07/07/11 8:39 PM ET
'PaulStar' campaign makes Konerko an All-Star
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Konerko was named the American League winner of the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, holding off a late charge, spurred by an entertaining get-out-the-vote video from his young son, from Detroit's Victor Martinez, with 8.4 million votes. In its 10th year, the Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team.
Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continued until 3 p.m. CT on Thursday. The honor for Konerko means the White Sox political machine has generated three winners over the past decade, with "PaulStar" joining outfielder Scott Podsednik and the "Vote for Scott" campaign in 2005 and the "Punch A.J." movement pushing catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the All-Star Game in 2006.
All this good news was announced at U.S. Cellular Field just after 5 p.m. CT as part of White Sox batting practice, with much of the front office in attendance. Konerko high-fived some of his teammates, and then, in typical low-key Konerko fashion, he encouraged teammates to get back to hitting and end the hoopla.
"Anytime you get a chance to go to play in something like that, I still respect the game," said Konerko, who joked that his mom contributed probably one million of his vote total. "I don't think, for me, you ever play long enough or do enough where going to the All-Star Game isn't a big deal. It still is a big deal."
"I'm happy, obviously. I couldn't be more excited for Paulie," Pierzynski said. "I've said from Day 1 he deserves to be there. Hopefully, he'll go and represent the White Sox well, like he's done for his whole career."
Prior to this victory, Konerko had been on the Final Vote ballot in 2004 with teammate Frank Thomas and again on his own in 2010, but came up short on both occasions. Thomas was in attendance on Thursday when the Final Vote news was announced.
This 2011 campaign featured "PaulStar" T-Shirts, which appeared at Wrigley Field almost immediately after the announcement and were on display all week.
There also were impassioned pleas to get out the vote from Konerko's teammates, not to mention support from the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls, along with an alliance formed with the Dodgers in support of Andre Ethier and Konerko. The idea was to send both natives of the Phoenix area back home and allow them to sleep in their own beds.
Ethier finished second to the Phillies' Shane Victorino in the 2011 National League Final Vote competition.
During Wednesday afternoon's pregame, the White Sox surprised Konerko by getting clearance to fly a plane above U.S. Cellular Field and the city of Chicago with a banner reading "PaulStar. Vote Konerko." The entire program worked, as Konerko will be making his fifth All-Star appearance and second straight.
"Our people were on top of it right away," said Konerko, who received a standing ovation before his first at-bat against the Twins. "We were at Wrigley that day and within maybe a half hour of the team being announced, they already had the campaign going and people voting.
"So I've got to thank them. That's not something that's part of their jobs. There were 40, 50 people in the front office that had to shut down and really dig in on something like this and that's really not part of what they're doing on a daily basis, so I appreciate that and I'm glad we won because of that.
"Obviously, all the people around the country, and friends and family, it's nice and I appreciate everybody," Konerko said. "Usually as a player, you get people coming out of the woodwork during the season as you go through the season every year always wanting something. This was kind of cool because I had a bunch of people coming out of the woodwork but telling me they're voting for me and trying to do me a favor."
As a vote of thanks to those voters, the eternally classy Konerko donated his $15,000 All-Star bonus to White Sox Charities. The White Sox will look to organizations in Chicago and Phoenix, Konerko's home areas, to use the money.
Despite losing out to Nick Swisher in the 2010 Final Vote, Konerko was named by Yankees manager Joe Girardi as an injury replacement for Justin Morneau. Over his four previous All-Star appearances, Konerko has gone 4-for-7 with two doubles and two RBIs.
Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist all are having All-Star worthy seasons, but Konerko stood slightly above the group in terms of raw statistics. He entered Thursday's series opener with the Twins carrying a .319 average, with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. Konerko joins Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp as the lone players in the top six of all three Triple Crown categories in either league.
Throughout this whole week, the low-key White Sox captain enjoyed the process but never allowed himself to get too focused on the individual accolade. That simply is not the Konerko way.
"Like I said, I wouldn't have been overly disappointed had I not gone," Konerko said. "But I definitely want to say that I appreciate all the people who took time out."
Nine White Sox candidates over the 10 years of the Final Vote have made the organization quite adept at getting its candidate through to the Midsummer Classic. Having the White Sox at home all week gave them an edge, but they still never let up via Twitter until Konerko was announced.
"Maybe there's a hidden politician in me or something, but I enjoy the campaign," White Sox vice president of communications Scott Reifert said. "The challenge is it's X number of hours from the moment you find out and you have to deliver within that time frame.
"We throw lots of stuff against the wall. Some of it sticks and some of it nobody notices, but it's fun. The process is fun and it's a lot more fun certainly when you win."
Outfielder Carlos Quentin was a players' selection as the first White Sox representative for the 2011 AL All-Star team.