The day after Cubs catcher Michael Barrett punched White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski at the plate in 2006, there almost was another brawl at the Cell.
No, not between the crosstown rivals. Between Pierzynski and the Sox’ then-TV analyst, Darrin Jackson.
Let’s take it from the top. The famous fight was during a telecast on Fox, with Jackson working alongside play-by-play man Thom Brennaman. Because it was a national game, Jackson’s intent going in was to show no bias. But he wasn’t about to blame Pierzynski’s face for hitting Barrett’s fist.
As Jackson remembers it, Brennaman asked repeatedly about Pierzynski’s role — barreling into Barrett, slapping the plate after Barrett fell, bumping into him again after both rose to their feet — wanting to know if the punchee had been the -instigator.
“Finally,” Jackson says, “I was like, ‘Thom, it’s possible.’ “
Jackson had been involved in the previous most-famous moment in modern Cubs-Sox history: the Jordan game in 1994. Most long have forgotten — if they ever knew — that Jackson was the man Jordan drove home on his first hit in that exhibition game at Wrigley Field.
“What a memory,” Jackson says. “What a conversation piece for my involvement.”
But now, 12 years later, Jackson was at the center of the rivalry’s new most-famous moment. An article had been written that portrayed Jackson as having put the onus for the Barrett incident on Pierzynski.
So, again, the day after: Jackson entered the Sox’ clubhouse.
“A.J.!” he yelled, approaching.
According to Jackson, he was met with an outpouring of F-bombs. Aside from that, Pierzynski said he wouldn’t be speaking with him.
“I said, ‘First of all, don’t you ever talk to me like that again. Secondly, you owe me an apology. I defended you,’ ” Jackson says.
But Pierzynski was all lathered up — in front of reporters, no less — and it almost got ugly. Fortunately, it didn’t. Jackson moved to Sox radio in 2009 and has been there ever since. More than 20 years in as a Sox broadcaster, he is a South Side fixture and part of a small fraternity, so to speak, of prominent figures with baseball roots on both sides of town.
A day-after fight — in the clubhouse, in front of reporters — might have changed all that. It would have been a disaster. But Jackson and Pierzynski were able to squash it. Good thing, too.