Podsednik's walk-off homer lives on

Podsednik's walk-off homer lives on

The outfield seats at U.S. Cellular Field are a sea of forest green. All of them, that is, except for two.

Among all the green seats are just two specks of blue, one in deep left field and one in the first row in right-center. Two blue seats to commemorate likely the two most important swings of the bat on the most important night in White Sox history, Oct. 23, 2005.

The blue seat deep in the left-field seats is the spot Paul Konerko deposited a grand slam to get the White Sox back into Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. The seat in right is where Scott Podsednik ended the game two innings later and propelled Chicago to its first World Series crown in 88 years.

Both home runs will live on in White Sox lore. But on a week when Major League Baseball has crowned a new home run king and fans recall their favorite team's most memorable home runs, it is Podsednik's name that comes to mind for Sox fans.

It is Podsednik's walk-off shot that truly stands out, not only for the sheer importance of the swing, but also for how unlikely, unexpected and truly mind-boggling that one moment was.

Podsednik's home run was just the grand finale of what was a fantastic game right from the start.

The National League champion Astros took an early lead and held a 4-2 advantage heading into the seventh inning. With a strong bullpen and momentum going deep into the late innings, things were looking good for the visiting side.

But Konerko erased the deficit with one swing of the bat, launching the White Sox into the lead, and in position to take a 2-0 advantage in the series. The Astros battled, and pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino plated a pair of runs with a base hit to left field in the ninth to tie the game, 6-6. Podsednik nearly threw the tying run out at home, but Chris Burke slid in just ahead of the tag from catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Viscaino's clutch hit was a distant memory two batters into the bottom of the ninth inning, when Podsednik stepped into the batter's box against Brad Lidge. Podsednik got ahead in the count, 2-0, against the Astros' beleaguered closer before taking a fastball for strike one. Lidge came with the same pitch on 2-1, and this time Podsednik swung away.

"At that point in the game I was 0-for-4," Podsednik said nearly two years after hitting the historic home run. "I remember walking up to the plate thinking, 'You haven't gotten on base all night. Let's try to reach base. Then we can work on trying to reach second. But let's just try to get on base.'

"I fell into a hitter's count, 2-1. I remember I wanted to swing on 2-0, but I looked into the dugout at [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and he said, 'No way. You're taking this pitch.' So I took a fastball right over the plate. I stepped out and said to myself, 'Look for that same pitch.' And when it left Brad's hand, my eyes just got big. You can go back and look at the film. It was pretty much the exact same pitch and I put a good swing on it. Fortunately, I didn't miss it."

His home run was not a towering blast. Far from it. Instead, it was a line shot that barely squeaked over the right-center-field fence, an estimated 403 feet away. Podsednik, who had hit zero home runs in 507 regular-season at-bats in 2005, won Game 2 for the White Sox in the most unlikely way possible.

"I never pictured myself hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series," Podsednik said. "Maybe laying a bunt base hit down and stealing a base and scoring from second. That was more of what I thought it would be like. But not ending a game on a home run. That's just not what I do."

Podsednik's home run encapsulated how the 2005 White Sox were so effective. They led the American League Central from April on and blew through the playoffs without a superstar player. Only one other team in history had won the World Series without a .300 hitter or a 20-game winner.

"For Podsednik to hit a home run off of Lidge, it's something that just doesn't happen," Pierzynski said following the game.

Of course, Podsednik's home run did not end the World Series, it merely gave the White Sox a 2-0 advantage heading to Houston, but the momentum from that one swing was too much for the Astros to overcome, as the White Sox went on to earn a sweep.

"We definitely had momentum going into Game 3," Podsednik said. "Game 2 was really important because we were going to Houston and facing their ace, Roy Oswalt, for Game 3. If they win here, we're going into Houston with the Astros having momentum and their ace going. But with the way Game 2 ended with the home run, in walk-off fashion, I think it gave us even more momentum going into Game 3."

For any player, a World Series walk-off home run is a career-defining feat, but for a slap-hitting speedster, it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I will never deliver in a bigger situation than that," Podsednik said. "It is hard enough to get back to the World Series, but given that situation -- when and where it happened -- I don't think I'll ever be put in a bigger situation than that, to get a bigger hit than that. That's it. I will never hit a bigger home run, a bigger base hit, a bigger bunt base hit, or steal a base that will come close to that walk-off home run."

But Podsednik's home run held importance beyond personal glory, or even team accomplishment. It led to a World Series crown that re-energized a city that had not seen a baseball championship of any kind since 1917.

Hundreds of thousands of Sox fans packed the streets of Chicago for a victory parade, 88 years in the making.

"Generation after generation had gone by without seeing a World Champion," Podsednik said. "To be able to do it and bring the trophy back to Chicago and see how passionate these fans were made it that much more special. The parade that we had at the end of the season was one of the craziest things that I have ever been a part of."

While Barry Bonds will be remembered for the sheer number of home runs that he hit. For Podsednik (26 career home runs) it took just one to enter baseball immortality.

It is clearly a moment that Podsednik will never forget. But just in case he ever does, an instant refresher for one of the most unlikely heroes in World Series history is not far away.

"I can walk out and look out to right-center field." Podsednik said. "Just seeing the blue seat gives me goose bumps."

Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.