Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Power of a Class Act: A Few Photos with Which to Say Farewell and Thank You, Paul Konerko

"I tried to show up and play as hard as I could for you. 

Sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn't.

But the intent was always there. 

I did my best for you."

-- Paul Konerko
   Sept. 27, 2014

At a time when it seems almost every day brings news of an athlete--or even an entire league--doing something horribly wrong, it is particularly impressive to note how Paul Konerko has comported himself throughout his White Sox play career, which ends today.

Of course, his productivity and consistency have also been remarkable; you don't become a fan favorite, let alone a local legend, simply by being a good guy.

Barring any hit Sunday, 425 of Konerko's career homers have come in a White Sox uniform, out of 439 total.

"Paulie" had 13 seasons with at least 20 homers, with seven years over 30 and three of 39 or more.

His OPS--perhaps the most potent stat in measuring a player's offensive prowess--exceeded .900 four times and .840 eight others. PK's lifetime OPS of .841 ranks him just below Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, although it seems unlikely Konerko is destined for Cooperstown.

In an extended pre-game ceremony last night (full video here; well worth watching)--on what was declared Paul Konerko Day in the State of Illinois--it was announced that Konerko's uniform #14 will be retired by the White Sox and statue of Paulie was unveiled in the left field concourse, commemorating in bronze a golden moment White Sox fans will never forget:

Yet even as a White Sox fan who is also--unapologetically--even more so a Cubs fan, I have the utmost appreciation for Paul Konerko.

Not that I insist my sports heroes be complete choirboys on and off the field--some feisty flair and occasional non-harmful-to-others debauchery aren't terrible things--but Konerko has always been the epitome of the quiet, classy and graceful superstar. (As his speech last night further attests.)

Forget any crimes or controversies such as domestic battery charges, DUIs and steroid allegations; I can't even recall seeing Konerko so much as argue with an umpire, let alone fight with a teammate or say something noxious in a post-game interview.

Heck, even between the lines, the notoriously slow afoot Konerko has always been more steady than overt in demanding the attention of spectators.

I have attended at least a couple dozen games he has played with the White Sox, perhaps even a dozen or two more, yet I was hard-pressed to find many photos I had taken of him over the years. Even from the 2005 Victory Parade.

Part of this is likely because prior to being invited to several games over the past 5 years by my friend Dave, I never had very good seats or a camera with enough telephoto power, but to a degree, Konerko has been somewhat overshadowed by star teammates and/or new acquisitions such as Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Jim Thome and, this year, Jose Abreu.

He wasn't flashy, he just got the job done.

Quite well.

With nothing but class.

And that, along with all the homers and big moments, is something to admire and applaud.

Thanks, Paulie.

If you haven't seen the video Paul Konerko helped put together to thank the fans of Chicago, it's worth viewing here.

And here are just a few videos I did take, including from this past Thursday night. And one, the only semi-decent one I took, from the 2005 Parade. In a weird way, I think it captures what Paul Konerko was all about.   

PK and AJ

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