September 28, 2014
Today marks the end of the 2014 MLB season. Ten teams will duke it out to become the next World Series Champion. Before the postseason starts, we remember the contributions of those who will no longer play the game of baseball.
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko announced his retirement on January 24. He was a staple of the White Sox franchise, leading the team all-time in total bases (3950). Konerko also won with Chicago in 2005 and was the ALCS MVP that year.
Paul Konerko hanged up his cleats with 438 home runs and 1412 RBIs with an all-time batting average of .279. One question remains: where’s the love for Paul Konerko?
— MLB Memes (@MLBMeme) September 21, 2014
Let’s be fair here; Konerko didn’t ask for the spotlight. He just wanted to play baseball. The six-time All Star never complained about the lack of respect. But it’s a fair point to be made. Why hasn’t Konerko gotten the glory? One other person decided to retire as well.
Derek Jeter also played his last game on Sunday, completing the “#RE2PECT” campaign at Boston. The Yankees shortstop retires with 3465 hits, sixth all time. He also won five world titles and a rookie of the year award among other awards.
This is what happens when your retirement is dwarfed with others overshadowing it. The occurrence happens everywhere. It just hasn’t been more notable in baseball.
In fact, it happened before in 2001. That year, despite the prolonged season due to unfortunate events, saw Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken and the Padres’ late Tony Gwynn retire.
Gwynn, the Padres’ outfielder, called it quits with 3141 hits and a lifetime .338 batting average. The 15-time All Star, however, didn’t receive the publicity as Ripken did. Why? Ripken, like Jeter, has more significance to baseball.
Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played in 1998, as that record of 2,632 games seems impossible to break. It earned him the moniker of baseball’s “Iron Man.” And everyone respected him.
Granted the fans respected Gwynn too. But they loved Ripken more.
What does this mean then? Do baseball fans simply love shortstops more than any other position player?
Nonsense! Whoever plays the game with honor and respect deserves the same from fans. However, it’s all about significance.
Ripken and Jeter were considered to be the faces of baseball. Gwynn and Konerko, despite their accomplishments, are not. There’s no shame in that because both men didn’t seem to care.
Keep in mind that Ripken and Jeter knew their swan songs would be publicized for the world to see. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants that to happen.
Maybe Konerko did want the admiration from everyone. Regardless, he played the game with class and dignity. And that’s more rewarding for any player who plays the game the right way.
Thank you, Paul Konerko. May you enjoy a happy retirement.
Copyright @ 2007
*Stats are from espn.go.com