Yesterday (May 23, 2015), the Chicago White Sox (appropriately) retired first baseman Paul Konerko’s jersey number. Being from Minnesota, I remember the six-time All Star and long-time (2006-14) ChiSox captain as a real Twins’ killer. And, there is evidence to support that observation. In 257 games versus the Twins, Konerko hit 50 (of his 439) home runs (his most against any team), while putting up a .286 average and driving in 136 runs. Konerko also hit 22 home runs against the Twins as a visitor (his highest “away” total) and six against Twins starter Brad Radke (tied for his highest total against any pitcher). It also seemed that Konerko, time and time again, came through with big hits in clutch situations against Minnesota.
Around the league, Konerko is remembered as a quality player, who gave it his all and “came to play” every day. One of my fondest memories of the “Big Guy” (6’2”, 220 pounds) centers on his toughness. Here are my personal top-three Konerko moments.
1. Ouch! Bang! Now, We’re Even!
On September 16, 2010, the Twins were visiting Chicago. Carl Pavano, arguably the Twins’ ace with 17 wins, was on the mound and Konerko was playing first base and batting clean-up for the Sox. In the first inning, with one on and two out, Konerko took a Pavano fastball to the face (just below the nose). (At the time, Konerko was ten-for-twenty seven lifetime – with two home runs against Pavano.) Konerko went down – stayed down for a while – and then was helped to his feet by the Sox trainer. Despite protests from the manager and trainer, Konerko refused to leave the game. In the top of the second, White Sox starter Mark Buehrle extracted revenge, with Twins 1B Michael Cuddyer paying the price. The retribution, however, was not complete. In his very next at bat, Konerko hit the first pitch from Pavano 395 feet into the left field seats. That’s payback.
2. Back-to-Back Memorable Jacks
On April 13, 200, with the White Sox at Detroit, RF Jermaine Dye led off the second inning by ripping a 2-1 pitch from Tiger starter Zach Miner for a home run to left center. Next up was Konerko, playing first base and sixth, who worked the count full and then took Miner deep to left – for a 2-0 Chicago lead. Back-to-Back “jacks” aren’t that rare, but these were. It was the milestone 300th home run for both Dye and Konerko. The White Sox went on to win 10-6 and Konerko went four-for-five with two runs scored and four RBI.
3. Classy Farewell.
On September 3, 2014, before his last game ever in Minnesota, the Twins showed their class by honoring their retiring nemesis with a video tribute, a large bottle of fine wine (2005 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon – in recognition of how Konerko helped lead the White Sox to the 2005 World Championship) and a $10,000 donation to one of Konerko’s favorite organizations – Children’s Home and Aid. The Twins tipped their caps to Konerko again yesterday – as they all came to the field for the entire tribute (and jersey retirement) held in Chicago.
Congrats to an MLBer who came to play!