Paul Henry Konerko (; born March 5, 1976) is an American former professional baseball first baseman
who played in Major League Baseball
(MLB) for the Los Angeles Dodgers
, Cincinnati Reds
and, for most of his career, the Chicago White Sox
. Konerko helped the White Sox win the 2005 World Series
over the Houston Astros
, the franchise's first since 1917. From 2006 to 2014 he served as the White Sox captain
High school career
Born in Providence, Rhode Island
, to Henry
("Hank") and Elena Konerko, Konerko is of Polish and Italian descent.
At Chaparral High School
in Scottsdale, Arizona
, Konerko was named the ''Arizona Republic
'' Player of the Year as a senior, after leading his team to a Class 4-A state championship. Konerko hit .558 in 1994, the school season record until Ike Davis
, who later became a Major League first baseman, hit .559 in 2003. Konerko also held the school season record in doubles, with 18, until Davis hit 23 doubles in 2003. He also held the school career record in doubles (44), until Davis passed him with 48 doubles. As of 2014, he was the school's all-time leader in home runs and RBI.
Konerko was ranked the #1 catcher in the nation during his senior year in high school.
He signed a letter of intent
to play college baseball
at Arizona State
Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds
Konerko was drafted in the first round (13th overall) of the 1994 MLB draft
by the Los Angeles Dodgers
Konerko had been on the radar of Eddie Bane
, the Special Assistant to Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire
, since he was 13 years old.
On May 13, 1995, with the San Bernardino Spirit
, he drove in the only run of a 21-inning game. It was the longest shutout
in California League
history. Konerko played for the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes
He is one of four Dodgers position players to have been twice selected for the Dodgers organization's "Minor League Player of the Year" award, along with Billy Ashley
, Joc Pederson
, and Gavin Lux
He played parts of the 1997 and 1998 seasons with the Dodgers. In a little more than 150 at bats, he hit just 4 home runs.
Konerko was traded, along with lefty pitcher Dennys Reyes
, by the Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds
for All Star closer Jeff Shaw
. Konerko played 26 games with the Reds.
Chicago White Sox
1999–2005: Early years, World Series champion
On November 11, 1998, Konerko was traded by the Reds to the White Sox for Mike Cameron
. Konerko became a consistent hitter and power threat upon his arrival to the White Sox, hitting for a .294 average with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs in his first season with Chicago in 1999.
In 2000, with a 95–67 record, the White Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Konerko made his first postseason appearance that year, when the White Sox lost to the Seattle Mariners
in the 2000 American League Division Series
(ALDS). The Mariners swept the series in 3 games, and in 9 at-bats, Konerko had no hits. He got on base once on a walk
Konerko continued to hit consistently, hitting 32 home runs in 2001, his first time hitting the 30 home run mark in his career and almost nabbed the 100 RBI mark with 99. He would achieve that goal in 2002, when he hit 27 home runs and 104 RBIs. This culminated in his first All-Star
appearance at Miller Park
, where he also participated in the Home Run Derby, hitting 12 home runs in the two rounds he appeared in. Konerko hit a 2 run double for the American League in the top of the 7th to grab the lead. Broadcasters Tim McCarver
and Joe Buck
stated that if the American League had won the game, Konerko would have been the MVP; however, the game ended in a tie and the MVP was not awarded.
Konerko suffered a thumb injury in 2003 that reduced his playing time to 137 games and resulted in a drop in offensive production with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs.
In 2004, Konerko bounced back in a big way, eclipsing the 40 home run mark for the first time in his career with 41 and driving in 117 runs. Konerko finished 16th in the MVP voting that year as the White Sox finished 2nd in the division to the Minnesota Twins
(left) present a jersey to then-President George W. Bush
as the White Sox are honored at the White House
for their victory in the 2005 World Series
In 2005, Konerko and the White Sox got off to a hot start with a 17-7 record at the end of April and never looked back. They became only the 5th team in Major League history to go wire-to-wire, staying in first place every day of the season, and the first team since the 1990 Cincinnati Reds season|1990 Cincinnati Reds
to do so. Konerko finished the season with 40 home runs, his second time hitting the mark, and 100 RBIs as the White Sox won the division for the first time since 2000.
