White Sox icon Konerko gives Yankees icon Jeter farewell presents
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media May 25, 2014 10:43PM
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 25: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees chats with Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox during a pre-game ceremony honoring Jeter at U.S. Cellular Field on May 25, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Both players will retire at the end of the season. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477583711
One retiring icon presented farewell gifts to another retiring icon Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
But there was as much meaning in Paul Konerko doing the honors for Derek Jeter as in the gifts bestowed.
‘‘The thing that’s the same about them is that throughout baseball they have similar respect from opposing players,’’ Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
He played with Jeter on the Yankees in 2002 and 2003 and is in his third year of managing Konerko.
‘‘[People] respect the way they go about their business when they play and being there every day,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘They’re pretty much every-day guys for most of their careers.’’
The Sox played a video tribute to Jeter during the pregame ceremony. Then Konerko took the field, and the two embraced, and Jeter was given three gifts: a personalized bat bench made by former Sox slugger Ron Kittle constructed with bats representing past Yankees greats, a glass encasement of dirt from the shortstop position at the ballpark with the names of each Hall of Fame shortstop who has played there (Jeter’s name was included at the bottom) and a $5,000 check to Jeter’s charity, the Turn 2 Foundation.
Jeter then played his best game of the season, getting four hits — including a triple — scoring a run and driving in two.
It was his first four-hit game since Aug. 20, 2012, when he also did it against the Sox on the South Side.
“The fans have been great,’’ Jeter said afterward. ‘‘I’ve always enjoyed coming to Chicago and playing here. I haven’t played in Wrigley too much, but every year playing here, it’s one of my favorite cities. The way the fans have treated me here in these two series, it’s been tremendous. It’s something I’ll always remember.
‘‘You want them to remember that you were respectful, to your teammates, the fans, opponents. I like being remembered as a Yankee. That’s enough for me.”
Jeter’s farewell has drawn national attention. He has had standing ovations at every road stop.
Konerko, who will go down in Sox history as one of the franchise’s greatest hitters, won’t be feted the same way.
But he ranks high in Jeter’s eyes.
‘‘Paulie is a great guy,’’ Jeter said. ‘‘He’s a guy who’s had a lot of success and plays the game the right way. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the years. He’s someone you always remember, and it has just as much to do with the person as with the player.’’
Konerko (16 seasons) and Jeter (20) are the longest-tenured players on their teams. Both are captains for similar reasons, Ventura said.
‘‘I think playing with Derek and having Paul here, it’s just the dependability of them every day and that they’re [giving] the best they’ve got. You always know that’s gonna be there.’’
Jeter’s numbers will get him into the Hall of Fame. Konerko will have a more challenging road to Cooperstown, though he ranks 43rd all-time in home runs and is second on the Sox in homers and RBI to Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.
‘‘Paulie is more of a power hitter than Derek,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘That would be a difference. And they played different positions.’’
But Jeter and Konerko are equal in character, he said.
‘‘They play different positions,’’ Ventura said, ‘‘but both are still important pieces to their teams.’’