20 years ago, the White Sox blew out the Tigers and got their asses kicked (2024)

Sometime around the year 2005, former Sox reliever Bob Howry was enjoying himself after a Garth Brooks concert, in the famed singer’s private suite with a few other players, when he noticed someone staring at him.

“I see this guy looking at me, and I’m like, this guy, this guy looks familiar,” Howry recalled. “I can’t put a name with the face. He’s looking at me and I’m looking at him. Finally we get to talking, and well, it was Halter.”


It was 20 years ago on Wednesday that a 2-2 fastball from Howry tailed arm-side and drilled Detroit Tigers utilityman Shane Halter on the left elbow. There were two outs in the ninth inning and there was no special intent behind it, and yet it still sparked the second of two wild, bench-clearing brawls that day — the fallout of which would see 11 players ejected and 16 players and coaches suspended for a combined 82 games. Closer Keith Foulke needed five stitches after a punch opened a cut under his left eye and All-Star outfielder Magglio Ordóñez was lost for five games due to suspension as cameras caught him trying to fend off multiple Tigers with a kick, but the 95-win, eventual AL Central champion Sox look back on the day warmly.

“We had something to fight for,” starting pitcher Jim Parque said. “And that’s how you win a championship.”

It’s debatable whether a team off to an 11-6 start after beating the Tigers 14-6 that day, or an offense that would eventually score a whopping 978 runs, needed a spark, but they never questioned if they had each other’s backs again.

“And I had a couple hits,” Paul Konerko said in a phone call with The Athletic. “So all in all, it was a good day.”

Going into that day, Sox batters had already been hit nine times. They were set to face Tigers starter Jeff Weaver, who had led the league in hit batters the year before in his rookie season, and would do so again in 2000. Tensions were high, meetings were held in the Sox clubhouse, and plans were made for how they would respond. It might sound draconian now, but the message revolved around taking it upon themselves to protect each other.

“The game’s definitely changed,” Howry said. “At that time it was probably somewhere in the middle.”

“Go back and watch some of the things that went on in the ’70s,” Konerko said. “If you were playing in the ’90s or the early 2000s and you look back at the ’70s you’re like, sh*t, this is crazy. These guys are animals.”

“It was Weaver that started it all,” Frank Thomas said at a panel at SoxFest. “He liked to throw at people, we knew he was going to throw at people. He drilled us quite a few times.”

20 years ago, the White Sox blew out the Tigers and got their asses kicked (1)

The White Sox and Tigers fought twice at Comiskey Park on April 22, 2000. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

Weaver’s first hit batter of the day was Konerko in the fourth inning, and it earned plenty of notice, but also loaded the bases with no one out to set up a three-run inning. When he nailed Carlos Lee with the first pitch after a Chris Singleton RBI double to put the Sox up 5-1 in the bottom of the sixth, it was more clearly the product of frustration. Standing on third base, Konerko could hear Ray Durham, one of the veterans on a younger club, yapping at Weaver from the dugout. That meant it was probably going to be on soon.

Parque was cruising through six innings at that point with just two runs allowed, but recalls turning to rookie Kip Wells next to him in the dugout.

“You guys are going to get into your first big league brawl here,” Parque said.

Baseball’s unwritten rules can seem labyrinthian, but when a pitcher is establishing that opposing pitchers cannot take out their frustration by hitting batters, the clarity of the message is important. The American League doesn’t allow teams a direct opportunity to seek revenge on the offending pitcher, so the only way to make it clear that it’s not an accident is to hit the first guy in the next inning with the first pitch. The first guy up in the top of the seventh inning was Tigers third baseman Dean Palmer.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to Jim because there’s a lot of guys you’d want to hit before Dean Palmer, let’s put it that way,” Konerko said.

Palmer was listed in his prime at a sturdily built 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. Parque, self-admittedly the smallest guy on the team, was generously listed at 5-11, 170 pounds.

“I’m not going to lie, I was proud that I had enough — you know, I don’t know if you can use this one — but enough sack to go out there and drill their biggest donkey,” Parque said. “I think I earned a lot of respect from my team in that.”

Sure enough, Parque’s first pitch was a fastball off Palmer’s shoulder. The Tigers broadcast barely cut back to the action in time to catch it.

“It almost seemed like he was charging as the ball was halfway,” Konerko said of Palmer. “He wanted to go out there to send a message. He was probably trying to do it more to pump up his own team, to be a leader.”

Anyone who gets to the majors has been in a brawl or five before. Parque counted Omar Vizquel, Manny Ramirez and even his eventual teammate José Valentín as hitters who had at least tried to charge him during his career. Palmer running out and firing off a chest pass with his batting helmet was a new wrinkle, which briefly distracted Parque from his primary mission of surviving the wave of large bodies flying his way.


“That was a good move on his part,” Parque said. “I remember it hitting the top of my head, but I was just holding on. The one thing I do remember is I was trying to just grapple, just trying to keep my hands around him and hold on for dear life. It was like trying to ride a bucking bronco.”

