Happy Birthday to my Childhood Hero, Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko was and always will be one of my favorite White Sox players of all-time. After being drafted by the Dodgers in the First Round of the 1994 draft, Konerko made his professional debut in September of 1997. Konerko dominated the minor-leagues but struggled in his first few years and bounced from the Dodgers to the Reds seeing very little time on the field. Following the 1998 season, the White Sox traded outfielder Mike Cameron for Chicago baseball’s real captain- Paul Konerko. As you know it, the rest is history as Konerko was THE model of consistency in Chicago baseball during his 15 seasons wearing a White Sox uniform. Six-time All-Star, 2005 World Series Champion, 2005 ALCS MVP, and the White Sox all-time leader in total bases. When Konerko walked up to the plate with Metallica’s Harvester of Sorrow, you knew he meant business. In my eyes as a kid, he was the baddest mother fucker in the league and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting emotional writing this. Paulie wasn’t the most athletic, he could barely run for Christ’s sake, but he was the baseball player I always wanted to be. The guy whose batting stance I’d mimic playing a game of Wiffle ball or lob league at the park. A guy any real Chicago White Sox fan will always remember and understand that his impact was more than just stats on the field. Konerko’s numbers don’t necessarily warrant a Hall of Fame selection, but God damn it, he's one the best in the Hall of Very Good. Don't forget the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame, either. I'd be remised to not include my favorite moments from Paulie's career, while this is completely objective, I highly doubt anyone will disagree with me.
April 11, 2000- Konerko hits an inside-the-park Home Run against Tampa Bay
I wasn’t even alive yet, but this was still one of those YouTube videos I always seem to find myself watching. Made the kid who ran with a piano on his back think that he’d actually be able to do the same. (Spoiler: he couldn’t)
The 2005 World Series run
Konerko’s ALCS was filled with clutch hits and Home Runs. He was dominant in the 2005 playoffs for arguably the most dominant playoff team of all-time. He hit .286 with 2 Home Runs and 7 RBIs all the way to the ALCS MVP Award. Obviously, no one will ever forget Konerko’s Grand Slam in the bottom of the 7th of Game 2’s 2005 World Series. The Sox were Trailing 4-2 at the time and Konerko set the Cell on Fire after belting one high and deep to Left-Center field on the first pitch. I still get chills all over watching the video every time. The state of pandemonium he sent the fans in attendance shows how passionate White Sox fans can be when they have a product on the field worth caring about, makes you think....
April 13, 2009- Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko hit their 300th Career Home Runs back-to-back
Still pisses me off. Watching this game, I should’ve been excited for both guys, but I was an angry 8-year-old. Obviously, I loved Jermaine Dye as well, but no one was Paulie in my eyes. I legitimaitely viewed him as my generation's MJ, I'm sorry I was delusional.
September 6, 2010, Konerko is hit in the face by a pitch and then hits a Home Run in his next at-bat
Like I said, badass mother fucker. You find me any guy outside of Larry Bird who has this type of grit. Sure, Paulie may have not destroyed his spine building his mom's driveway fresh off winning the MVP in 1985, but it was pretty damn close. Hawk’s call just makes this moment feel even better.
April 25, 2012- Konerko blasts his 400th career Home Run
The emphatic “Hell Yes!” from Hawk is why I’ll always miss this era of the White Sox. Jason Benetti is fucking phenomenal and has off the charts chemistry with Steve Stone, but he's not Hawk. No one ever will be. I had a blurred reality of how good these teams really were, but I didn’t care. Paulie and the boys made me care, but Hawk just gave me another reason to tune in. I’ll miss the catchphrases, I miss the stories about Yaz and I miss the day's of Hawk calling games with the Captain on the Diamond. Although I do have a raging boner for what's expected the next decade at 35th and Shields.
May 23, 2015- Konerko’s #14 is retired by the Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field was sold out when the White Sox forever enshrined Konerko into White Sox royalty. The jumbotron says it all, “The King, The Captain, Thank you.” There will never be another baseball player like Paul Konerko and although he was only a .279 hitter with 479 bombs, I’ll die on the hill that he’s one of the best to ever do it. It went further than his play on the field, the way he carried himself on and off the field and made others around him better players. No one else from my early years that better represents the Chicago White Sox in my opinion, fuck it’s getting dusty in here. Some might say A.J. Pierzynski or Mark Buehrle, but give me Paulie or give me death. Plus, the 14-inch hot dog in honor of Paulie was pretty sweet, too.
-The Inn Keeper