Chaos ensued at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday when the White Sox retired Paul Konerko’s No. 14.
His microphone cut out during his speech and in the middle of one of the most important parts: his address to the fans. And who was the coolest, calmest and most collected person in the building?
Captain Paul Konerko, of course.
He brushed it off like a fastball to the face from Jeff Samardzija — a memory that the crowd, Konerko and, of course, Samardzija had a good laugh about during the ceremony — and displayed the lovable character that had everyone chanting “Paulie.”
“And that's how I learned about meaning of life,” Konerko said laughing when the microphone turned back on.
[MORE WHITE SOX: Paul Konerko on future: 'Maybe I'm good at something else']
On a picture-perfect day, the beloved former first baseman was overcome by an emotional ceremony as the the White Sox retired his number in front of a sold out crowd on the South Side.
Konerko admitted that speeches aren’t exactly within the realm of his comfort zone. Even White Sox manager Robin Ventura was intrigued to see how his former player’s speech would go. But in the only way he knows how, Konerko thanked everyone that showed up to his ceremony from first baseman Jim Thome to former manager Ozzie Guillen to the fans.
Guillen, who received a huge ovation from the fans, lauded Konerko’s well-known work ethic and said had an impact on everyone he was around.
“I think one to be here, the reason I am who I am is because of No. 14,” Guillen said. “That guy he was outstanding, he make everybody around him play better. He makes everybody around him be better. As long as I don’t have to work, I be here and this is a special day: not just for him but for me and my family also. This guy, he makes our life very happy.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: Paul Konerko supports Guillen: 'I'm an Ozzie guy']
Two of the people Konerko thanked the most were his hitting coaches, Greg Walker and Mike Gellinger. Both made note of the slugger’s tremendous attitude, and Walker, who was with the White Sox from 2003 to 2011, said Konerko was a rare specimen in baseball because of his mental approach.
“He’s a perfectionist in a tough game to be a perfectionist,” Walker said. “He’s brilliant. I’ve been a hitting coach for a long time up until this year, and I never ran around anybody that could process information at game speed the way he could. If anybody else tried to copy, they had no chance.”
One element of the ceremony Konerko enjoyed the most was how soon this event took place from when he retired. The former first baseman discussed after the ceremony how often he sees successful players not get recognized for their achievements until years have passed.
“It’s just another class move by (White Sox chariman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) to say we know what it is and let’s just do it and get it over with,” Konerko said. “I hope that’s a trend to start with some other teams like what’s there to wait for?”
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get a Paul Konerko jersey right here]
Reinsdorf said Konerko’s number being retired is “one of baseball’s highest honors” and that Konerko “deservedly belongs with all of the other White Sox greats who have starred over the many decades.”
Konerko had ample time to prepare for this moment, but the cool, calm and collected darling of the South Side confessed the sight of his name next to the likes of Harold Baines, Frank Thomas and Minnie Minoso, to name a few, got him emotional.
“You know it's going up there, and I had known it's been going up there for a while," he said. "But when you actually see it, a lot of things flash across your mind, a lot of work, a lot of things back when you're young in high school, in the minor leagues, you have those thoughts about stuff, a lot of the struggles to get to that. It was meaningful.”