If you have a young son who you are trying to teach how to play the game of baseball, look no further than the man who has his number 56 retired by the Chicago White Sox. Mark Buehrle‘s numbers won’t totally blow you away. He wasn’t the flashiest of players. However, nobody had more fun playing baseball than Buehrle did. He was a winner and his teammates loved him. You can’t ask for too much more out of a baseball player.
When you look back on Mark Buehrle’s great career, you’ll think of the obvious, memorable moments. His perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 obviously comes to mind. There’s also his no-hitter against the Texas Rangers just two years prior. However, when I think of Mark Buehrle, I think of the smile he always had on his face. There were good years, see 2005, and several bad ones, but Buehrle always had fun.
There was never a complaint out of his mouth. Hell, there was never even a shake of his head when the catcher put a sign down. He rolled with the punches, and he did it better than anyone. Mark Buehrle was a beer drinker’s nightmare. You could get up to grab a beer and hit the bathroom at the ballpark on a day Buehrle was pitching and miss four innings. He was surgical but as quick as anyone in the game. So quick, in fact, that he once threw a full nine innings in a contest that lasted all of one hour and 39 minutes.
Truth be told, Mark Buehrle was just a kid playing a game for a living. He had fun. He never took himself too seriously. He’s famously remembered as the guy who was constantly playing slip-n-slide on the infield tarp during rain delays. Buehrle was everything one wants in a baseball player, and to White Sox fans in Chicago, he was symbolic of the South Side.
Mark Buehrle showed up to work every day and never complained. Buehrle was adored by those around him. An ego? Mark didn’t even know what an ego was. The only time he was serious was when it was time to go to work. He enjoyed a cold beer just as much as the rest of us, maybe even during a World Series game he’d ultimately pitch in. All of these aspects made a boy from Saint Charles, Missouri symbolize the South Side of Chicago.
There is a reason Mark Buerhle is beloved on the South Side. That is the same reason his number 56 will never be worn by another White Sox player ever again. His numbers might not be Hall-of-Fame worthy, but the moments were. The memories Mark left us with are some that no White Sox fan will soon forget. Let’s dive into some, as we recall the top ten moments of Mark Buehrle’s great career.
10. Still The Man – Even in Blue
There are a few players that just look weird in certain uniforms. Just as Joe Crede never quite looked right in that Minnesota Twins uniform, Blue Jay blue just didn’t quite suit Buehrle. That didn’t stop Mark from sporting it as he returned to the South Side and pitched against his former squad.
Truth be told, it didn’t matter how Buehrle pitched in this one. He could have thrown a perfect game, flipped the bird to the Sox home dugout and he still would have received a standing ovation from Sox fans. He was the man on the South Side for years, and fans made sure he knew that he still was, even in blue.
9. Toe to Toe with Joe West
Do you want to see Ozzie Guillen get angry? Well, it actually didn’t take a whole lot half of the time. However, if you mess with Mark Buehrle, you better be ready to take on the Blizzard of Oz. Everyone knows Joe West and his endless antics. He thinks people pay money to watch him umpire. He shouldn’t be in baseball, and Buehrle found that out the hard way.
Anyone who followed Buehrle’s career knows that he had one hell of a pick-off move. He was so good, in fact, that he recorded 94 pick-offs in his career. Joe West wasn’t impressed. Buehrle should have actually had 95, because in the second inning of a game in Cleveland, Buehrle had a runner picked-off perfectly, but West called a balk. It wasn’t a balk, but Joe West had to make sure people knew Joe West was the umpire that day.
After yelling something at Buehrle, West now had to deal with Ozzie. Guillen came out calm but really turned the heat on “Cowboy Joe” after, according to him, West told Guillen to “get the *expletive* off the field.” Hawk Harrelson summed it up best when he called West a “joke.” Guillen was tossed and Buehrle later received the same treatment when West called yet another false balk on him and Mark threw his glove to the ground. This was the one and only time we saw Mark Buerhle get animated on the field. Of course Joe West was behind it.
8. Getting the Consecutive Complete Games Party Started
Game two of the 2005 American League Championship Series can be summed up in two letters: A and J. Who could possibly forget A.J. Pierzynski reaching first on what was deemed a dropped third strike. The inning should have been over, but A.J. was on first. Joe Crede would end things with a walk-off double off the left field fence and the White Sox had evened the series after losing game one.
Now, what gets lost in the shuffle of game two is the miraculous game Mark Buehrle pitched. Buehrle went all nine innings, struck out four, walked none, gave up five hits, and only allowed one run to cross the plate. The White Sox went on to win the next three games and didn’t use their bullpen once.
Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Jose Contreras each pitched complete games. That was four consecutive complete games in a playoff series. With the way bullpens are used now, that feat will never happen again. Oh, and in game one, Jose Contreras pitched 8 and 1/3 innings. In five games, the White Sox used their bullpen for a whole two outs. It was unbelievable, and Buehrle’s dominance in game two got the party started.
7. Number 56 Forever
If the recent jersey retirements of Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle have taught you anything, it’s that the White Sox are as good as anyone at these types of things. The Mark Buehrle jersey retirement ceremony was nothing short of perfect.
The sun was shining and the stadium was full. Former teammates of Buehrle’s had made the trip into Chicago to be there on his big day. Mark’s son sang the National Anthem and his daughter threw out the first pitch. Jerry Reinsdorf made it Christmas Day for Mark with the number of gifts he awarded him. But perhaps most importantly, Sox fans got to show their appreciation for Buehrle.
