(CBS) — The man who is in possession of the White Sox world championship baseball from 2005 paid tribute Friday to the player who caught the last out in that memorable World Series game.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf will wave goodbye to one of his favorite people and players this weekend as first baseman Paul Konerko retires.
“He was the face of the franchise and always conducted himself with class,” Reinsdorf said Friday. “A steady guy — not flamboyant, not spectacular. He just came to work every day. His popularity is attributed to intelligence of our fans. In my 35 years, who were the two most popular? Paul and Harold Baines. Neither talked very much, yet the fans loved both of those guys. And fans could sense what good guys they were.”
Konerko said playing for the White Sox for 16 straight seasons was the highlight of his career. Winning a World Series was listed as the single most memorable moment for the player and boss alike.
“You can guess the obvious No. 1 highlight for me was when he gave me the ball,” Reinsdorf said about the gift that Konerko gave his boss at the rally for the team in Grant Park. “That, of course, was my favorite moment. His (Game 2) grand slam has to be right up there.”
Konerko has been the favorite of ownership, teammates, fan base and media alike. It’s a rarity to see a player being exalted in every area of work and communications by the masses.
“He reminded me a lot of Pee Wee Reese (of the Brooklyn Dodgers), who was my favorite all time player,” Reinsdorf said. “He was a quiet leader and led by example, rather than a rah-rah guy. There are not many players that can be a leader by just their personality. When a great leader outworks everyone else and comes to work early and plays hard and really gives it his all, that is really leadership. That is the way Paulie led.”
Konerko made $130 million in his White Sox career and left an extra $5 million on the table after the 2005 season by returning to the White Sox over the higher bid from the Baltimore Orioles. He signed a five-year, $65 million deal back then.
“I have not given Paulie any money,” Reinsdorf said “He earned every dollar he got. He could have gotten more money someplace else. We got our money’s worth.”
The chairman confirmed a statue and number retirement is waiting for Konerko in the future.
“It is a tribute to him and a blessing to us that he could be in one place 16 years,” Reinsdorf said. “It is gratifying. We need more (Derek) Jeters, we need more Konerkos, because like it or not, they are role models and we need more like them.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.