Konerko connects for 400th career homer

Konerko connects for 400th career homer

OAKLAND -- Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run during the ninth inning of Wednesday's 5-4 loss for the White Sox to Oakland in 14 innings at the Coliseum.

It was hard to tell by Konerko's reaction as he rounded the bases that this absolute blast into an area of steps in left was any different than home run No. 125 or No. 328. No big celebration, aside from White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto frantically signaling from the visitors' dugout to retrieve the baseball.

But that's how the White Sox captain rolls, always more concerned about the job to be done in helping the White Sox than any sort of individual accomplishments. There will be plenty of future time for Konerko to look back and analyze his great career.

"Everybody likes the round numbers," said Konerko, when asked after the tough setback what 400 meant to him. "Again, when it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I'm done playing and look back, that's when it might hit home more. But when you are in the middle of the grind and grinding every day and working, you tend not to think about that stuff -- and you probably shouldn't.

"You want to go on to the next thing. If I'm doing my job right, that's what I am doing."

Konerko's homer also stood as his third hit of the day and 2,000th as a part of the White Sox. In typical Konerko lead-by-example fashion, that long ball also erased a one-run deficit and temporarily gave the South Siders a chance for victory.

Konerko's milestone mashes
Paul Konerko hit his 400th long ball off Grant Balfour. Below are his other homer plateaus.
Homer Date Opponent Pitcher
1 6/6/98 @ Seattle Bob Wells
100 6/22/02 @ Atlanta Kerry Ligtenberg
200 8/13/05 @Boston Tim Wakefield
300 4/13/09 @Detroit Zach Miner
400 4/25/12 @Oakland Grant Balfour

His first career home run came against Seattle's Bob Wells on June 6, 1998, when he was with the Dodgers, with Konerko able to remember the exact pitch and count where he connected. No. 100 took place June 22, 2002, in Atlanta and off Kerry Ligtenberg, while No. 200 came off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Aug. 13, 2005, at Fenway Park.

Home run No. 300, at Comerica Park against Zach Miner on April 13, 2009, carries a special bonus. His milestone came immediately after Jermaine Dye went deep for his career homer No. 300.

All of these significant homers have come away from home. Konerko also became the fourth player to hit milestone homer No. 400 or more with the White Sox, joining Frank Thomas (July 25, 2003) and Andruw Jones (July 11, 2010) at 400 and, of course, Jim Thome with his memorable walk-off shot against the Angels for No. 500 on Sept. 16, 2007.

"Every time I've gotten to 100 or whatever it is, you never think you are going to get to the next one or you think it seems far away," Konerko said. "It's cool, but we'll tuck it away now and we'll look at it probably when I'm done playing. We can re-open it up and talk about it more then."

When it comes to the long ball, Konerko doesn't consider himself a home run hitter. That title is reserved more for Thomas, Thome and even teammate Adam Dunn.

Dunn, meanwhile, looks at Konerko like the rest of the Major League Baseball world: a great hitter who has the ability to clear the fences.

"There are guys that are home run hitters and there are guys that are great hitters," said Dunn, who also could join the 400 homer club this year if he hits another 31. "He's a great hitter that is going to have 400-plus home runs. That's pretty amazing.

"Just the consistency of how he does it. Even when he's [not doing well] in Paul's eyes, he's hitting .350 and it's amazing to watch. Even when he doesn't feel good or he's struggling here and there, he still finds a way to get it done. It's pretty cool to watch."

Next up for Konerko is 400 homers as part of the White Sox, as he needs seven to reach that total. With at least one more year left in Chicago, Konerko then can chase Thomas' franchise mark of 448 homers.

Of course, all that's really on Konerko's mind is how to beat Boston on Thursday night and throughout the weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.

"Any time you start looking at his career and the numbers that every time he does something now, he's in some special company," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Konerko, who retrieved the baseball placing him as the 48th member of the 400-homer club. "It's impressive."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.