Paul Konerko(notes) broke into pro ball as a catcher in the Dodgers organization 15 years ago, though it must seem like another lifetime for him. As one of the World Series heroes from the White Sox's 2005 championship season, Konerko, now 33, remains a powerfully dependable veteran on the South Side.
He's not single-minded (Konerko is married and has a little boy) but his activities don't extend too far beyond the diamond. Exceptions: rock 'n' roll (the headbanging kind) and hockey.
Before a recent game at U.S. Cellular Field, Answer Man caught up with Paulie (it wasn't too tough — he's kind of slow-footed) and examined Konerko's inner concert promoter.
David Brown: First topic: Postgame beverages. I've seen you drink orange soda pop after a game ... and I've seen you with beer. Please rank your favorite orange pops for me.
Paul Konerko: Orange pop. Orange pop? I'm... a little confused. What's my favorite what?
DB: Orange soda pop? You know, like, Crush?
PK: OK, um... I don't think I have one. I mean, I've had it but there's none in this clubhouse right now. I didn't know there were any choices when it came to that. What would some of your choices be?
DB: Nehi, Crush, Sunkist, Fanta. ... Maybe I just imagined you with the orange soda pop.
DB: All right, please rank those.
PK: Beer? I like Coors Light over, say, Bud Light or Miller Lite. But I like, if I had my choice, I'd buy something like a Sierra Nevada. Fat Tire's good, too.
DB: They play Metallica's "Harvester of Sorrow" when you come to the plate. What about your ultimate metal concert lineup? Let's say we put on a LollaPaulLooza.
PK: How many bands?
DB: How long of a concert are we talkin'?
PK: You tell me [laughs]. I don't know. Two days, three days.
DB: Nine hours. Six bands.
PK: All right, in no specific order: Let's go with Black Sabbath, Metallica (right), Pantera, Megadeth, Led Zeppelin — wishing for Led Zeppelin, I guess — and then I'd slow it down a little bit with Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
DB: Alice in Chains is real slow these days.
(Here's a VIDEO link to an amusing interview Konerko did with
Wolverine Eric Braverman.)
DB: You can often be seen with facial hair, but what about just a mustache?
PK: No [laughs].
DB: What do you have against them?
PK: I got nothing against them. I think guys that wear them...
PK: ... must be tough. That's not in style anymore, so anybody who wears a mustache, I wouldn't mess around with.
DB: Isn't it coming back?
PK: As long as there's guys making jokes about other guys in mustaches, it's not "back." It's only "back" when it's "normal."
DB: What does it feel like to hit a grand slam in the World Series?
PK: Good feeling. You hit home runs during a season, you hit grand slams, but nothing's really been on that level. It's kind of an out-of-body experience for a few minutes. You don't remember too much; you remember hitting it and you remember 15 minutes later. Not too much in between. The whole next inning, on defense, it was still really loud and really buzzing. That whole series, the whole playoffs in general, our fans were very loud. This place gets very loud when there's a lot of people in it. Chalk one up for our fans. They really showed up that postseason.
(Here's more VIDEO of the moment.)
DB: What did you do in your next at-bat? Do you remember?
PK: Good question. I don't know if I got up that night again after the seventh inning. I'd have to look at that. I'm gonna say I didn't, because by the time I was supposed to, Scott Podsednik(notes) hit the homer [to win in the ninth inning, against Astros closer Brad Lidge(notes)]. I think my next at-bat was in Houston, and I might have hit a double. Might wanna check the stats.
DB: Is the '05 Series starting to feel like a long time ago yet?
PK: Yeah. Yes and no. In baseball, things change quick. Things that happen in April and May can, in the same season, seem like 10 years ago in August and September. Three or four years in baseball, that's like 10 or 12 years in normal life. But, at the same time, there's still some of the same faces around here who were on that team. I still feel that we've been a more competitive team, overall, since the World Series than we were before it. It still feels like we're still drawing from that experience.
DB: What is it about the NL's top available right-handers — Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt — who don't want to come here? What's wrong with the South Side? Is it an odor?
PK: It's not an odor [laughs]. You know, I don't know. You'd have to ask them. I don't think it's us. It's probably the combination of changing leagues and having to go 1,000 or 2,000 miles away from where they're from.
I don't think it's specifically the White Sox. I think there's a number of teams they wouldn't want to go to, and that's their right, because they got the no-trade clause in their contract — and I don't blame them. There might be 10 teams out there, but we're the ones who are trying to make moves, so it comes up more.