Konerko continued hitting hot into the playoffs with a home run in Games 1 and 3 of the ALDS
against the Boston Red Sox
. With Konerko's help, the White Sox swept the defending champions in 3 games to move on to their first ALCS
since 1993. The White Sox defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
in the American League Championship Series
(ALCS). After going 0 for 4 in the first game and 1 for 4 in the second game, Konerko hit 3 for 4 with three RBI's in the third game of the ALCS against the Angels. Two of the RBI's came from a home run in the first inning. In Game 4, Konerko was 1 for 4 with three RBI's on another first inning home run
, the second in as many nights. His Game 4 home run set a franchise record for most home runs in a postseason and all-time with his 4th career postseason home run, passing Ted Kluszewski's
3 home runs in the 1959 World Series
. In Game 5, Konerko went 1 for 5 with another RBI. He was named the ALCS MVP
on the strength of a .268 batting average
, two home runs and seven RBI's, becoming the first, and as of the 2018 season, only White Sox player to receive the award He said, "I think you could split this four ways", referring to his feeling that the MVP
should be awarded to the White Sox starting pitcher
s who pitched four consecutive complete games in the ALCS.
In Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, Konerko hit the first grand slam in White Sox World Series history to put the White Sox ahead 6–4. It was also the first grand slam in postseason history to give a team the lead when trailing in the seventh inning or later. He became the 18th player in Major League history to hit a grand slam in the World Series and the first since Tino Martinez
. Those were Konerko's only RBI's of the World Series, but they were critical in giving the White Sox the momentum to complete a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros
and they were the most for a White Sox hitter in the series. Konerko caught the final out for every one of the series-clinching games throughout the playoffs. Konerko hit .265 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI during the White Sox' championship run, all White Sox postseason records.
2006–2014: Team captain
Following the 2005 World Series victory, Konerko signed a five-year $60 million deal with the White Sox on November 30, 2005 after reportedly turning down more lucrative offers from the Los Angeles Angels
and the Baltimore Orioles
Konerko became the face of the White Sox franchise after the departure of Frank Thomas who was the face of the franchise during the 1990s. Konerko concluded the 2006 season with 35 home runs, helping him rank in the top 10 for total home runs over the past three seasons, after hitting over 40 home runs in 2004 and 2005. In 2010, he was second in the American League for home run
s with 39.
right|thumb|First baseman Konerko (left) and Andruw Jones
during a spring training game in Arizona, 2008
In 2008, Konerko again injured his thumb in the first half of the season, resulting in limited playing time in 122 games. He hit 22 home runs and 62 RBIs. On September 18, 2008, Konerko became the last opposing player to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium
in the 9th inning of a 9–2 White Sox loss. Konerko and the White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins in a dramatic 1-0 victory in the tie-breaker game
to decide the AL Central winner and move on to the playoffs. In the 2008 American League Division Series
, Konerko hit 2 home runs and drove in 2 runs in a quick exit for the White Sox, losing the series to the eventual American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays
3 games to 1.
On Monday, April 13, 2009, Konerko connected back to back with Jermaine Dye
for the 300th home run of both players' respective careers off of Detroit Tigers
pitcher Zach Miner
. This was the first time that this had ever happened in Major League history; where two players had hit a century milestone home run in one game, let alone back to back.
On July 7, 2009, Konerko was 3 for 4 with three home runs including seven RBIs in a 10–6 win against the Cleveland Indians. It was the first time in his big league career that he hit three home runs in a game. He is also the only White Sox player to accomplish that at U.S. Cellular Field
On July 10, 2010, Konerko was announced to replace Twins first baseman Justin Morneau
at the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
. This was the fourth All-Star selection of his career.
Near the end of the 2010 season, Konerko was hit in the face by Minnesota Twins pitcher Carl Pavano
. This resulted in major controversy. White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle returned the favor in the next inning hitting Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer
. Both teams then received a warning from the head umpire and no further incidents occurred. Refusing to leave the game, Konerko hit a solo home run on the first pitch he saw in his next at bat against Pavano.