At this point, it was still a normal brawl, in which the principals (the pitcher and hitter) try to get at each other, everyone rushes in to do a little shoving, a little jawing, but mostly tries to break things up. The only real requirement is to show up for one’s teammates out of a sense of duty,

“It’s instinctual, for sure,” former Sox reliever Bill Simas said. “I just saw a big pile and I was thankful that it was actually moving toward third base, because we were home and I didn’t have as far to run.”

But the Tigers, a veteran-laden club off to a 4-11 start, were not in a normal brawling mood. Konerko, who was quoted in the 2009 White Sox program as saying his favorite website is hockeyfights.com, compared Detroit to a team down 5-1 in the third period trying to show it still had fight and spirit. By the time the Sox realized they were in a fight, the first half-dozen punches had already been thrown.

“If you had to score the fight, there’s no doubt we lost,” Konerko said.

“There’s nobody that could say that the White Sox were close to winning that,” Parque said. “The next day the training room was like the walking dead. The Tigers definitely whupped our ass.”

Watching the video afterward, players were heartened to see their biggest sluggers, Thomas, Konerko and Lee, mixing it up amid the pile with everyone else. It heightened the sense that everyone was in it together.

“Carlos Lee was behind me, just punching everybody,” Thomas recalled. “He got suspended. They went back to the tape and they saw Carlos just wailing, he was punching guys left and right, it was so funny.”


On the other side of the pendulum, part of the reason why this brawl broke out into several offshoot fistfights was the sight of Ordóñez being cornered by a collection of Tigers. If Ordóñez’s karate-kick attempt looked weird on TV, it set off alarm bells to his teammates about the fate of their budding star right fielder.

“I saw that and thought ‘Ooh, that doesn’t look good,’ so I ran out there to help him,” said Simas, who registered at 6-3, 220 pounds in his playing days. “Typical fights I go out and I just kind of bombard people and move them out of the way.”

It was not a day where shoving people out of the way — not even revered Tigers first base coach Juan Samuel, who wound up getting a 15-game suspension for fighting — was received in good faith. Players in the pileup mostly found themselves ducking punches from random directions, dueling with coaches or wandering in a daze through a wall of combat.

“I started at first base, coming to the mound after it all starts,” Konerko said. “When that one ended, I was about 10 feet from the right-field warning track. McKay Christensen was on that team and he was about the nicest — wouldn’t hurt a fly, wouldn’t kill a fly — the nicest most wholesome guy in the whole world. At some point I look up and he’s in a boxing position, hands up against (Tigers third base coach) Doug Mansolino.”

“I remember kicking Bobby Higginson and that’s why he got me at second base with a nice forearm shiver,” Parque said with a note of true appreciation in his voice. “He laid in the weeds like a dirty gopher snake, (laughs), waited ’til my back was turned, but he got me good (laughs). He got me real good. I didn’t know who got me. I just felt my whole skull completely get shattered and I turned around looking like ‘Who the hell?’ and he was just coming at me. That was the biggest hit that I took. I got beat up pretty good at first base.”

“(Samuel’s) yelling at me and I’m like ‘What are you yelling at me for?’” said Simas, who was isolated with Foulke in right field amid a sea of Tigers. “He all of a sudden loads up a right hand and I’m like ‘Holy cow!’ And then Robert Fick has a hold of me at that point. So then I toss him and by the time I start going after him, or Samuel actually, I’m looking up at seven Tigers and thinking ‘What am I doing here? I’m in trouble.’ I saw pinstriped pants, man, I went underneath their legs and never looked back.”

20 years ago, the White Sox blew out the Tigers and got their asses kicked (2)

White Sox pitcher Jim Parque was listed at 5-11, 170 pounds in his playing days. (Tannen Maury / AFP via Getty Images)

In the detail that perhaps most clearly places this game in another era, a bruised Parque finished up a scoreless seventh after very clearly throwing at a guy to tip off a fight that lasted nearly a half-hour. The benches would clear again in the eighth but no more punches were thrown, and by the time Howry’s fastball hit Halter with two outs in the ninth, Simas was in the locker room and the clubhouse attendants and training staff were able to successfully bar Parque from re-entering the fray. Even Halter, clearly annoyed, did not seem poised to re-ignite the fracas until Tigers reliever Todd Jones strode up the dugout steps (there were no railings or netting in 2000) pointing and yelling at Howry.


Jones pitched for eight teams across 16 years in the majors. In talking to Sox players from that day, their respect for the right-hander is clear, as is their understanding of how he was doing the same thing as Palmer — showing his teammates they were still going to fight and demand respect despite an awful start to the year and a miserable performance that day. But in the moment, no one wanted to hear it.

“You can tell we’re jawing at each other,” Howry said. “My demeanor has changed a little bit from 20 years ago when I was playing. I’m a little more mellow.”

