Paul Konerko arrived in Chicago as quietly as he’s done everything else in his career, as a former first round pick who was cast aside by the Dodgers and then the Reds after very short trials. During 1999 spring training, a long-vanished jobber named Jeff Abbott, apparently a fan of irony and alliteration, dubbed the low-key newcomer “King.” Konerko had hit just seven big league homers in 247 National League plate appearances. Despite low expectations in 1999, he earned the everyday first base job before the full heat of summer arrived. In the thirteen years since, Konerko has averaged 147 games per season (not because he’s avoided injuries, but because he’s played through them), hit 400 home runs, and played rock solid defense at first base (Gold Glove awards be damned). Sox fans took to him almost immediately. In 2000, a potent offense featuring Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, and Paul Konerko helped the Sox reach the postseason for the first time since 1993. Fans called him “Paulie” and Chicago magazine included him in its list of the city’s most eligible bachelors. In 2004 he clubbed 41 home runs and succeeded Frank Thomas as the face of the franchise. When he crushed a grand slam in Game Two of the 2005 World Series, he became a Sox legend. That offseason, he earned even more South Side respect when he turned down big free-agency offers to stay in Chicago for less money—something he’d do again in 2010. When Ozzie Guillen named him captain of the White Sox prior to the 2006 season, Paul Konerko’s 14 became a lock to join the retired numbers on the outfield walls upon his retirement.
- TS Flynn, The Classical
Read the rest: “On Paul Konerko and South-Sidedness”
Illustration by Dmitry Samarov
Quite possibly the only thing about the White Sox I will ever read and enjoy.