Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Fans hold up signs as Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (14) gets ready in the batters box against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at U.S Cellular Field. The Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The final curtain call for the career of our Chicago White Sox captain – Paul Konerko – takes place this weekend.
With his retirement being set after the final out is recorded at US Cellular Field on Sunday afternoon, not just another season will be ending … so, too, will be the career of one of the greatest White Sox players of all time.
The last player of my youth will call it a career and tip his cap one last time.
Paulie has given all of us a role model to look up to over the years, as he is the definition of class for any baseball fan.
I was 14 years old when he joined the White Sox in the winter of 1998 when the Cincinnati Reds traded him to the White Sox for Mike Cameron. Who knew that trade would shape all of the baseball lives of White Sox fans forever?
The closer Sunday arrives, the more it seems real. Once the game against the Kansas City Royals is over, Paulie’s career is over, too, and I don’t know how to exactly feel about that.
Sep 21, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko (14) waves to the crowd after a video tribute was made for him since he is retiring after this season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
I was in my early teenage years when Paulie arrived with the White Sox, and he’s been on the White Sox all throughout my adult years. Now that one last bit of my childhood is retiring from the team I grew up watching … that is strange for me.
It was my senior year of college when the Game 2 grand slam happened in the ’05 World Series. In fact, that night I had an evening shift at a retail store (I was a broke college kid). I worked in the electronics department, and the store was dead.
Luckily, that’s when XM Radio was newish, and the store promoted it by having the actual system in place in the electronics department.
I had the White Sox-Houston Astros game on, and though I was “working,” I was near the radio system when Paulie came to bat with the bases loaded in the second game of the ’05 Fall Classic.
At that time, all the feelings of being a White Sox fan basically my entire life all built up for that moment, and then it happened … the swing by Paulie … “IT’S A SLAM!”
I started fist pumping and yelling to no one in particular (somewhat quietly … well, not really), and it didn’t matter who heard … at that moment, I just knew the White Sox were eventually going to be World Series champions.
To this day, that home run gives me goosebumps, and I bet I’m not alone.
The rest, you can say ,is history, and besides the moment the White Sox actually clinched the World Series title two games later (with the final out being caught by Paulie … who else?), that is my all-time favorite memory as a White Sox fan.
That memory of winning isn’t the only reason why I respect Paulie.
He wanted to play for the White Sox and had opportunities to leave … and he didn’t. He’s a true White Sox player, and being loyal in a business that is mostly about money is something to tip your cap to.
Sure, he played for the LA Dodgers and the Reds, but Paulie became a legend with the White Sox. His career numbers speak for themselves:
• .270 batting average
• 439 career home runs
• 1,412 RBIs
• 921 walks
• .354 on-base percentage
• 410 doubles
• 2,340 hits
• 2,346 games
Those are just his batting stats.
Paulie was also a six-time All-Star, the ’05 ALCS MVP and of course a World Series champion.
May 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko (14) hits a sacrifice fly to score right fielder Dayan Viciedo (24, not pictured) against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The White Sox made the postseason three times in Paulie’s career, and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but as long as White Sox fans of the future know what he did for this franchise, that’s all that really matters.
So “thank you,” Paulie, for being not just a great baseball player for the White Sox, but “thank you” for being our captain.
“Thank you” for representing the White Sox the right way in an era where many baseball players disgraced their ball clubs and the game.
Maybe Grantland Rice said it best in a poem titled: “Game Called,” originally written for Babe Ruth. Maybe his words can sum up our feelings for OUR captain:
"“Game Called. Upon the field of lifethe darkness gathers far and wide,the dream is done, the score is spunthat stands forever in the guide.Nor victory, nor yet defeatis chalked against the players name.But down the roll, the final scroll,shows only how he played the game.”"
Thank You, Paulie.