'm embarrassed, I really am," he said.
July 2 at Wrigley Field: Cubs 15, White Sox 11
The Cubs avoided a sweep with a romp in the series finale. Angel Pagan hit two home runs, Neifi Perez drove in four runs, and Barrett had a career-high four hits. Zambrano also hit his third homer of the season, a two-run shot, in a seven-run first inning. "They're a great team and they're tough to beat," Derrek Lee said. "Today, we scored 15 runs and we were never comfortable."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.