Konerko leads the way as usual

Konerko leads the way as usual

BOSTON -- Paul Konerko stood over to the side of the Chicago clubhouse, which is difficult to do. The visitors' quarters at ancient Fenway Park is so tiny that every part seems to be a side.

Just a few feet away, his White Sox teammates were spraying champagne, lighting cigars and engaging in all the other light-hearted shenanigans that go along with winning a championship.

The White Sox had just vanquished the Boston Red Sox, who last year had won their first World Series title since 1918. Now the White Sox were enjoying their first postseason prize since the 1917 World Series.

"I just think about what we saw this Boston team do last year and it was the toughest thing that's probably been done by any sports team ever," Konerko said.

And now, after 102 victories, his White Sox had put the glowing memories of the 2004 Red Sox to rest.

"This is great," Konerko said. "We had the team to do this. We knew we had the pitching. We thought we had the timely hitting."

Ah, yes, timely hitting.

It was Konerko's good timing with a two-run homer against Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield in the sixth inning that provided the winning thrust to Friday's 5-3 victory and the White Sox three-game sweep of the American League Division Series.

He connected after Jermaine Dye drew a leadoff walk.

"Just a knuckleball," Konerko said. "The first couple of at-bats I kind of forced it a little bit, trying to do a little too much. I just kind of let the ball come to me and just swung hard."

Entering the game, Konerko had enjoyed modest success against Wakefield in his career; though he had just five hits in 20 at-bats (.250), two of them were home runs.

Leading off the second inning on Friday, Konerko struck out swinging against Wakefield. Later, with two runners on base and two down in the third, he flew out to right field.

But Konerko, who led the team with 40 home runs in the regular season and went deep off Matt Clement in Tuesday's series opener, was able to make the adjustment to come through with yet another big hit for his team.

"Really, down the stretch he provided a lot of leadership in the clubhouse and in the dugout, too," said hitting coach Greg Walker.

"He's really so mechanically good, and I really felt good about him going into the knuckleball guy. I knew if he got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it, he might have a chance of popping one."

Pop one he did, over the Green Monster in left field on a 1-1 flutterball.

Amid shouts of "Paulie! Paulie!", Konerko was drenched with champagne. In his hand was a soggy, smoldering cigar.

"We had our eye on the prize, and we still do," he said.

Konerko interrupted his discourse with reporters.

"Hey, I've got to go back to my team, fellows," he said, plunging into the melee at the center of the little room.

Walker watched with an appreciative smile.

"He's our leader, he's our captain," Walker said. "He really is."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.