It was a noteworthy publicity stunt. With the White Sox in Washington, D.C., catcher Billy Sullivan caught a ball tossed off of the top of the Washington Monument from pitcher Ed Walsh. Sullivan caught three balls in 11 attempts, with each ball whistling down 555 feet at faster than 100 mph.
Two months later, Sullivan opted out of a challenge to catch a baseball tossed from an airplane flying at a thousand feet. According to the Associated Press, the backstop said, “I might as well try to stop a bullet as be on the receiving end of [a baseball] from an airplane.”
A thrown World Series makes it tempting to ignore the 1919 club, who at 88-52 and a .629 winning percentage remain the second-best in White Sox history. On this day, a 4-1 victory over the Yankees ran Chicago’s winning streak to a season-high 10 games, landing the team at 72-39 — on pace to sneak ahead of 1917 as the best-ever Sox club. The win kept the future Black Sox six games on top of the American League, and while that lead would melt to 3 1⁄2 by season’s end, this hot streak essentially assured the Pale Hose a second pennant in three seasons.
One thing White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski had going for him was his brain. A.J. was always thinking, always trying to get into the heads of the opposition, and always willing to try something to gain an advantage.
On this day, his quick thinking directly led to the Sox winning a game — in the middle of a pennant race — that perhaps they shouldn’t have.
The Sox were tied with Tampa Bay, 5-5, in the bottom of the 10th inning when A.J. led off with a single. He was on second when Jermaine Dye hit a ground ball to Tampa’s Jason Bartlett. Pierzynski made a poor read and broke on contact, only to be caught in a rundown. However, obstruction was called on third baseman Willy Aybar by umpire Doug Eddings when A.J., caught in a pickle, stuck his arm out and made contact with Aybar after Aybar had already made a throw. The ruling was that even though Pierzynski initiated the contact, it was the responsibility of Aybar to get out of A.J’s way.
A.J. was awarded third base, and eventually scored the winning run on a single by Alexei Ramírez.