As Derek Jeter was celebrating one of the most memorable final home games in baseball history, Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox was starting the final homestand of his career. Unlike Jeter’s final season that has been filled with fanfare and spectacle from around the entire league, Konerko’s has been a mirror image of his entire career – quiet and simple.
There’s a great chance that if you live outside of Chicago, you aren’t too familiar with the career of Konerko – a player who was traded from the Dodgers to the Reds to the White Sox between 1998 and 1999. Once he was finally given a chance to play full time with the Sox in 1999, his career took off – he hit .294 with a .352 on base percentage, 24 home runs and 81 runs batted in that season. It was the beginning of a great run, a run that saw the slugger hit at least 20 home runs in a season for 13 of his first 14 years in the Windy City.
For his career, Konerko hit .279 with an OBP of .354, a .487 slugging percentage, .841 OPS, 439 home runs, 2340 hits and 1412 runs batted in. Numbers definitely worthy of enshrinement within Cooperstown.
For the past 16 years, Konerko has been one of the cornerstone for the White Sox organization, alongside the great Frank Thomas. Konerko has provided a career that is worthy of a celebrity send off. Like Jeter, Konerko has led through humility, allowing his game to to speak for itself. Ever the consummate professional, baseball will miss the the quiet Chicago first baseman.
He won’t receive the recognition as Jeter or Mariano Rivera, but his impact on the game will be remembered. He won’t be the focus of any memorable Gatorade commercials or Jay-Z songs, but he will go down as one of the greatest White Sox to ever play the game.
In 1999, the White Sox were willing to trade Mike Cameron to take a chance on a young and unproven Konerko, and the world of baseball will forever be better off because of that decision.
Cover Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune
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