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White Sox Mon Sep 29 2014

White Sox Send Off Konerko with Deserved Love Fest

Chicago White SoxPro sports are all about the franchise player. Management searches for one, players work to become one, analysts judge prospects who can be one. Fans idolize and support one.

The White Sox had one for the last 16 years in Paul Konerko.

Before the team's 5-4 win over the Royals on Saturday, the club honored Konerko with a touching tribute. Hawk Harrelson said a few words, a video montage ran on the scoreboard, former teammates attended. A nice statue was unveiled, and next year the Sox will retire his No. 14. Konerko thanked the fans and the fans thanked him. This was the highlight of the 2014 season.

Konerko was the man in Chicago over the last decade and a half because of his leadership, his demeanor and his remarkable consistency. During the 15 years he was a regular starter (1999-2013), Konerko averaged 28 home runs, 91 RBIs and an .854 OPS. He also averaged 146 games per year.

He only had one bad year in Chicago, as he slumped horribly (18 home runs, .234/.305/.399) through the 2003 season. But then he answered that with three of his best seasons. Konerko was awesome from 2004 to 2006, hitting 116 home runs in that time frame while also playing 150 games or more each season. It seemed like this was his peak, but he followed up four seasons later with another impressive run from 2010 to 2012. He made three all-star teams and got some MVP votes during that stretch.

Konerko will be best remembered for being the best player on the 2005 White Sox, the team that snapped an 88-year franchise titleless streak. The '05 Sox were a team of grinders and new additions who caught fire, led the American League Central wire-to-wire and cruised through the playoffs. Konerko hit two home runs in the ALDS against the Red Sox, and then won the ALCS MVP after hitting first inning home runs that led to Sox to wins in Games 3 and 4 against the Angels.

Konerko hit the biggest home run of his career in the World Series. Down 4-2 to the Astros in the seventh inning of Game 2, the Sox loaded the bases and Konerko hit a grand slam to left. The Sox went on to win that game and win the next two for the championship.

It's hard to find a more esteemed player than Konerko. Teammates, coaches and ownership loved him. Opponents respected him and held him in high regard. Fans cheered him on incessantly. He was a reason to come out to the ballpark.

While Konerko was originally a Dodger and then a Red, he spent every meaningful moment of his baseball career in a White Sox uniform. He had chances to leave and, conversely, the front office had chances to get rid of him, but Konerko remained in Chicago all these years.

Konerko had an excellent run with the Sox, bringing the city a long overdue World Championship and creating hundreds of memories. The team was lucky to have found its franchise player.

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