Pierce part of latest Sox postseason
A member of the '59 Go-Go Sox, former hurler tosses first pitch
CHICAGO -- Billy Pierce leaned on the rail of the home dugout at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night and looked around at the media spectacle taking place as the White Sox took batting practice before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
"It's great to have this excitement back here again, isn't it?" Pierce said with a smile.
The former Sox pitcher knows a thing or two about being a part of thrilling games on the South side of Chicago. Pierce was a member of the 1959 Sox team that was the most recent Pale Hose team to go to the World Series.
Though he may not be able to take part in the excitement of the game action this time, Pierce was on hand Tuesday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the White Sox first ALCS since 1983.
"It means a lot to me," Pierce said of his pregame toss. "I've met a lot of the ballplayers. I've seen them in Spring Training and I know how hard they work. I know the fans here in Chicago are fabulous and just to represent the White Sox is an honor."
Being one of the last Sox players to be involved in an event of such magnitude, Pierce understands firsthand the struggles that Chicago fans have endured over the years as the Sox have struggled to make it to the postseason.
"Here in Chicago, we don't like to be out in the postseason too much," Pierce said with a chuckle. "Only once every 20 years or so."
The last time that there was this much excitement on the corner of 35th and Shields may have been when Pierce himself was on the team. Pierce has long been revered around the South Side as one of the greatest Sox to ever play. The southpaw spent 12 years with the White Sox, winning a total of 186 games over the span.
His time may have been extensive with the club, but Pierce is most remembered for his role on the '59 Go-Go Sox team. After watching many of the Sox games this season, Pierce sees a lot of similarities between the 2005 Sox and that '59 team.
"Pitching and defense have been the keys for them all year," Pierce said. "They make the right play, get the key hit, and they've done it all year long. They had that one stretch early in September where nothing went right but they've played what you would call real good old-fashioned baseball most of the time."
Though Pierce may no longer be involved in baseball on a day-to-day basis, the former Sox hurler has done as much as he can to remain a part of the White Sox family. He has participated in many charity events for the team and remains a presence in the city as a community relations representative for the Sox. Being around the Sox fans and getting to know them in the community has been a wonderful experience on both ends for the former All-Star.
"The fans in Chicago have been great to me since I played here," Pierce said. "They've always been so welcoming to me. I guess by not winning all of those years they remember the years we won."
But Pierce is hoping that this year it's not just a division title that the Sox will be remembered for, but a title of a much grander scale.
"These fans have been looking for a winner for a long time and the greatest thing that could happen would be for us to get in and win the World Series," Pierce said. "I think the South Side of Chicago would go crazy."
Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.