- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"How lucky am I," Konerko said after that game, "that I hit a grand slam in the World Series and it's still the second-best thing to happen to me this week?"
Konerko had no interest in keeping the baseball that ended the White Sox' 88-year drought, an extremely valuable totem. Instead, he turned the ball over to a visibly moved White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf at the team's championship rally in Chicago two days later.
In late November, while Konerko was finalizing his new contract with Chicago, newspapers also carried stories about the Red Sox' petitioning a judge to get their hands on the World Series ball that had ended their 86-year drought in 2004. The first baseman who caught that last Series out, Doug Mientkiewicz, laid personal claim to the ball, and a year later the rather awkward dispute that ensued remained unresolved.
For the White Sox the return of Konerko was more important than that of the baseball. The Baltimore Orioles had offered Konerko more money, $65 million over five years, and the Los Angeles Angels had offered him an opportunity to play closer to his Scottsdale home. But Chicago offered him something on top of the $60 million that no other ball club could.
"It's as simple as where your heart is," Konerko said the day his deal was announced. "That's what brought me back."
For the record Luis Gonzalez hit 29 fewer home runs in 2002 and has not been back to the postseason since. Jack Morris was 0-2 in the 1992 World Series. Kirk Gibson hit .213 and missed more than half of the 1989 season with injuries. Plagued by pain in his right shoulder and foot, Bret Saberhagen was 7-12 in 1986. Bucky Dent hit .230, his career-worst as a regular, in 1979. Roger Maris hit 28 fewer home runs in 1962.
That's how it goes when you achieve something as rare as your own personal year. Konerko will hit more home runs, make more money, maybe even win more world championships, but the experience will never be so fresh and so dense in newfound joy as it was this year, his year. Paulie will have 2005. Always.