Paul Konerko connects for a home run agains the Kansas City Royals during a game late in the 2011 season. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

Paulie, Paulie, Paulie… the familiar fan chant that thundered throughout Comiskey Park and U.S. Cellular Field whenever Paul Konerko came to bat rang out loud and clear during the White Sox game versus the Royals September 29th… But was it for the last time?

A young Paul Konerko, sporting the number 66 reserved for rookies trying to make the major league roster, looks on during a spring training game in Lakeland Florida during March, 1998. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

The big question during the off season on Chicago’s south side is… Will the six-time American League All-Star be back for his 18th big league season, or will he decide to hang em’ up, going down in history as one of the greatest players in White Sox history?

Only Paul knows the answer to that question, and according to published reports, even he doesn’t know for sure at this point.

So before I get preoccupied with shooting post season baseball for Major League Baseball Photos (actually, I am putting the finishing touches on this blog from the photo workroom deep inside the bowels of Busch Stadium, 4 hours prior to Game 5 of the NLDS), I thought it would be fun to take a pictorial look back, as seen through my lens, of Paul’s career.  I feel quite privileged to have covered a large portion of his big league career, even while he was with the Dodgers during late 1997 and 1998.

7 After breaking camp with the Dodgers in 1998, Konerko (now wearing a more major league like number 7) bats during an April game versus the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

I remember the trade the White Sox made with the Cincinnati Reds, bringing Paul to the Southside in exchange for another promising young player, Mike Cameron.  At the time, it seemed like an even swap.  In retrospect, the White Sox most definitely got the better end of that deal.

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The future for the Chicago White Sox sure seemed bright, especially with the teams offensive nucleus built around the trio of Konerko, Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez.

The middle of the White Sox batting order during 2002 season was centered around Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

Interestingly enough, it all came together in 2005 after the team lost Magglio Ordonez to free agency following the 2004 season.  As good as the team looked in 2003 and 2004, looking good on paper, as most baseball fans unfortunately know, doesn’t necessarily equate to a guarantee of post season baseball come October.

Paul Konerko bats during an interleague game versus the Chicago Cubs on June 27, 2004 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

But in 2005, the stars were aligned just right and it all came together for the Konerko led White Sox to their first World Series Championship in 88 years.

ANAHEIM – OCTOBER 16: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox touches first base to record the final out in the ninth inning during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on October 16, 2005 in Anaheim, California. The White Sox defeated the Angels 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (Photo by Ron Vesely)
CHICAGO – OCTOBER 23: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox hits a grand slam home run off of Chad Qualls in the seventh inning during Game 2 of the 2005 World Series against the Houston Astros at US Cellular Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Astros 7-6. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

Paul’s intensity and work ethic were (are), in my opinion, second to none.  He seems to be always thinking about his next at-bat, whether he is working around the batting cage or in the dugout between innings.  To me, that trait was old school baseball.

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His commitment to excellence and leadership by example led manager Ozzie Guillen to appoint him team captain in 2006.

As I mentioned, Paul is a six-time American League All-Star, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  The fans voted Konerko into the All-Star Game during the “Final Vote” contest.

White Sox fans express their desire to have Paul Konerko voted in during MLB’s “Final Vote” in 2010. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

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Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham take the field together, as they always did when they were both in the lineup, perhaps for the last time prior to the September 29th, 2013 game against the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

I selfishly hope that Paul makes the decision to come back for one final year (with the White Sox, of course) so that baseball, particularly the fans, can return a little of the love that he gave us over the years in a send off similar to the ones given Chipper Jones last season and  more recently Mariano Rivera.

Paul Konerko acknowledges the fans after being removed from the game in the second inning of the September 29th game against the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Ron Vesely)

I hope Paul gives baseball fans everywhere the opportunity to chant Paulie, Paulie, Paulie one last time…


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