Chicago Cubs: Recalling Michael Barrett’s clocking of A.J. Pierzynski

Michael Barrett, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Michael Barrett, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox hit a new high fourteen years ago when Michael Barrett and A.J. Pierzynski came to blows.

Since interleague play began in June 1997, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox have met 122 times. A number of those games were very memorable, but none more so than what transpired 14 years ago today at U.S. Cellular Field. Yes, it has been well over a decade since Michael Barrett punched A.J. Pierzynski. Time goes by fast.

Fans who witnessed it will never forget it. Rich Hill was pitching for the Cubs and facing Brian Anderson with Pierzynski on third in the bottom of the second. Anderson hit a fly ball to Matt Murton in left. The White Sox backstop tagged up and went hard toward home, resulting in him barreling into Barrett and scoring. After Pierzynski emphatically slammed his hand on home, Barrett went up and grabbed Pierzynski by the shirt, gave him a sucker-punch to the jaw and the rest was history.

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The wild brawl at home plate between both clubs got the fans all riled up, including Pierzynski who was high-fiving his teammates and pumping everyone up after the fight dissipated. It took about 15 minutes or so for the umpires to sort everything out. In addition to Pierzynski and Barrett being ejected, Anderson and John Mabry also got the boot. Barrett was suspended 10 games and the White Sox blew out the Cubs 7-0.

Historical impact

This is not only one of the most famous fights in Chicago sports history, it is one of the most famous in recent baseball history. The moment Barrett landed that punch the two were cemented in history. MLB’s official YouTube account has posted the video of the incident and it currently has 2.4 million views.

Safe to say the White Sox and their fans have really embraced the incident. Pierzynski’s All-Star campaign among fans was called “Punch A.J.” that season. Cubs fans remember it very well but probably not as fondly as Sox fans. Certainly Cubs fans can still find humor in the incident and many likely do, it just seems like it was a bigger moment for the Sox even though Barrett was doing the punching.

It was a dark year for North Siders as they were on route to a 96-loss season and the Sox were riding high on their World Series victory in 2005. No question the Sox absolutely wanted to rub it in the Cubs faces as much as they could. Hard to also forget Pierzynski a few weeks later hit a go-ahead home run at Wrigley Field in the ninth to deliver a punch of his own to Cubs fans.

Pierzynski always had a reputation of getting under people’s skin and Barrett had gotten into a few other scuffles himself. His final days as a Cub in 2007 saw him getting into it with Carlos Zambrano in the dugout and the two had to be separated. No doubt Barrett is most known for this incident despite having a very solid career which included winning a Silver Slugger in 2005. Ironic, huh.