DB: Would you guys take the Cubs' Gatorade dispenser now that it's on the open market?
PK: Would we take it? Yeah. You'd have to ask [clubhouse man] Vince Fresso. He handles the equipment/beverage budget. I'm going to say it wouldn't be a huge bid because they're tough to run. They have all the different flavors. I don't think Vinnie wants the extra work.
DB: Would you treat it well?
PK: It wouldn't last two days in our dugout [laughs].
DB: Did A.J. (Pierzynski) behave himself at the White House?
PK: Everybody did. It's actually an intimidating place. You kind of fall in line when you get there. There's a lot of eyes on you there, a lot of security. If you get out of line, you'll probably be on your face before you know it.
DB: What was your reaction when Octavio Dotel hugged President Obama?
PK: Not overly surprised. I figured Dotel would do something screwy; that's kind of "him." The President was a good sport about it and everybody had a good laugh. It didn't surprise me, again, because nothing does with Dotel.
DB: Which public figure would you most like to hug?
PK: Which public figure would you most like to hug? I'd like to have met Mickey Mantle. I don't know about a hug, but definitely a handshake and a beer. Sit down with him and talk about some baseball. That would be a good night.
DB: Why aren't you ever the third-string catcher?
PK: Yeah, I stopped catching in '95. Let's just leave it right there. If it gets to the point, where, the team absolutely needed someone else to go back there and there was nobody else, I'd give it a crack. But we're going to exhaust all other options before it gets there. I've hung up the gear for good.
DB: You were not blessed with great speed. Keeping it clean, what quality do you have in great abundance?
PK: I would have to say... People would say I have a good sense of humor, but if you have to say you have a good sense of humor, you probably don't have it. So I'm not going to say that.
DB: Very analytical. Can you tell jokes?
PK: I'm not much of a joke teller. I'm much more of a drier... observational guy. Trying to be funny without laughing is more the way to go. What do I have in great abundance? Man, now that I think about it, nothing. I feel like I'm drained everywhere.
DB: There is a piece of biographical information about you floating around on the Internet that seems false, but it's also funny and harmless — that you "and your brothers Trace and Haus sing in the Konerko Trio." What does that mean?
PK: Somebody else brought that up to me. All I can say to disprove it is, I do not have those siblings. That pretty much ends it right there.
DB: You've never been in a group called the Konerko Trio?
PK: No. No, that sounds like somebody was out there playing a joke and it caught on. It's tough to have a trio when you only have one brother, whose name is neither of the two guys you mentioned. You get a lot of people at home and sometimes they have too much time on their hands. When it comes to computers, they've hurt as much as they've helped in this world.
DB: You are the career leader in home runs (305) for someone born in Rhode Island (pop. 1,050,788). Did you know that?
PK: No, I didn't. Wow.
DB: Per capita, ignoring all foreign-born players, you are the No. 3 home run hitter of all time, after Vermont's Carlton Fisk (376 homers, one for every 1,652 persons in Vermont); and Idaho's Harmon Killebrew (573 homers, one for every 2,659 persons in Idaho). You have one homer for every 3,455 persons in R.I.
PK: Wow, that feels good to break it down a little more. I like how you manipulated the numbers to make me sound a lot better. Well, you've got Rocco Baldelli(notes). He's probably the most famous Rhode Islander because I think he still resides there. I've got a lot of family there and I'm definitely proud to say I'm from Rhode Island.
PK: I would love to. I [live near] Phoenix, I'm a fan, I'd like to keep the team there. So, whatever helps. I told them I'd buy a season ticket or two if it helps the team stay.
DB: Big spender.
PK: Yeah [laughs]. I don't know how much else you can count on me for. Seriously, though, any involvement would be great. Phoenix is a great city. If it's done right, it can definitely have a hockey team there.
DB: What would you do without baseball?
PK: What would I do without baseball? I don't know if it's even possible to answer that question, because as long as I can remember there's always been baseball. But I would hope I could play hockey. I'm a big fan and I played it when I was younger. I'd like to think I'd have been a hockey player if not for baseball. Some other job, if not that, I guess I'd be a reporter. That way, I could follow baseball. I've never given it one second of thought, because ever since I was eight years old, that's what I wanted to be. I'm going to keep going with it until they tell me to go home.
DB: You don't even like orange pop, do you?
PK: I mean, I've had it. I don't dislike it. I don't request it, I don't crave it. If there was one sitting in front of me, I would drink it. But I don't go out of my way to buy it. I don't think I've ever purchased any from a store. Let's put it that way.
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