8/14/2014 2:11 P.M. ET
Konerko's top moments highlight leadership, grit
Vet with long list of accomplishments set to retire after 16 seasons with White Sox
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- There are too many highlights to total up or comprehend when perusing the 2,252 games played or studying the 2,287 hits that Paul Konerko has recorded with the White Sox.
The Captain stands in the top five of 12 offensive categories as his 16 years on the South Side come to a close, with just 24 home games remaining for Konerko, including the upcoming six-game homestand. And the leadership he's provided over his time in Chicago can't be measured in numbers.
Even with this daunting task at hand, here's a list of the Top 14 moments from Konerko's White Sox career. Of course, No. 14 coincides with the back of Konerko's jersey, which actually brings up Top moments 15 and 16 to almost certainly come in the not-too-distant future. Those would be the retiring of his number and a statue on the U.S. Cellular Field concourse.
1. A slamming good World Series
There are two blue seats in the outfield at U.S. Cellular. One belongs to Scott Podsednik's walk-off homer against Brad Lidge in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. The other is owned by Konerko's first-pitch grand slam off of Chad Qualls in the seventh inning of that same game.
"I probably only see it during batting practice, because usually it's covered up during the game," Konerko said in an interview about where the grand slam landed. "But when somebody pops off to me in batting practice like [Tyler] Flowers or somebody, I make sure to point out the seat to them. Obviously, that was a big moment and something I won't forget in my career."
2. The true World Series finale
"Uribe has it, he throws. ... Out! Out! Out! A White Sox winner and a World Championship. The White Sox have won the World Series and they are mobbing each other on the field."
That famous call was delivered by then-White Sox radio play-by-play man John Rooney on pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe for the final out of the White Sox four-game World Series sweep over the Houston Astros. Konerko was on the other end of that throw from the talented Chicago shortstop.
3. Surprising team owner Jerry Reinsdorf
That final out leads nicely to another of Konerko's greatest moments. The White Sox championship parade in front of two million of their closest friends had reached the speech portion, when Konerko stepped to the podium.
"I got something here, Mr. Reinsdorf. Jerry, come on up here," Konerko said. "Everyone kept asking me the last couple of days what I did with that last ball, that last out. It's going to this man right here, because he earned it."
Reinsdorf hugged Konerko and then commented to the crowd.
"Getting this ball from Paul Konerko is the most emotional moment of my life," said Reinsdorf, his voice breaking with emotion.
4. Career home run No. 400
No. 400 for the White Sox captain certainly had a bit more flare, as it came off of Oakland closer Grant Balfour on April 25, 2012, to tie the game in the ninth. The A's eventually won in 14 innings, slightly overshadowing Konerko's piece of personal history.
"Everybody likes the round numbers," said Konerko. "Again, when it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I'm done playing and look back, that's when it might hit home more.
"But when you are in the middle of the grind and grinding every day and working, you tend not to think about that stuff. And you probably shouldn't."
5. Wheels Konerko touches them all
Konerko was blessed with a great deal of innate skill over his two decades of baseball, but speed was not one of them. Yet there was Konerko, circling the bases for an inside-the-park homer on a drive against Tampa Bay's Esteban Yan on April 11, 2000. Konerko finished with four hits and four RBIs in the contest.
6. Hard-headed Konerko goes deep
In the first inning of a home contest against the Twins on Sept. 16, 2010, with Omar Vizquel on first base and two outs, Konerko suffered a direct hit by pitch to the face from Minnesota's Carl Pavano. Konerko refused to leave the game after receiving treatment, even when White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and manager Ozzie Guillen tried to lead him off the field.
The pitch struck Konerko in between his upper lip and nose.
"Someone said on the bench when it happened, 'I knew he was a tough guy, but when that happened, he's tougher than you originally think,'" said Mark Buehrle of his teammate at the time. "That's the type of guys we got. Guys want to battle and be in the situation."
"Seeing Paulie get hit like that, one of the nicest guys in the world, we all felt terrible about it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was a scary situation."
Apparently not that scary for Konerko, who exacted his revenge by launching the first pitch from Pavano with two outs in the third for his 37th homer of the season.
7. Doubling his pleasure in an eight-run comeback
The Cubs built up an 8-0 lead through three innings at U.S. Cellular Field during a game played on June 28, 2002. And building that lead behind Kerry Wood gave the North Siders a little extra confidence. The White Sox chipped away at the margin and took the lead during a six-run sixth on Konerko's two-run blast. Konerko homered off of both Joe Borowski and Wood in that game, driving in four.
8. M-V-P, M-V-P!
In a stellar two-decade career for Konerko, the only time he ever won a Most Valuable Player award came during the 2005 American League Championship Series on Oct. 16, 2005. Konerko hit .286 with two homers, one double and seven RBIs over the series victory in five games against the Angels.
9. Sharing 300 career homers with a friend
Jermaine Dye and Konerko became the first pair of teammates to hit a century home run milestone, considered 300 or above, in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They accomplished that feat against Detroit's Zach Miner, who begrudgingly became a part of history, too, on April 13, 2009.
"I'm happy for them," said Miner after that game. "I'm just sorry it was against me."
For a more precise count, Dye's 390-foot drive to left-center marked the 139th home run of his career with the White Sox. Konerko's 362-foot shot that lined over the head of left fielder Josh Anderson and just above the wall was No. 293 for the first baseman with the club. Konerko sits behind only Hall of Famer Frank Thomas in terms of White Sox homers.
10. Just call him Captain
When Guillen first named Konerko the team captain going into the 2006 season, Konerko respectfully turned it down. At that time, in January, the hockey fan joked that wearing the "C" on his uniform wouldn't mean discussing penalties on the diamond like hockey captains often do on the ice. In the end, Konerko accepted the honor but declined the uniform letter.
Having a title which put Konerko in an elite group with the Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Red Sox's Jason Varitek did not change his approach or his role as a team leader.
"It's a funny thing about it, because he doesn't need a title," Guillen said of Konerko. "This guy is so low-key, and he's not going to have to put a 'C' on his uniform. That's the way he is. But with the respect I have for him on the field and off the field, the love I have for him, that's the least thing I can do."
11. Buehrle shares in Konerko's web gem
Most people remember the Lou Marson Opening Day 2010 grounder slamming off of Buehrle's leg toward the first-base foul line, with Buehrle making the amazing no-look flip between his legs to nail Marson at first. But people forget it was Konerko who grabbed the flip bare-handed to complete the spectacular play started by Buehrle, who faces the White Sox on Saturday for the first time at U.S. Cellular as part of the opposition.
12. Two months of .400
Reaching a .400 average is one rare occurrence in this game, having not happened since Ted Williams in 1941. Yet near the end of May in 2012, Konerko hovered around that elusive mark. He finished a stretch of 10 games with a .399 average on May 27, and he ended the year at .298. Konerko recorded four seasons of hitting .300 or greater.
13. Total-base leader
Many of the White Sox franchise records belong to Thomas. When it comes to total bases, though, Konerko holds the top spot on the all-time White Sox list at 4,004. That includes 845 extra-base hits, which is second to Thomas' 906 and almost 300 ahead of anybody else.
14. Never can, never will say goodbye to the White Sox
There were chances for Konerko to leave Chicago. He could have departed after the 2005 World Series championship via free agency and then again after the '10 season. But Konerko returned on both occasions, further cementing his legacy on the South Side. Konerko was traded twice by the time he was 23, but he then stayed with the Sox for 16 years.