Last week’s signing of Paul Konerko was unlike any other transaction in recent memory. It wasn’t your routine, everyday free agent acquisition because of how SoxWorld feels about their All-Star slugger. The outpouring of joy over Konerko’s return has been as much about who he is as a person and what he represents as the impressive numbers he’s produced between the white lines.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in no uncertain terms that Paulie belongs in Chicago. GM Kenny Williams observed that it would be funny to see him in another uniform. Teammate Gordon Beckham expressed how much Konerko has helped him become a major leaguer and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey put it beautifully when he wrote that Konerko is the “quintessential leader by example.”
In his 12 seasons on the South Side, Konerko has endeared himself to the Sox organization and fans alike. Here are some reasons why No. 14 is so beloved.
* Konerko’s offensive rank in Sox history is quite impressive as well. He’s second in home runs and RBIs to only future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, is tied for third in doubles with Hall of Famer Nellie Fox (behind Thomas and Hall of Famer Luke Appling) and is fifth in runs scored behind Thomas, Appling, Fox and Eddie Collins, who is also enshrined in Cooperstown.
* He’s a Chicago guy–a modest, hard-working, team player who, as Morrissey wrote, is a leader by example. The captain title its him perfectly and the fact he has chosen NOT to wear the “C” on his uniform speaks volumes about his humble nature.
* Konerko was at the heart of the 2005 World Champions, delivering in the clutch time and time again. We certainly won’t forget his grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series, key homers in the ALCS against the Angels and that he appropriately made the final putout in the division clincher in Detroit and all three playoff series.
* His gesture of presenting Reinsdorf with the ball from the final out of the World Series at the victory parade has become legend and yet another example of Paulie’s character. In contrast, just the year before, Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz threatened to keep the ball from the final out and was sued by the team before it was decided that the ball would be displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why did Konerko do it? Paulie simply said it was because Reinsdorf deserves to have it. And it’s important to note that the Chairman called the moment the most emotional of his life.
* He has been involved in numerous charitable endeavors. Among them has been his participation in the Children’s Home & Aid “Bring Me Home” campaign with former teammate Jim Thome in support of foster families.
* Only nine White Sox players have had their uniform numbers retired. By signing on with the Sox for another three years and continuing his Sox legacy, we could be celebrating Paulie’s No. 14 as the latest to the list of elite Pale Hosers. And the fans will love when he reaches that mountaintop.
He would join Fox (2), Harold Baines (3), Appling (4), Minnie Minoso (9), Luis Aparicio (11), Ted Lyons (16), Billy Pierce (19), Thomas (35) and Carlton Fisk (72) in the exclusive club. For the record, 38 White Sox have worn the number, including Bill Melton, Hall of Famer Larry Doby and Moose Skowron. But it’s doubtful anyone would have a problem with retiring it for Konerko–or building a statue for him on the outfield concourse to go along with his bronze image on the monument outside of the Cell.
For these reasons and more, Paul Konerko IS the White Sox. It’s true that he played briefly for both the Dodgers and Reds early in his career, but he’s a South Sider through and through and we have accepted him as such deep in our souls.
Welcome back, Paulie.