By Bruce Levine-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) — Making some of his final baseball stops, Paul Konerko is looking forward to his bounty of mementos from his final active season.
The 38-year-old iconic White Sox star also is looking to acquire a few historic old ball items as well.
“I would love to get Les Grobstein’s microphone, the one he used to tape the famous Lee Elia rant on Cub fans in 1983,” he said. “To me, that is the best sports tape I have ever heard.”
Konerko is not a collector by nature, but he said he is regretting not asking for more items from players along the way.
“I was afraid to ask as a younger player because I did not want to be deflated if a guy I admired said no,” Konerko said. “I was taught by my dad to look at people in the eye and shake their hands. He said that was as good as it gets with communication.”
The veteran Chicago star collected some baseball cards when he was a kid.
“When I was 10 and 11, I collected cards, mostly Yankees and Don Mattingly cards. He was the guy for me when I watched as a young guy.” Konerko said. “When I got to the majors, I thought I might collect a few things, but if I sent a ball to Cal Ripken Jr., it would have been crushing if he said ‘I don’t sign for other players.’ I am sure he would have done it, but I didn’t want to risk it. If anyone on other teams asked me I have always been glad to do it.”
Konerko has saved some of the more iconic baseballs from his notable career.
“Right now, with the exception of a few framed World Series things and All Star moments on my weight room walls, everything I have is in boxes from my career in baseball,” he said. “When I am finished I will try to organize it and I have a room in my house that I have made in an Irish bar- pub style. That would be a room where I might end up putting some of these things up.”
The Cubs gave Konerko the number 14 off of the scoreboard as going away present last week at the Cubs-Sox crosstown series. More items from teams will follow in the coming months.
“To think that people want to thank you for playing in the big leagues blows me away,” he said. “All of us who made it know that the gift was having a career as major league player. I am humbled by it and watched it as a player when guys get gifts at the end of their careers. You never for a second think you are one of them, and I still don’t.”
Konerko has home run balls from number 100-200-300-400 in his career. There is one item that is arguably the greatest piece of White Sox history he has given away: the ball from the last out of the 2005 World Series he gave to owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
“I will not ask for it back,” Konerko laughed “I have all the great memories in my head, they are secure up there. That’s where they stay I guess.”
As for the Grobstein microphone, Konerko said, “That is really a piece of history. If I get the mic from Les, it will be like all my teammates are getting it who laughed and enjoyed it over the years. In my opinion, it is the most hysterical thing around baseball I ever heard. The word on the street is Grobstein asked how much I want to spend. I told that street agent that he has to tell me how much he wants, that is how it works. I am not going to bid against myself. The ball is in his court, we will see what happens there.”