This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Paul Konerko was born on March 5th, 1976 in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a stand out at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in first round of the June Amateur Draft following his senior year. Konerko made an immediate impact in the minor leagues, leading the Single A Yokima Bears with six home runs in 67 games. In fact, he led his team in home runs three times during his climb through the minor league ranks. His 37 home runs to lead the Triple A Albuquerque Dukes led to a September call up in 1997.
1998 proved to be an important year for Konerko, as he spent 75 games in the big leagues and was traded for the first time. He started the year with the Dodgers and returned to the Dukes at the end of April for a month before returning. He clubbed his first home run off Bob Wells in June and hit four with the big league club during the season. On the fourth of July Konerko was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He hit three home runs with the Reds and eight more during another stint at the Triple A level.
In a May 2006 issue of Baseball Digest, Doug Padilla wrote about the impact of winning a World Series on Paul Konerko’s standing with fans and teammates alike. Click here to check it out!
During the off-season, he was traded again. This time, he was traded to Chicago White Sox for outfielder Mike Cameron. The trade added Konerko to a lineup with offensive power that already included Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas. The acquisition of Konerko helped the White Sox reach the postseason for the first time since 1993. Though they weren’t successful in 2000, Konerko’s addition changed the dynamic of the team.
Since becoming an every day player with the White Sox, Konerko has averaged 30 home runs a year(twice hitting 40 or more) to go along with four All-Star nods. He has averaged 147 games a year, while knocking in more than 90 runs on average; he has driven in more than 100 runs five times in his career. Along the way to 365 career homers, Konerko has slugged three in a single game and hit his 300th in back-to-back homers with Jermaine Dye, who also hit his 300th career homer. The feat was the first of its kind in Major League Baseball history.
Most significantly though, Konerko played a huge role with the 2005 World Champion White Sox squad, earning MVP honors of the ALCS. In Game 3 of the series, Konerko helped set the tone with a 2 run home run in the first inning to cap off a three run inning. He continued his first inning heroics in Game 4, with a three run homer off Ervin Santana. He also added an insurance run with a double in Game 5. On the series, he hit .286 with 7 RBI. In the World Series against the Houston Astros, Konerko added a grand slam home run in Game 2 to bring the White Sox back from a 4-2 deficit.
Paul Konerko currently ranks high among the greatest White Sox for various franchise records. With a new three year contract in hand, Konerko has a great chance to end his career with the White Sox and rank among Frank Thomas, Nellie Fox and Luke Appling as one of the franchise best.
Also Born On This Day:
Hall of Famer Sam Thompson(b.1860) ranked second all-time in with 126 home runs at the time of his retirement. During the 19th century, Thompson was one of the best offensive players in the major leagues. His 61 RBI in a single month remains a record today, and his 1887 season with 166 RBI wasn’t bested for 34 years until Babe Ruth knocked in 171 in 1921. Thompson died in 1922 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Elmer Valo(b.1921) played twenty years in the big leagues, and may be best remembered for the ever-evolving nature of Major League Baseball between 1940 and 1961. Valo was a member of the Philadelphia Athletics team that was moved to Kansas City prior to the 1954 season and became the Kansas City Royals. Two years later he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957 and was a member of the team when they relocated to Los Angeles, California. Finally, Valo joined the Washington Senators in 1960 and they moved to Minnesota in 1961 to become the Twins.