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Mark Buehrle sticks to modest beginnings before number retirement

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White Sox legend spins some yarns, expresses disbelief on eve of honor

Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mark Buehrle will be the 11th White Sox to have his number retired, and the first player in Major League Baseball history to have the No. 56 retired, during his ceremony at Guaranteed Rate Field later today. CSN Chicago will air the ceremony starting at 12:30 p.m. Central.

It’s an honor easily deserved, because even if one argued that Buehrle’s numbers didn’t get him all the way there, the many indelible moments — the perfect game, the no-hitter, the World Series save, etc. — allow him the clear the bar with room to spare. Hell, Chris Kamka was able to come up with 56 trivia-centric reasons to love him, and he didn’t have to stretch that much, so when you look at the sum of his career, he won’t make retiring the next number any easier.

Regarding that save in Game 3 back in 2005, Buehrle attempted to clear the air about his BAC in a piece with his byline in The Players Tribune:

And it was just like one or two beers.

Every time I grabbed one, I’d go over and check in with the coaches.

“Hey, you guys are sure you’re not going to need me, right?”

“No, Mark. You are not pitching today. You just went.”

So I’d hear that and grab a beer.

It was only like three beers….

Max.

Definitely no more than three, though.

I swear.

Anyway, of course the game had to go 14 innings, right?

That’s garnered most of the attention because it’s simultaneously an endearing story that has cost people jobs in other circumstances. But the part that jumped out to me more was about his major league debut, which came sooner than anybody expected given his modest draft status:

The first problem I ran into was that to travel with the big league club, I needed to wear a suit. But I was a country boy from Missouri. My wardrobe was pretty much all jeans, and T-shirts, and hunting gear. I had never owned a suit in my life.

I didn’t really know where one would buy a suit, or how getting one would even work.

So that night my agent and I went walking around downtown Chicago looking for places that sold suits. We had absolutely no clue what we were doing. We’d stop people on the street and be like, “Do you know of any suit stores around here?”

Everyone just kind of looked at us like we were crazy.

This story tied up a loose end from a few years ago, when Buehrle bought suits for rookies during his Blue Jays days.

NEW YORK – On the flight from Toronto to New York, the veteran left-hander summoned the team’s newest rookie to sit down for a chat. As they finished, Mark Buehrle told Aaron Sanchez to meet him in the hotel lobby Friday morning at 10.

“We’re going to go do some shopping,” Buehrle said.

So it was that on Sanchez’s first-ever trip to New York City, he and four other young Toronto Blue Jays players took a walk with Buehrle to an exclusive men’s store near the team hotel on Friday morning. Buehrle told them each to select two suits.

That kind of mindfulness allowed Buehrle to maintain his touch with fans even though he went from making the league minimum to banking nine figures during his career. He’s being aw-shucks right up until the unveiling of his number behind home plate:

“It doesn't really make sense, to be honest with you,” Buehrle said. “Trying to wrap my head around it -- I watched Frank Thomas as a kid growing up and even when I came here and played with him, I couldn't believe it. I’m, like, a fan of Frank Thomas, who's right there. It just doesn't make sense that I'm up there with those guys, Again, I went out there and tried to do what I could do every day and had fun with it and obviously had a good, long successful career. And now here we are getting my number retired. I can't really explain it. It's pretty hard.”