I’m new here, and thought this was a perfect opportunity to make my debut with South Side Sox. Today, July 23, 2019, is a very special day, for me personally and for any Chicago White Sox fan.
Ten years ago today, Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. A recent college graduate in 2009, I watched the game at my parents’ house, and once I realized what was happening, recorded the last two innings on DVR for my dad to watch. Watching the Buehrle game became a tradition, every year on July 23 I would go to my parents’ house and we’d watch the ninth inning of the game. Comcast, determined to not let anyone enjoy life, kept harassing me with this nonsense:
Naturally, I blew it off and asked my parents to not upgrade the DVR in my bedroom. My parents staved off Comcast’s advances for as long as they could, but one fateful January day, they had no choice but to surrender. They didn’t tell me. I stopped by their house while they were on vacation and walked into my bedroom to see a new DVR box and my heart sank. True to form, I sent my parents a profanity-laden text message, and they replied by telling me that it was out of their control (but they chose not to tell me before they left, instead fleeing my ensuing wrath, which was pretty smart of them). I stewed about it for two years, and now this being the third year without my Buehrle perfecto I have finally relented from my bitterness. I know I can just pull it up on YouTube, but it’s not the same.
Now that I’ve put my cable company resentment behind me, I bring you an assortment of facts and stats about everyone’s favorite tarp acrobat.
One thousand, one hundred thirty-eight people were drafted in 1998 before the White Sox selected Buehrle in the 38th round. At No. 1,139, enough players to fill 28.5 40-man rosters were drafted before our humble southpaw. His stats always had been mediocre, his 83 mph fastball wasn’t very fast, but he went from 38th round draft pick to having his number retired by the White Sox. What was so special about Buehrle?
One career home run. I had the privilege of attending this game in Milwaukee, and honestly it was one of the weakest but greatest home runs I have ever seen in my life. He didn’t look comfortable at the plate, the swing lacked follow-through, but a home run is a home run and it’s the only one Buehrle ever hit in his major league career.
Four Gold Gloves. Buehrle was always known as a good defensive pitcher, posting a 1.000 fielding percentage four times during his 16-year MLB career, but no example sticks in the mind of any Sox fan more than this Opening Day 2010 glove flip:
Buehrle had 94 career pickoffs. If you were able to get on base, good luck staying there.
Pitch No. 105 was the one. Defensive replacement DeWayne Wise jumped into Billy Pierce’s face on the padding of the wall, reached over the top of the wall, bobbled the ball, fell down, the ball moved from his glove to his bare hand as he rolled and ended up on his feet holding the ball up in the air. “The Catch” is now memorialized on the outfield wall.
An unsung hero in Mark Buehrle's perfect game? Ozzie Guillen. He put Dewayne Wise in centerfield in the 9th and moved Scott Podsednik to left. Pods said on the pregame show tonight that he probably couldn't have made Wise's incredible catch. pic.twitter.com/QkUr67UK1T— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) July 24, 2018
That is how many times Hawk Harrelson said “Mercy!” and “YYYYYESSS” during the magical two hours and three minutes of no-hit, perfect-game baseball. Yes, I did re-watch the entire game before writing this to get an accurate count. There was no pitch speed indicator or a running on-screen pitch count, no PitchCast, and half the time we missed the first pitch of the top of the inning because Buehrle had already fired one as the game resumed from commercial break. Before a crowd of 28,036, and aided by Josh Fields’s grand slam and Wise making arguably the greatest catch in White Sox history, Buehrle earned every single one of those mercies, and then some.
From rain-delay antics to volunteering at the animal shelter to earning his first and only career save after drinking “a few” beers two days after pitching (and winning) a World Series game, Mark Buehrle has endeared himself not just to White Sox fans, but to anyone who’s seen him play. Give the man a statue already.