The two faced each other again, but it was a far less dramatic result for Konerko as he grounded out to shortstop against the right-hander with whom he will forever be linked.
“I knew who I was facing, but I think I had faced him once after that when Houston came back the next year or a couple of years later,” Konerko said Saturday. “Obviously that was a big moment and something I won’t forget in my career. It was great. It’s not like I could ever face him without thinking about that. But that was a while ago.”
Over the years, the word was that Qualls actually tipped the pitch that Konerko hit for the grand slam. Many White Sox players were informed in the 2005 postseason that when Qualls held his glove open wide before he pitched he was about to throw a breaking ball and when he squeezed the glove tight a fastball was coming.
Qualls’ glove was squeezed tight when he faced Konerko during the seventh inning of Game 2 in the World Series and the White Sox’s captain deposited the ensuing fastball into the left-field seats. Konerko gave the White Sox a 6-4 lead, the Astros came back to tie it and Scott Podsednik won it with a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The White Sox took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series and won the title two games later in Houston.
On Saturday, Konerko denied that he had information on Qualls tipping pitches, but admitted that even if he did have that kind of information he probably wouldn’t admit it anyway.
“If it was anything it was more: ‘This guy likes to come in and go after people. Be ready to hit. He likes to get ahead 0-1 with the fastball,’” said Konerko, who is the last remaining member of the World Series championship team. “I don’t think I ever faced him before that. If I remember back, going into the series we were told, ‘Hey, when relievers come in from the bullpen be ready to swing the bat first pitch because they like to jump ahead and go to their other stuff.’ It was kind of like that.”
Konerko suggested that their matchup Friday night should be celebrated and not because of the World Series meeting. The 37-year-old Konerko said that the fact he and the 34-year-old Qualls are still in baseball “is a feather in both of our caps.”
The added feather for Konerko, though, is that blue seat that forever will mark his World Series achievement. Konerko admitted that every once in a while he makes reference to the seat that is one section over from the White Sox's bullpen.
“I probably only see it during batting practice because usually it’s covered up during the game by somebody sitting there,” Konerko said. “But when somebody pops off to me in batting practice, like (Tyler) Flowers or somebody, I make sure to point out the seat to them.”