Blum becomes Chicago's 'mane' man
Utilityman Geoff Blum was known more for his hair ... until he took his place in baseball history, writes Jerry Crasnick.
HOUSTON -- Geoff Blum didn't have to think long when asked to pinpoint his principal claim to fame before Tuesday night. Like Donald Trump, Moe Howard and Jennifer Aniston, he was defined in large part by his innovative way with hair.
Blum has introduced a multitude of styles and colors to clubhouses in Montreal, Houston, Tampa Bay and San Diego since breaking into the majors in 1999. When the Expos traded him to Houston for Chris Truby three years ago, he arrived with jet black hair and accompanying white streaks.
Blum, great team guy, handy utilityman, former Cal-Berkeley sociology major and ringleader of the Chicago White Sox's reserve batting practice contingent known as Group 4, finally got a chance to contribute when Game 3 of the World Series threatened to drag on until November. He made the most of it, homering off Ezequiel Astacio in the 14th inning to lead Chicago over Houston 7-5 in the longest game in World Series history.
Just a few minutes after the game, Blum was mobbed by reporters at his locker, talking about hair and his newfound place in history. The White Sox are one win away from their first title since 1917, and a relatively anonymous, modestly priced reserve is the guy who brought them to the threshold.
Let's put it this way: The game-winning homer Blum hit off Randy Johnson during his rookie season in Montreal is now relegated to a distant second in his personal memory bank.
"Words can't explain what it feels like to hit a home run in the World Series, let alone a game-winning home run," Blum said. "The roof was open and the stars were aligned right tonight."
Blum (rhymes with "Glum") began the season in San Diego, and learned to live with sleep-deprivation when his wife, Kory, gave birth to triplets in May. After he hit .241 in 78 games with the Padres, Chicago general manager Kenny Williams acquired him for minor-league pitcher Ryan Meaux on July 31.
Williams regarded Blum as insurance for starting third baseman Joe Crede, who looked iffy at the time because of two herniated discs in his back. Blum switch-hits and plays several positions, and San Diego GM Kevin Towers assured Williams that he would be a good fit in Chicago's clubhouse dynamic.
But Williams laughed at the suggestion that he envisioned a contribution of this magnitude.
"I ain't that smart," Williams said.
Blum hit .200 in 95 at-bats with the White Sox in August and September, but has been resigned to spending October in the dugout once the national anthem is complete. Entering Tuesday's game, he had one postseason at-bat, against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
"I had a lot of pent-up aggression," he said.
Blum entered World Series Game 3 in the 13th inning as a replacement for second baseman Tadahito Iguchi as part of a double switch. An inning later he was settling into the batter's box against a pitcher, Astacio, he had never faced in his life.
Blum received a quickie scouting report from hitting coach Greg Walker and got down to business. After getting ahead 2-0 in the count, he looked for a fastball in a location where he could drive the ball. Astacio obliged, and Blum drilled it down the right-field line and over the fence to put the White Sox ahead 6-5.
|“||Words can't explain what it feels like to hit a home run in the World Series, let alone a game-winning home run. The roof was open and the stars were aligned right tonight. ”|
|— Geoff Blum|
On the bench, all of Blum's teammates cheered wildly, but the unknown soldiers of Group 4 were especially appreciative. Blum takes BP each day with fellow backups Willie Harris, Chris Widger and Pablo Ozuna, and they've forged a bond through hard work and inactivity.
"The Group 4 guys root for everybody," Harris said. "But when one of us is up there, it's a different kind of root-for."
It was actually a great night all around for Group 4. Harris pinch-ran and stole a base, and Widger drew a bases-loaded walk four batters after Blum's homer to force in another run and make it 7-5.
After the game, the White Sox's anthem, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' ", blared over the speakers in the clubhouse, and the biggest debate was over which Chicago player deserved the most credit for Blum's home run. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who refers to himself as "Fatty," credited himself with putting the heat on Blum to produce.
"I told him he was going to hit a home run to win it," Pierzynski said. "I told him, 'You're a Killer B,' and he laughed at me."
Said Blum: "A.J. told me 'Fatty is hungry and he needs to eat.' I did it for his stomach."
All that remained was for Damaso Marte to close out the Astros in the bottom of the 14th inning. Blum caught Jason Lane's popup for the second out of the inning. Then Adam Everett hit a harmless pop fly to short, and Blum jumped up and down as if on a pogo stick while waiting for the ball to settle into teammate Juan Uribe's glove.
"I was begging for that thing to come down a little quicker so we could get this over with," Blum said.
The baseball, governed by gravity, had to land eventually. Geoff Blum, unlikely World Series hero, will be airborne for a while yet.