07/06/10 10:00 AM ET
South Side to be transferred to 'Pauliewood'
White Sox looking to duplicate past Final Vote success
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
The marketing slogan "Punch A.J." was born at that moment in order to get the White Sox catcher voted in as an American League All-Star. It worked perfectly, combining the concept of punching a ballot for Pierzynski with what some opposing players have wanted to do over the years to the hard-nosed leader who has a unique knack for getting under the skin of other teams.
And that idea, much like the "Vote for Scott" plan for Scott Podsednik in 2005, brought home a winner. It's of little wonder President Barack Obama hitched his star to the White Sox wagon long ago.
When Paul Konerko was placed on the ballot for the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote, sponsored by Sprint, the challenge once again rose for the White Sox. This challenge appears to be a bit trickier.
For starters, Konerko's vote-getting power is being tested against the Yankees' Nick Swisher and Boston's Kevin Youkilis, who sat one-two after Monday's first day results. This is also the team captain being talked about, one of the faces of the franchise for the past decade, and more important, a dignified student of the game who isn't at all about drawing attention to himself.
What could the White Sox do to mobilize their forces? After quite a bit of brainstorming, the answer appeared -- with help from a White Sox fan.
As voting continues until 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, the South Side of Chicago will be transferred to "Pauliewood." It's a move coming with Konerko's blessing.
"Part of what we like is it's so not Paul that it kind of works," said White Sox vice president of communications Scott Reifert. "[Vice president and chief marketing officer] Brooks [Boyer)]talked to him and said he was all for it. We weren't sure with Paul. Like I said, it's not his personality."
"Pauliewood" already has taken on its own persona.
Prior to Monday's 9-2 victory over the Angels, Mark Buehrle presented his third or fourth State of the Final Vote and encouraged "White Sox Nation" to get out and support its leader. There also were shirts worn by players, such as Alexei Ramirez and manager Ozzie Guillen, depicting the new locale.
Block lettering on the Pauliewood sign makes it look much like the famous Hollywood sign in California, although the likeness is purely coincidental. Underneath the sign is the message "Vote Konerko," bracketed by two stars. Whitesox.com takes its place as the third part of the front.
Reifert said the goal of the White Sox brain trust was to have a little fun with the campaign, just as it has in the past, especially knowing they won't carry the Northeast in the Final Vote.
"We bounced around a bunch of ideas [on Sunday], just kind of a little committee, a bunch of different departments that get involved," Reifert explained. "We also asked fans for ideas through social media.
"At the last minute, we actually were having an 11 o'clock conference call, and a fan shot us an idea. Our designer, who is incredibly talented, Gareth Bruenlin, was sitting down playing with four or five different ideas, and this last idea that came from the fan just worked."
There's been no confirmation as to whether any Hollywood celebrities who have long followed the White Sox visibly will throw their support behind Pauliewood. No official endorsement has come from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's camp, although the lifelong White Sox fan is sure to stand up for Konerko.
A few extra incentives have been provided to the fans by the organization. Ten random voters will receive signed Konerko jerseys, two tickets to a game on Aug. 14 and a chance to meet Konerko during batting practice that day.
Most of all, it's a way for the White Sox and their fans to join together for a common cause, a key contributor to the White Sox recent on-field resurgence, and, of course, their 2005 World Series title.
These stakes are high and the competition is tough. Early polling had Konerko running fourth, but this grassroots campaign is not over until the final totals have been tabulated.
As has been the case in the storied political history of Chicago, vote early and vote often. Send Pauliewood to Anaheim.
"Really, this becomes like handicapping a political race," Reifert said. "One of the fun things about it is I don't want to say flying by the seat of your pants is the right word. It's more about the spontaneity of what you do.
"A couple of other ideas will be implemented for [Tuesday] and should be fun for the fans. And the creativity of our fans is second to none so watch what they come up with on-line. In a sense, it would be great to win, showing pride in guy who has had an unbelievable career here and is certainly deserving.
"Look, in 2006, I saw up close how hard it is to pick a team, how much time and effort went into it," Reifert said. "I respect the process a great deal. To me, now it's something our fan base can get behind together and how can you not promote Paul Konerko? He's one of the best guys there is."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.