Name: Paul Konerko
Years With White Sox: 1999-2014
After brief appearances with the Dodgers and the Reds in 1997 and 1998, Paul Konerko was traded to the White Sox on November 11, 1998 for center fielder Mike Cameron. He started at DH on opening day in 1999, an 8-2 victory over the Mariners, going 1-4 with a home run and 2 RBI.
2000 saw Konerko get off to a quick start with an inside the park home run on April 11 against the Devil Rays, the first by a White Sox player since 1990. In his second full season, he helped lead the surprising White Sox to their first Central Division title. He, along with the rest of the White Sox offense, struggled during the Division Series against the Mariners, going 0-9 in the three game sweep.
After steadily improving in 2001 and 2002, Konerko ran into trouble in 2003, with his average under .200 for the first half of the season. He found himself coming off the bench as manager Jerry Manuel seemingly lost confidence in him. He bounced back in the second half and re-established himself as the starting first baseman.
Konerko bounced back in a big way in 2004, hitting 41 home runs and knocking in over 100 RBIs en route to the Comeback Player of the Year award. 2005 saw him put up a second consecutive 40 HR, 100 RBI season as the White Sox found themselves back in the playoffs for the second time in his career. This time, things would go much differently for both Konerko and the White Sox.
Konerko homered twice and drove in 4 runs during the three game sweep against the Red Sox, catching the final out that sent the White Sox to the ALCS for the first time since 1993. Konerko hit another 2 home runs and drove in 7 against the Angels during the 5 game series. Once again, Konerko caught the final putout that sent the White Sox to their first World Series since 1959. Following the victory in game 5, Konerko was named ALCS MVP.
Konerko cooled down during the World Series, hitting only one home run against the Astros, but what a home run it was. With the White Sox trailing in the 7th inning, Konerko came up to face new pitcher Chad Qualls with the bases loaded. Konerko made contact on the first pitch, sending it into the left field seats for a grand slam and the lead. Like the previous 2 series, Konerko caught the final putout at first base in Game 4, giving the White Sox their first World Series title since 1917.
With the afterglow of winning the World Series starting to subside, Konerko became a free agent. Despite rumors of him getting more lucrative offers from both the Dodgers and the Orioles, Konerko finally resigned with the White Sox, inking a 5-year, $60 million contract that would keep him on the south side through 2010.
Konerko battled through injuries in 2008, leading to his worst season since 2003, but he did manage to help the White Sox reach the post-season for the third time during his career. He hit 2 solo home runs in the 4 game series against the Rays, in what would be his final playoff appearance.
Konerko had two more chances at free agency, signing a 3 year deal with the White Sox prior to 2011 and, finally, re-upping for one last season in 2014. He finishes his career as the White Sox all time leader in total bases and second all time in home runs, RBIs, and games played. In addition, he was a 6-time All Star and had served as team captain since 2006. He also is the only White Sox player to appear in the post season 3 different times.
Konerko’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:
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