“So, Bobby told him to f*ck off,” Konerko said.

With that came the surprising sight of reliever Doug Brocail bolting ahead as a one-man first wave from the dugout, the umpteenth very large man (6-5, 220 pounds) ready to throw down against a similarly large man in Howry, and provoking a collective “Oh sh*t” reaction from onlookers and even fellow players.

“I think this is going to be on the news tonight,” Konerko remembers thinking to himself.

“I don’t even think he was wearing shoes,” Howry said.

“We’re not going to have a team in a week after they suspend everybody,” Simas thought. “Those guys were coming out in their underwear and stuff, with no jerseys on.”

“Poor Mark Johnson,” Konerko said of the beleaguered Sox backstop. “His whole entire uniform was like one gigantic grass strain from being in the way of people running him over, and him doing what he should have done, which is getting in the way. I think Bobby even gave him a little bit of a ‘Here, let me block this guy with you.’ Mark Johnson, he deserves some sort of medal.”

While either brawl would register on its own as one of the more intense of an entire season, the second one trended a bit more toward normal. Konerko, having launched a high fastball from Jones into the right-field seats for a three-run homer in the eighth, found the veteran reliever in the crowd for a moment of levity.

“He made some comment like ‘How the f*ck did you hit that?’” Konerko said. “That’s how it normally is. Most baseball fights, it’s only really dangerous for the people involved. That day it was dangerous for everyone on our side that wasn’t looking.”

You never really know a single moment is a turning point in a six-month season until later on. Howry recalls guys hanging around the clubhouse and talking through their crazy experiences a bit more afterward than a typical game, but there wasn’t some big cathartic postgame meeting. Parque, with a burgeoning black eye, told reporters “we killed them, absolutely destroyed them,” but admits that was as much about the score as anything else.

A week later, the teams had a rematch at brand-new Comerica Park, which lacked separate weight rooms at the time. Parque found himself finishing out a session on the bench press as Palmer strolled in, and he wonders if the presence of Sox strength coach Steve Odgers prevented a second dustup.

“Otherwise it probably would have gotten a little crazy,” Parque said. “He said his piece in so many words that weren’t too kind. We almost got into it.”

Now, Parque refers to Palmer as “Deano,” and says they’ve joked around on Twitter. Simas used to get fan mail asking him to autograph photos of him protecting Ordóñez, and after missing 2001 with Tommy John surgery, spent 2002 spring training in Tigers camp on a minor-league deal. Free of tension, he reminisced with Samuel about their encounter and even threw live batting practice to Robert Fick, who was less two years removed from having beer showered on him by White Sox fans. By then, the whole affair was already just another testosterone overload in the rearview mirror.

“He’s dragging his bats across the field going ‘Simas, I’m sorry!’” Simas said of Fick. “Because he actually punched me.”

Howry, now running the baseball program at Northwest Christian High School in Phoenix, gets reminded about the fight every time a new crop of players searches his name on YouTube. But he also has a framed photo of himself and Brocail facing off in his home gym. Through some mutual connections, he got Brocail to sign it for him: “The things we’ll do for a photo op.”

The chaos of that day is probably ample testimony for why the league has aggressively moved to curb fighting in the game. Accelerating salaries has only increased the anxiety for teams, and even if players lament the disappearance of a good old, cathartic, unifying fight, they would probably take that tradeoff. Still, they wonder if the league’s efforts to legislate tensions between teams get any closer to justice than self-policing did.

“I wouldn’t want to raise my kids on that type of message, of saying listen, if you’re just the first guy to be out of line and hit this guy, don’t worry because then they’re going to warn everybody and your guy can’t pay a price,” Konerko said.

The Sox’s run that season ended abruptly in October with a three-game sweep at the hands of Seattle. Their mighty offense stagnated at the worst time, and their pitching staff was ravaged by injury and had fallen from the strength of its midseason peak. Simas and Mike Sirotka threw their last big-league pitches in that ALDS, and Parque suffered a shoulder injury while soldiering through a quality start in Game 1 that was effectively the beginning of the end of his career.

Though he now runs a training facility in Seattle, Parque said it took him a full decade to cope with the way his playing days ended enough to watch baseball on television. The brawl, in the middle of a career season, during the same year he met his wife, is a reminder of what he accomplished.

“There’s two things that people always talk about,” Parque said. “That fight, that’s the first one. The second one is giving up three home runs to (Mike) Cameron, (laughs) when I was throwing like 76 mph with a broken arm. The fight I’m pretty proud of because it embodies how I got to the big leagues.

“I didn’t have all the talent and skill and body size that all the other guys — not to take anything away from them. I had to figure it out. That was one way.”

(Photo of Doug Brocail, bullpen coach Larry Parrish and Brad Ausmus holding back Carlos Lee: AP Photo / Fred Jewell)

20 years ago, the White Sox blew out the Tigers and got their asses kicked (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated:

Views: 5809

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.