Konerko finished the 2010 season with 39 home runs, his most since 2005 and the third-highest total of his career.
Additionally, he was in fifth place in the year's MVP voting, the highest finish of his career to date.
On December 8, 2010, Konerko re-signed with the Chicago White Sox
for 3 years worth $37.5 million.
On June 1, 2011, Konerko hit his 377th career home run in a game against the Boston Red Sox, passing former White Sox player Carlton Fisk
on the White Sox all-time home run list and moved up to second on the list, trailing only Frank Thomas
On June 10, 2011, Konerko hit a home run in a game against the Oakland Athletics, setting the franchise record for consecutive games with an extra base hit at 9 games.
On June 20, 2011, Konerko hit his 385th career home run in a game against the Chicago Cubs, passing former White Sox player Harold Baines
on the all-time home run list. On June 21, 2011, Konerko continued his hot June when he homered in a game against the Chicago Cubs and his 5th straight game, becoming the 5th player in White Sox history to hit a home run in 5 consecutive games. The other 5 are Greg Luzinski
, Ron Kittle
, Frank Thomas
(twice), Carlos Lee
, and most recently A. J. Pierzynski
Konerko made it onto his fifth All-Star team after winning the Final Vote
contest for the American League.
On August 23, 2011, Konerko recorded his 2,000th hit in the top of the 8th inning to tie the game at 4 to 4 against the Angels.
Konerko finished the season with 30 home runs, 105 RBIs, and a .300 batting average, the 5th time in his career that he finished with 30 home runs and 100+ RBIs.
In October 2011, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams
admitted that he briefly considered naming Konerko player-manager
for Chicago after the departure of manager Ozzie Guillén
. However, Williams never discussed the possibility with Konerko. Former White Sox player Robin Ventura
was named manager for the upcoming 2012 season. There has not been a player-manager in Major League Baseball since Pete Rose
served in the capacity for the Cincinnati Reds
In November 2011, Konerko was inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame
along with Phillies
first baseman Ryan Howard
On April 25, 2012, Konerko hit his 400th career home run, passing Al Kaline
and Andrés Galarraga
and becoming the 48th player in Major League history to hit 400 home runs. Konerko was named the American League Player of the Week for the week of April 23–29. He hit .435 with three home runs and four RBIs. He led the AL in slugging and total bases that week.
Konerko continued his hot hitting into the month of May as he racked up his second American League Player of the Week award of the season for the week of May 23–29. He hit .583 with three home runs, 10 RBI, and a 14-game hitting streak, including his 400th career home run as a member of the White Sox, becoming only the second player in franchise history to hit 400 home runs, Frank Thomas being the first.
On July 1, 2012, Konerko was elected by his peers, along with teammates Adam Dunn
, Jake Peavy
and Chris Sale
to the 83rd All-Star Game
in Kansas City. It was his sixth All-star appearance and his third in three years.
Konerko's production declined in 2013, hitting .244 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI, his lowest number of both home runs and RBI since joining the White Sox. On December 4, 2013, Konerko re-signed with the White Sox to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
Throughout the 2014 season, Konerko was honored and given a variety of farewell gifts during road games from various teams throughout baseball, including the Twins
, and crosstown rival Cubs
On April 23, 2014, Konerko doubled off of Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Miller
to break Frank Thomas' franchise total bases record with his 3,950th total base.
On May 7, 2014, Konerko played in his final game against the crosstown rival Cubs. Konerko went 2-3 including a bases clearing 3-run double in the bottom of the 5th inning to put the Sox in the lead for good, winning 8-3. Konerko would finish his career with 20 home runs against the Cubs. Konerko would hit his 439th and final home run on the 4th of July in a home game against the Seattle Mariners
, the same team that he hit his first Major League home run against in 1998, in a 7-1 win for the White Sox.
