CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox retired Paul Konerko’s No. 14 jersey Saturday before their game against the Minnesota Twins.
The fans chanted “Paulie! Paulie!” as Konerko entered from the center-field fence and walked through the outfield grass to home plate. He then watched as his family counted down the unveiling of his number on the facade above home plate.
“I know most players that are considered for something like this can take years sometimes to get one of (statue) or (retired number),” said Konerko, who retired after last season. “You’ve done this quickly and I know my family and friends really appreciated it. It’s just a cool thing. I feel really honored and humbled to have this done so quickly after I played.”
Konerko established himself as one of the top sluggers in White Sox history and helped them end a championship drought that lasted nearly nine decades.
He joined greats such as Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines as the 11th player to have his number retired by the White Sox. That includes Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997.
It was a fitting honor for a six-time All-Star who hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series to help Chicago sweep Houston for its first title since 1917.
Konerko spent 16 seasons with the White Sox. He was honored with a statue last season on the outfield concourse. On Saturday, he returned to see his number retired in grand fashion. He thanked everyone from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to his first minor league manager Joe Vavra, who is the current bench coach for the Twins.
The White Sox pulled out all the stops, including having fans in the left-field stands holding up placards with Konerko’s initials and his number. The first 20,000 fans received a mini statue of Konerko.
On a picturesque afternoon, it was the second sellout of the season.
Some of his former teammates were in attendance, including Jim Thome. Also at the ceremony was outspoken former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who received a standing ovation.
“I (wrote) his name in the lineup every day,” Guillen said. “He was a tough son of a gun. To be honest with you, I never even asked him about a day off. He did the best with what he had.”
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