Frank Thomas summed things up best when he said what all White Sox fans were thinking: “Congratulations. Stop being modest. You’re one of the greatest pitchers that ever toed this rubber in Comiskey Park, ever.” He truly was, and that is why no White Sox player will ever wear number 56 again.
6. Touch ’em all, Mark
First thing’s first, listen to the roar of the crowd in Milwaukee when that ball leaves Buehrle’s bat. “Wrigley North” served as “Comiskey North” that day, as the South Side faithful made the quick trip up to Wisconsin. Of course, Mark Buehrle had to provide the fans with yet another lasting memory.
Seriously, what can’t this man do? Who even thought Mark Buehrle knew how to swing a bat? Well, he got a hold of this pitch from Braden Looper. Mark was an .083 lifetime hitter (3-for-36), but he was perfect on this one. A.J. Pierzynski summed it up perfectly by saying, “Mark hitting a home run, I thought I’d never see and now I’ll never hear the end of it,” because you know Buehrle would have all sorts of fun with it.
5. 45 Up, 45 Down
Apparently throwing a perfect game just wasn’t good enough for Buehrle, as he had to keep the party rolling in his next start. The thing many forget about Buehrle’s 2009 perfect game is that he flirted with throwing another one in his next game.
Buehrle started things off in dominant fashion in the Metrodome, a place the White Sox seemingly never won. Buehrle was perfect into the fifth inning and retired his 42nd straight batter to set a Major League record, which was previously held by teammate Bobby Jenks. Buehrle retired three more to retire 45 straight until he issued a walk to Alexi Casilla. Things began to unravel after that and the Sox lost, because the Metrodome was haunted, but Mark had made history yet again.
4. Play of the Year on Day One
So far, we have Mark Buehrle the slip-n-slide champion. He also earned his boxing stripes by stepping up to “Cowboy” Joe West. He was a slugger in Milwaukee. Don’t forget that Mark was a three-time Gold Glove winner as well. Buehrle put that defensive ability on display on Opening Day 2010.
For years, there was one constant on the South Side: Mark Buehrle on Opening Day. Buehrle was making his eighth consecutive Opening Day start for the White Sox on this day, and he needed to provide another memory in celebration. Now, words simply cannot describe this play, so just watch it. Let’s not ruin it with words.
3. Nearly Perfect: The No-Hitter with the Slightest Blemish
It was a cold April night in Chicago, but Mark Buehrle left the South Side faithful leaving feeling warm this night, as he pitched the 16th no-hitter in White Sox history. A.J. Pierzynski called the lefty’s stuff “the best he had seen in two years.” Of course it was Buehrle.
This no-hitter now gets overshadowed by Buehrle’s perfect game two years later, but this one was about as close as one can get to a perfect game without throwing one. Buehrle walked Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning. He then promptly picked the slugger off first base. It was one of 94 career pick-offs for Buehrle. The game ended as Joe Crede threw out Gerald Laird on a slow roller to third. Buehrle had his original, but soon to be replaced, signature moment.
2. Bottoms up to a World Series Save
Mark Buehrle was the starter in game two of the 2005 World Series. Game two was the most dramatic game in White Sox history, as Paul Konerko hit a grand slam that shook the South Side through the night. As if that wasn’t enough for everyone’s heart rate, Scott Podsednik hit a walk-off home run after the White Sox squandered the lead.
Well, Mark Buehrle started that game. As game three was progressing late into the night and late into extra innings, Mark Buehrle is the last person you would have expected to see. Well, like Buehrle said after his home run in Milwaukee, “never say never in this game.”
However, even Buehrle clearly didn’t believe he’d be pitching in this one, as many years later, he admitted to having “like three beers” before coming in to shut the door on this one. Buehrle faced one batter, recorded the out, and got the save for the White Sox. He became the first player in Major League history to start and save consecutive World Series games. Seriously, what hasn’t this guy done?
1. Mr. Perfect… With Some Help
Buehrle’s 2007 no-hitter against Texas didn’t get to live long as Mark’s career signature moment, as it was quickly unseeded by a perfect June day. It didn’t start perfect however, as Buehrle said “I didn’t have anything down there” when talking about his bullpen warm-up before the game.
“You’ve got to end this because I can’t throw a strike down here. Hopefully it gets better during the game. And obviously it did,” Buehrle stated. Yeah, it just got a little bit better. Better to the point of the 18th perfect game in MLB history. Not too shabby.
It didn’t come without theatrics, however. Entering the bottom of the ninth, Ozzie Guillen inserted Dewayne Wise as a defensive replacement in centerfield. I wonder if that made any difference? Wise made, what Hawk Harrelson deemed, “under the circumstances, one of the greatest plays I’ve seen.” Alexei Ramirez recorded the final out and the party was on. For the second time in three seasons, Buehrle was being doused in beer for pitching a gem.
This particular gem would become the signature moment of Buehrle’s career. A career that had seen the southpaw from Missouri accomplish seemingly everything had its top moment. A moment that was so big, President of the United States and White Sox fan, Barak Obama called Buehrle to congratulate him. David Letterman had Buehrle and teammates Wise and Josh Fields on his late-night show. The guy who was always right on top of the South Side’s baseball world was on top of the entire country’s baseball world.
Today, March 23rd, marks Buehrle’s 41st birthday. For a White Sox legend, that is always a reason to take a look back on one truly remarkable career. Mark Buehrle did it all. He won a World Series. He pitched a no-hitter and a perfect game. Pitching wasn’t enough, so Buehrle went ahead and hit a home run. Mark was a three-time Gold Glove winner and four-time All-Star. His number 56 was retired by the team he spent 12 seasons with. Forever one of White Sox fans’ favorite heroes, Happy Birthday, Mark.