Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues

Retiring captain formed rare bond with organization, fans

Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues

CHICAGO -- There are countless great Paul Konerko memories for Jerry Reinsdorf to consider as his favorite over the 16 years the White Sox chairman has spent with the White Sox captain.

Of course one memory involving the two men stands out among all others.

"You could probably guess couldn't you?" a smiling Reinsdorf said, speaking to the media prior to Friday night's contest against the Royals.

Reinsdorf was referring, of course, to Konerko handing him the baseball from the last out of the 2005 World Series championship on the dais during the celebratory parade in downtown Chicago, one of the true moving surprises of Reinsdorf's life.

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Konerko, Reinsdorf said, reminded him of Pee Wee Reese -- one of Reinsdorf's all-time favorite players -- in that he was a quiet leader who led by example. Executive vice president Ken Williams truly appreciated Konerko's leadership quality at the helm of teams he constructed as general manager.

"I tried to bridge the gap between management and players, and oftentimes some of the more veteran players, when we're contemplating either mid-season additions or offseason additions, I'd pull veteran players aside," Williams said. "And he was part of that group, where I'd ask his opinion: 'Who do you think are the championship players on your team?' And, 'We're considering this particular guy or that particular guy on another team. What do you know about him? Is that guy a championship player? What kind of guy is he? Does he fit in the clubhouse?'

"So, those peripheral things that I think, if I didn't say it here today, none of you would know and no one else would know. Those are just as valuable for a guy like me and for the management team as they are for the on-field team."

On Thursday, Konerko said if the phone rang and it was Reinsdorf, he would always answer and ask what he could do to help. Reinsdorf echoed the same sentiment toward Konerko on Friday, mentioning that they would see each other in Arizona in the offseason and maybe even go to a Phoenix Coyotes hockey game.

"It's very open door, very you can walk in there, anybody can walk in there and sit down in his office and chat with him if you want," said Konerko of Reinsdorf. "It's not some big grand thing. I've always felt comfortable with that, the way he's treated people.

"You guys don't even know how he's handled people that used to play here, used to work here, all that stuff. You just see that and then you have your own dealings with him. I'm very lucky to have that type of thing."

With a space in the retired numbers between Luis Aparicio's No. 11 and Ted Lyons' No. 16, it's widely assumed that Konerko's No. 14 will be retired during the ceremony to honor him on Saturday. Reinsdorf definitively stated that Konerko's number will be retired and that he also is worthy of a statue, although he didn't give a time frame for either.

The toughest part, for Reinsdorf, will be when Konerko is not around next year at Spring Training. Baseball certainly will feel the departure of class acts such as Konerko and Derek Jeter.

"We need more Jeters, we need more Konerkos, we need more people like that. Because whether they want to be role models or not, they are role models," Reinsdorf said. "People like Paulie and Derek set a great example for the kids and we need to get more kids interested in the game. One of our problems is the average age of our fans is getting older. We've got to attract the kids and teenagers. Guys who play with class and don't get into trouble bring people like that to the game.

"Actually, I was thinking the other day about [Konerko's] popularity, in a way, is a tribute to the intelligence of our fans. In my 35 years, who were the two most popular [White Sox] players? Harold [Baines] and Paulie. Neither one of whom said very much. But yet the fans loved both of the guys. It's really a tribute to our fans that they were able to sense what good guys they were even without them being out there and being characters."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.