New York Yankees were not the only team to bid farewell to a long-serving captain this September as Chicago White Sox paid tribute to Paul Konerko.
The 38-year-old officially retired when he exited U.S Cellular Field in the sixth inning of the Kansas City Royals game, but the White Sox could not forge a fairytale ending as they lost 6-4.
Konerko, who also played for Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds before representing the White Sox for 16 years, ran out to first base at the top of the sixth inning while starter Chris Bassitt warmed up.
Once Bassitt was ready to play Konerko nodded and made his way out of the game to be replaced by rookie Andy Wilkins. The pair hugged as Konerko was given a standing ovation by the 32,266 crowd as they gave their captain one final goodbye.
Konerko might have dreamt of the perfect send-off - similar to the one Derek Jeter has enjoyed with the Yankees - but unfortunately his White Sox team came up against the Royals who still harboured hopes of the American League Central title.
The first baseman was also playing with a fractured sesamoid bone in his left hand and was unable to deliver a final hit, instead going 0-for-3 with two striekouts.
His major league figures ended on a .279 average, 439 homers and 1,412 RBIs.
Leaves a legend
Speaking in a postgame interview for the last time as player, Konerko said: "I understand it's the end. And I now understand there's a lot of people out there I've impacted over the years here. I see people crying out there. That's crazy that just because I played a game, I never thought about that stuff."
Konerko displayed his own tribute to his family a few minutes before the first pitch when he wrote ‘Nick, Owen A [Amelia] and J [Jennifer]’ in the dirt behind his first base, finished with a heart at the bottom.
“I came here as a 22-year-old, 23-year-old kid with nothing, single guy and all that. I'm leaving with a wife, three kids,” the White Sox captain explained. “It reminded me that's what's on the other side, and it will be good."
Konerko began his major league career with the Dodgers as a first round pick in the 1994 MLB draft but failed to settle and was eventually traded to the Reds in 1998.
After playing just 26 games in Cincinnati, Konerko was traded again in November '98 but this time he found himself at home with the White Sox, playing as either their reliable first baseman or designated hitter.
White Sox Hero
In 2005 he won the World Series against the Houston Astros and in Game 2 he hit the first grand slam in White Sox World Series history. Konerko also won the ALCS MVP award that year.
The 38-year-old made six All-Star appearances, coming between 2002 and 2012.
After impressing the White Sox management during the World Series, Konerko was handed the captaincy at the start of the 2006 season.
His White Sox manager Robin Ventura was left with the final words on his captain. He said: “The crowd’s reaction and having the people here he cared most about was very important to him. He went out in a classy way.”
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