During the final homestand of the season, Konerko was honored during a pregame ceremony on September 27, 2014 before a game against the Kansas City Royals
. A statue of Konerko out in the left field concourse, adjacent to the Frank Thomas
statue, was revealed during the ceremony and the fan that caught his 2005 World Series grand slam delivered the ball to Konerko as a parting gift. Konerko played in his final game on September 28, 2014 in the last game of the season at home. Konerko went 0-3 before being replaced in the top of the 6th inning by Andy Wilkins
and leaving the field to a standing ovation from the crowd of 32,266. Upon his retirement, Konerko finished in the top 3 in most offensive categories with the White Sox with 432 home runs (2nd), 2,292 hits (3rd), 1,383 RBIs (2nd), 406 doubles (3rd), and 4,010 total bases (1st). Konerko is also the White Sox postseason leader in both home runs and RBIS with 7 and 17 respectively.
, one of Konerko's teammates, praised the slugger's leadership abilities. "He’s definitely very even-keeled, but stay out of his way if he has a rough game. He’ll blow up a little bit. He knows this organization, and most of us have played together for quite some time now. Everybody looks up to Paul as a leader and team captain. He does a good job with it and brings guys along for the ride.”
Paul Konerko retired on September 28, 2014 after spending 18 years in the majors, the last 16 of which were with the White Sox. All but 81 of Konerko's 2,349 career MLB games were played with the White Sox. Konerko was the last member of the 2005 Champion White Sox left on the team at the time of his retirement. It was announced on Paul Konerko Day that his number (#14) would be retired and the statue of Konerko was revealed in the left field concourse, becoming the 9th player so honored by the White Sox. On October 24, 2014, Konerko was named Co-Winner of the Roberto Clemente Award
, sharing the honor with Jimmy Rollins
of the Philadelphia Phillies
. By winning the award, Konerko became the first member of the White Sox to do so. On May 23, 2015 prior to a game against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, Konerko became the 10th White Sox player to have his number retired.
In May 2016, the White Sox celebrated U.S. Cellular Field
's 25th anniversary by introducing the 25 most memorable moments in the park's history. In a bracket style competition, Konerko's grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series
was voted the best moment in the park's 25-year history, as it was deemed as an iconic moment in the breaking of the franchise's 88 year championship drought.
In 2,349 games over 18 seasons, Konerko posted a .283 batting average
(2,340-for-8,393) with 1,162 runs
, 410 doubles
, 439 home runs
, 1412 RBI
, 921 bases on balls
, .354 on-base percentage
and .486 slugging percentage
. He finished his career with a .995 fielding percentage
as a first baseman.
Hall of Fame eligibility
In 2020, his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Paul Konerko received 2.5% of votes, below the 5% threshold, and has been subsequently removed from future ballots.
Konerko married Jennifer Wells in 2004. They have two sons and a daughter: Nicholas, Owen and Amelia.
A fan of the band Metallica
, Konerko's walk-up music throughout most of his tenure with the White Sox was the song "Harvester of Sorrow
" from Metallica's 1988 album ''...And Justice For All
.'' The song became synonymous with Konerko in Chicago and his looming presence at the plate.
* List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
* List of Major League Baseball career hits leaders
* List of Major League Baseball career doubles leaders
* List of Major League Baseball career runs batted in leaders
* List of Major League Baseball career runs scored leaders
* List of Major League Baseball career total bases leaders
*List of Major League Baseball career strikeouts by batters leaders
Category:Albuquerque Dukes players
Category:American sportspeople of Italian descent
Category:American League All-Stars
Category:American League Championship Series MVPs
Category:American people of Polish descent
Category:Baseball players from Arizona
Category:Baseball players from Rhode Island
Category:Birmingham Barons players
Category:Charlotte Knights players
Category:Chicago White Sox players
Category:Cincinnati Reds players
Category:Indianapolis Indians players
Category:Los Angeles Dodgers players
Category:Major League Baseball first basemen
Category:Major League Baseball players with retired numbers
Category:San Antonio Missions players
Category:San Bernardino Spirit players
Category:Sportspeople from Scottsdale, Arizona
Category:Sportspeople from Providence, Rhode Island
Category:Yakima Bears players