Humble Hero on Chicago’s South Side

Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko

In this column I will write about current events, politics, economics, religion and other topics that most reasonable people won’t touch. My last column was about sports and this one also is about sports, but I assure you, this is not ESPN! I’ll eventually move on to non-sports topics.

On Saturday evening, September 27, 2014 I attended a Chicago White Sox game at US Cellular field on Chicago’s south side. It is a 20 minute subway ride from my north side home, but I seldom watch the sox in Chicago unless the Twins are in town. On those wonderful occasions I wear full Twins regalia and head down to Sox Park to harass the home town folks and pull for my Minnesota Twins!

Retirement Ceremony: US Cellular Field September 27, 2014.

Retirement Ceremony: US Cellular Field September 27, 2014.

Last Saturday was a far different occasion, as the Sox organization bid retirement farewell to their long time captain, Paul Konerko. Traded to the White Sox from the Reds in 1998 Konerko became a Sox hero in 2005 by carrying the south siders to their first World Series Championship since 1917. At that point Konerko’s market value spiked. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf made the best offer ($60 million for 5 years) he could afford. Reinsdorf made his offer sincerely and humbly. This impressed Konerko, who stayed in Chicago and turned down more lucrative offers from the Dodgers and Orioles. Konerko and Reinsdorf have remained good friends.

With the departure of hall of famer Frank Thomas, Konerko became the face of the White Sox. Admired by working-class fans, Konerko took his “lunch bucket” to the park every day and put in a full day’s work. He did one thing consistently during his career…every day he came in he “Did His Best.”

Jason Stark of ESPN might have said it best: “He won a World Series in Chicago, hit a grand slam in a World Series, won an ALCS MVP Award. He isn’t a guy you’d elevate into the pantheon of all-time greats. But he did have one more excellent claim to fame that I haven’t seen enough hoopla about:  He’s one of just 10 players in history, whose primary position was first base, to make it into the 400-homer, 400-double club. Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, here are the others: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro.”

More important than his time on the field, Paul Konerko’s friends spoke of his love and devotion to his teammates and especially for Jennifer Wells, the woman he married back in 2004 and for their three children; Nicholas, Owen and Amelia.   This is a decent family man; a loyal man; a workman who need not be ashamed of his daily efforts to honor and respect his fans, whom he calls “Friends.”

As I sat in the crowd with my Twins gear on, a few folks wondered why I had donned Twins clothing when the Sox were playing the Royals. “To say good bye to Paulie” I answered. “I came all the way from Minnesota to say goodbye to Paulie.” They smiled at my response. A couple of big, rough-looking guys teared up and gave me a hug! I’m so happy that I didn’t miss that wonderful, warm Saturday night when the Chicago White Sox, the “little team that could” in the big city of Chicago, celebrated their hero.

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