Saturday, September 27, 2014

'05 memories all the more distant w/ Konerko departure from baseball ranks

I'm not going to make it out to U.S. Cellular Field this weekend -- so I won't get a first-hand glimpse of all the Paul Konerko hoo-hah.

The White Sox slow-but-hard-hitting first baseman/designated hitter has been with the Sout' Side ballclub since 1999, but has let it be known he's not going to play any more following this season -- which ends Sunday.

I DID MANAGE to catch a ball game just over a week ago; seeing Jose Abreu (Konerko's replacement) hit one of his many home runs this season but otherwise watching the Minnesota Twins beat up on the White Sox on what was a sunny Sunday September afternoon.

If anything, the repeated video tributes and bits of Konerko-related trivia were dominant throughout the spectacle. And this was just a routine late-season game in which Paulie didn't even play. I can just envision how over-the-top the tributes will be this weekend. Particularly on Sunday -- Konerko's last home game.

Although I doubt it will get as over-the-top as the "final home game" mania that surrounded the Thursday-night ballgame at Yankee Stadium, where long-time shortstop Derek Jeter got in his final home game of a career ending on a downer because the Yankees didn't even make it to the playoffs this season.

But still, there's just something about all this ending-of-a-career hoopla that seems to get ridiculously over the top. I realize that without this, these games Saturday and Sunday against the Kansas City Royals would otherwise just be the end of a mediocre season -- one in which the White Sox' highlight took place in Cooperstown, N.Y., when one-time star hitter Frank Thomas got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

INSOFAR AS KONERKO, it is intriguing to see a ballplayer last so long at the professional level and stay so long with the White Sox -- to the degree that most fans forgot he was once a Los Angeles Dodgers star prospect and also had a stint with the Cincinnati Reds before he ever envisioned that Chicago would become a significant part of his life.

Although when I think of his career, I have to note he is the final ballplayer from that 2005 World Series-winning team. Now, those of us who want to relish in nine-year (and counting)-old memories will have to watch the on-field antics of pitcher Mark Buehrle when the Toronto Blue Jays come to town, or those of Juan Uribe when the Dodgers play in this year's playoffs (and perhaps the World Series itself this year).

Or maybe we'll have to wait and see if there's a ball club out there that wants the former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who becomes a free agent at season's end.

The rest of the guys from that ball club are gone from the major league playing ranks. Now the '05 White Sox are as much of the past as the '59 version of the ball club, or the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" version that some people forget wound up being merely a third-place team.

PERHAPS ONE REASON to turn out at the ball park this weekend would be to try to wring out one last memory of that '05 team that finally brought a World Series to Chicago in my lifetime.

Although the idea of sitting through the "Hispanic Heritage Night" festivities planned for the Friday night game against the Royals (or should I say, "Los Reals") was a bit too much. Particularly since it seems a large part of the" festivities" was that music by Shakira, Daddy Yankee and Cristina Aguilera was to be played throughout the game.

I don't want to pay "big league" ticket prices to have to endure that much racket over the public address system.

Although I will admit that not having Konerko around with the team is going to take some adjustment. Particularly since he was so big and slow and the total antithesis of what a traditional White Sox player (think Luis Aparicio and/or Nellie Fox) was supposed to be.

IT IS WHY one of my favorite Konerko memories remains the time I attended the next-to-last White Sox game of the 1999 season. It was a Saturday night, and the stands were virtually empty by the final third of the game.

But Konerko managed to get on base, then started chugging along toward second base. The idea of super-slow Paulie trying to steal a base caught everybody off-guard. The catcher made a terrible throw to second base. Konerko was safe!!!!!

Back then, the White Sox flashed a graphic on their video board every time there was a stolen base that read "(INSERT PLAYER'S NAME) has stolen _____ bases this season." With the ballplayer's name and theft total to fill in the blanks.

This particular moment in game number 161 of a 162-game season wound up getting a "Paul Konerko has stolen 1 bases this season." Which wound up stirring up a loud laugh from the dwindling crowd.

IT'S NOT SOMETHING you see every day.

And be honest. That thought is more entertaining than someone who says his favorite Konerko moment was that Grand Slam home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. Which wound up getting overshadowed by the game-winning home run by Scott Podsednik (a real-life base thief whose home run was almost as rare as the Konerko stolen base).


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