ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Just in case any Los Angeles Angels fans had forgotten about A.J. Pierzynski, the hated villain from the 2005 American League Championship Series stirred up old memories with a tiebreaking home run in the ninth inning Monday night.
Pierzynski drew loud boos as he emphatically pumped his fist while rounding first base. He had been serenaded by hecklers every time he stepped into the batter's box at Angel Stadium, just as in years past when he played for the Chicago White Sox.
"I ask people why they boo me here, and they don't even know," Pierzynski said. "They just do it because other people do it. It's cool. I actually enjoy it. I love playing here."
Pierzynski, whose homer Monday propelled the Texas Rangers to their fourth-straight victory, was the main antagonist when the Angels fell to the White Sox in the 2005 playoffs. The controversial moment of that championship series came when Pierzynski reached base after he took off for first on an apparent swing-and-miss. Chicago went on to beat the Angels and win the World Series.
And by the sound of it, Angels fans haven't let it go.
"They still blame me for that one, but it's OK," said Pierzynski, who also had a run-scoring single in the seventh. "I look at it like I'm tied 5-5 with them in the ALCS. They beat us 4-1 in 2002 when I was with the Twins, and we beat them 4-1 when I was with the White Sox. We both got rings out of it, so we're tied 1-1, however way you look at it."
Pierzynski made his major league debut at Angel Stadium in September 1998 as a 21-year-old with the Twins. For that reason, he said the ballpark and its fans, no matter how cruel, hold a special place in his heart.
"It's an awesome atmosphere every night," he said. "I remember losing here in 2002 and watching them celebrate the year the rally monkey started.
“The fans here are awesome; they're passionate and energetic. Anytime the rally monkey comes up, it gets loud. It's a cool place."
It went from cool to quiet as Pierzynski lifted a 93-mph Ernesto Frieri fastball to the seats in the right-field pavilion. Josh Hamilton looked up as the ball sneaked into the first row of seats above the out-of-town scoreboard. Once folks here realized who had launched the backbreaking blast, it got loud.
Pierzynski, true to his label as Public Enemy No. 1, fed off the response.
"That's what A.J. is all about," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's an exciting player. He gets excited about a lot of things. I love him. There's a lot of people that hate him, but I love him."