Chicago White Sox retire former first baseman Paul Konerko's No. 14

CHICAGO - Paul Konerko, Chicago's reluctant superstar, had his No. 14 retired Saturday by the White Sox.

Not one to draw attention to himself, outside of the adoration he got for his play on the field, Konerko walked in alone from center field to begin the pregame ceremony before the White Sox faced the Minnesota Twins.

With friends, family, former teammates and coaches on hand, Konerko gave a 20-minute speech from the home plate area while multiple retrospectives of his career played on the video board. His three kids, all age 10 and under, counted down to zero, at which point his No. 14, painted on the facing of the upper deck behind home plate, was revealed.

"It's good to see you again," Konerko said to the fans at the start of his speech. "It has been awhile."

In fact, it hasn't been all that long. Konerko played his last major league game in September, getting a grand sendoff that day. But it was Saturday that Konerko considered the official end to his baseball story, one that told the tale of six All-Star appearances, a 2005 World Series title, 439 home runs and 1,412 RBIs.

"I was impressed by everything [the White Sox] did; it was cool," Konerko said. "It was nice to see your name up there. I had known it was going up there for a while, but when you actually see it, a lot of things flash across your mind: a lot of work, a lot of things back when you're young in high school, in the minor leagues. You have those thoughts about stuff, a lot of the struggles to get to that. It was meaningful."

Outside of his family, Konerko's greatest thrill was having his old hitting instructors, Mike Gellinger and Greg Walker, on hand. He asked both to stand up so they could be recognized.

"I hope they get some play in all that," Konerko said. "Every player that played, Hall of Famer, guy with his number retired, you get help from coaches like you wouldn't believe. I leaned on people more than the average guy that had a number retired. It didn't come easy to me."

Also on hand was former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who got the biggest ovation outside of Konerko. Guillen watched the ceremony sitting next to current White Sox manager and former teammate Robin Ventura.

"I think the reason I am who I am is because of No. 14," Guillen said. "That guy, he was outstanding. He made everybody around him play better. He made everybody around be better. I told the White Sox, as long as I don't have to work, I'll be here, and this is a special day."

The upcoming number retirement down the road figures to be Guillen's No. 13, to go alongside Konerko's No. 14.

"We'll see," Guillen said. "I mean, I hope that happens one day, but today is about P.K. and I'm going to celebrate No. 14. No. 13, if that ever comes, I hope I'm still alive just to enjoy it. I'm so happy and so proud to be part of this because I know how big this thing is for [Konerko], for his teammates, his coaching, for the owner, for [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams]."

At one point during Konerko's speech to the sold-out crowd, the microphone stopped working, making it look like the ceremony would end sooner than expected. But when the microphone came back, Konerko let his dry humor show.

"... and that's how I figured out the meaning of life," Konerko said, pretending that everybody missed out on the world's most important secret.

For most in attendance, Konerko was the meaning of life for nearly two decades when the conversation was about White Sox baseball.

"This is a game. Nothing happens on a baseball field that's going to cure people of diseases or cancer or anything, but there are times that you touch people with what you do out there and it really matters in their life that helps them and it really matters in a human way," said Konerko, whose presence helped the White Sox draw just their second sold-out crowd of the season for a 4-3 loss to the Twins. "When you see that, that's when it hits home a lot more, and it makes you understand it, especially being out of the game now.

"I just had my head down playing for 20 years and I'm lifting it up for seven months and you realize, 'I affected people in a lot of ways; not all for the good, but a lot for the good,' and it feels good."