Notes: Thomas, Bags largely bystanders
Sluggers share same birth date, similar career marks
CHICAGO -- The date May 27, 1968, holds a special significance for both the Astros and White Sox, the two evenly matched participants in the 2005 World Series, with on-field action beginning Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
But if this postseason competition took place five or six years ago between these same two teams, this specific date in history would have become even more important. Both Houston's Jeff Bagwell and the White Sox Frank Thomas, the face of their respective franchises for close to the past two decades, share the same birthday on the above mentioned May morning.
Both former All-Stars also will be accompanying their teams to the first World Series appearance of their storied individual careers, though Thomas is relegated to spectator status and Bagwell is a reserve.
Bagwell began his time with the Astros in 1991, while Thomas started on the South Side of Chicago in 1990. Neither player has strayed from his original franchise, but neither one of these superstars is at the top of his game due to various injury problems.
Thomas is recovering from the second fracture of the navicular bone in his left ankle, an injury costing him most of the 2005 season and a good portion of 2004. Bagwell has returned from surgery on his right shoulder, getting 100 at-bats over 39 games this season.
Speaking to the media following the White Sox workout Friday, Thomas congratulated Bagwell for getting to the World Series after such a long journey. He also admitted a little envy where Bagwell was concerned.
"At least he's able to put on the uniform, be in the dugout with the guys and have a chance to hit," said Thomas with a smile, after being rendered as a spectator for the postseason due to his injury. "It's a long time coming for him to get to the World Series and it's the same for me. I'm just happy that I'm alive and well and here at the Series."
The oddity of having the same exact birthday, with Thomas being born in Columbus, Ga., and Bagwell in Boston, is compounded by the similarity of their career numbers. Thomas has a .307 average, with 448 home runs, 1,465 RBIs and a .427 on-base percentage, while Bagwell checks in with a batting average of .297 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs and a .408 on-base percentage. Thomas was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and 1994, while Bagwell won the National League award in 1994.
According to Thomas, the two have become good friends and often have laughed about the comparison over the years. While Thomas would like to be in Bagwell's shoes, simply having a chance to grab a bat and go out and hit in the batting cage a bit, his focus is on continuing to support the White Sox in a quest for their first World Series title since 1917.
"I mean, this is the only game in town and I would love to be in a uniform playing," said Thomas, who hit .219 with 12 home runs and 26 RBIs in 105 at-bats this season. "There are pitchers I've seen lately that I definitely would like to be up there facing, trying to help the team."
Well prepared: If the White Sox seem to have a pretty good working knowledge in regard to what the Astros have to offer, they can thank Gary Pellant for his advance work. The professional scout for the White Sox followed the Astros for the entire National League Championship Series, after other scouts watched Houston during the playoff's first round.
Pellant said that a great similarity exists between the two teams, although it won't be a total mirror image. The Astros are very fundamentally sound, putting runners in motion, advancing them along the basepaths and, of course, showing top-notch pitching strength much like the White Sox.
Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are the well-known commodities among the starting staff. But Pellant sounded a warning already known by the National League hitters -- watch out for Roy Oswalt, Houston's Game 3 starter at Minute Maid Field.
"What we saw Roy Oswalt do is he goes after hitters," Pellant said. "He's not going to cave in. He's a battler, and he goes hard. He's unbelievable how he attacks hitters."
Pellant also defended closer Brad Lidge on the Game 5 home run allowed to Albert Pujols, saying that he threw one good pitch to get ahead of the slugger, tried to go back in the same spot and missed his location. As for whether the Astros are a better matchup for the White Sox than the Cardinals, Pellant said each team brings its own list of challenges.
"The Cardinals had a different style," Pellant said. "[They had] a few more guys who could jump the yard on you, and they also had very good pitching. It just didn't work out for them. We know Houston is going to compete against us really well."
Tough memories: Thomas harbors a little bit of a resentment from the 1993 American League Championship Series, when Toronto ousted the White Sox in six games. That mild case of anger carried over into 1994, when baseball's labor action cut the season short.
"The most bitter feeling I had was in 1993, when I knew we had the better team and didn't get there," Thomas said. "And 1994 also was a little bitter because I thought we were on our way to the World Series after missing out the year before.
"You wait so long to get here, watching the World Series games on television. You just want to take it all in when you get to this point."
Still the same: Manager Ozzie Guillen announced at Friday's post-workout press conference that his 25-man roster will stay the same for the World Series. Orlando Hernandez's tightness in his pitching shoulder was not enough to bring in rookie Brandon McCarthy as a substitution, and Guillen also decided to stay with 11 pitchers instead of adding Ross Gload, a left-handed pinch-hitter or defensive replacement at first base.
"I always believe if something is not broken, why fix it?" Guillen said. "Hopefully, the people we pick help us to get to the next level, to win this thing."
Family man: Paul Konerko got a good laugh during his own press conference Friday when one of the reporters asked if he missed Thursday's workout for any reason in particular.
"We had a baby Tuesday night, and I flew home Tuesday morning," said Konerko, who was back in Arizona with his wife, Jennifer, for the birth of their first child.
Nicholas Konerko checked in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces. Konerko arrived back to Chicago on Thursday afternoon.
"He came in right after you guys left. Go figure that one," White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand said with a laugh in regard to Konerko's well-timed arrival after the media's exit Thursday.
"It's great to have Paulie back, and we are all happy for him," Rowand added. "He's a father now, and that's just another reason to go out and do well."
Rested and ready? According to general manager Ken Williams, he would rather have his team a little tired as opposed to being a little too rested. But he still isn't worried about his hitters after five days removed from game situations.
"More than anything, the guys have over 500 or 600 at-bats, so it's not as though we are starting over from ground zero," Williams said. "These guys know how to keep themselves prepared and sharp."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.