CLEVELAND -- As he heads into the final two games he’ll ever play at Wrigley Field, Paul Konerko has no question about his favorite Cubs/White Sox memory.
The unanimous winner in that category is the 2006 brouhaha that resulted from White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski getting punched by Cubs catcher Michael Barrett after a collision at home plate in which Pierzynski defiantly slapped home plate afterward.
Even though he’s not a fan of the timing, Konerko, who has said he’ll retire after the 2014 season, looks forward to the four-game series between the Cubs and White Sox that gets underway at Wrigley Field on Monday night. The series, which features the earliest meeting ever between the teams, shifts to U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night.
“It could be done a little differently,” Konerko said. “But I still enjoy going over to Wrigley. It’s a cool place to play. … The amenities and facility are no good. That goes without saying, but that’s fine. It’s only a couple of days. It’s not that much to ask. But it is a really unique setting when you’re out there playing and there’s a lot of history there and that’s not lost on me. I’m a fan of all that. I take it all in. I’ve been taking it all in since I’ve been going there and it’s a great place to hit when the wind is blowing out.”
Konerko has a .311/.357/.521 slash line with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 129 plate appearances at Wrigley Field.
He’s collected a lifetime of memories from a rivalry he said has more energy than a regular season series but doesn’t quite equal a playoff matchup. He remembers Mike Caruso’s game-winning homer, one that lifted the White Sox to a series sweep in 1999 and countless other big moments.
But Barrett’s punch of Pierzynski and the benches clearing afterward is the clearest of them all.
“That was the crown jewel of the Cubs/Sox rivalry so far,” Konerko said with a smile.
As he takes two last laps around Wrigley this week Konerko plans to pay even more attention just like he did last month when the White Sox visited the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies for the final time. Konerko could be seen snapping a few pictures of Coors Field before the series finale.
“It’s Wrigley Field and it’s a historic place and I’ve had a lot of good games,” Konerko said. “There are a lot of memories. I’ll definitely take it a little more in, that’s for sure.”