White Sox fans were really lucky to have Mark Buehrle. He was a 38th-round draft pick in 1998. Years have gone by where major league drafts didn't last to the 38th round. Picks made that late often don't get signed — much less see a major league field for one game, much less make it a career, much less perform like Buehrle did.
Buehrle also worked quickly. He was capable of making athletic plays in the field. He had a sense of humor, mostly about himself. He was able to enjoy a beer during a ballgame. And he was a thoughtful teammate. So on this, the occasion of his 42nd birthday, let's take a look at the Top 10 Greatest Mark Buehrle Moments.
1. Doing a Top Ten List for Letterman after his perfect game
Buehrle became the the 18th pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game, against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009. DeWayne Wise made the catch. Alexeiiiiiiiiiiii Ramirez made the throw to first for the last out.
Buehrle didn't reap the full benefits of his perfecto until a bit later when he was invited by David Letterman to read "The Top Ten Things Going Through Mark Buehrle's Mind During the Perfect Game:"
That's when you know you've made it. (Although, Philip Humber also did Letterman after his perfect game in 2012, so ...)
2. Retires record 45 straight, gets standing O at the Metrodome
You also might remember (or might not) that Buehrle kept on retiring batters in his next start, against the Twins, until he reached a record 45 straight retirees. Other than the athletic achievement part, the best detail was the ovation that Twinkies fans at the Metrodome gave Buehrle when he left the ballgame. Of course it was more palatable for them once the home team had taken the lead, but it was still very classy of the Minnesotans. Now take back all your bad thoughts about Twins fans. Just kidding, they smell! (By the way, this record no longer stands.)
3. Buehrle tells Rangers "No, no, no!"
Buehrle threw a no-hitter against the Rangers April 18, 2007. In it, he issued a walk to Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning but promptly picked him off. That's for getting traded for George Bell, Sammy! More to the point, for the first time in his career, Buehrle faced the minimum number of 27 batters for a nine-inning game.
4. Buehrle does least amount of work possible, sets record
Buehrle completed a unique trifecta in major league history July 21, 2014, when he was pitching for the Blue Jays. He allowed two hits and no other base runners against Cleveland in a 14-0 shutout victory, and both hitters were erased on double plays. Buehrle became the only pitcher in MLB history to, three times, face the the minimum number of batters in a game. He did the perfecto, the no-no, and whatever you call this. The Buehrle?
5. Buehrle reaches between his legs for something special
April 10, 2010. Opening Day! Has there ever been a cooler-looking play on a major league field? Displaying uncommon athleticism most didn't realize he had, Buehrle kicked a comebacker by Cleveland's Lou Marson, ran the ball down in foul territory, picked it up with his glove and flicked the ball perfectly between his own legs to Paul Konerko, who caught it barehanded at first base as catcher A.J. Pierzynski (who was backing up the play but had otherwise done nothing) raised his fist in celebration. It was such a sensational play, NPR did a story on it. When you bring public radio to the yard, you know you've created some kind of milkshake.
Look at this:
6. It's after the fifth inning somewhere
It was highly unlikely manager Ozzie Guillen would need Buehrle to pitch in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series because Buehrle had thrown seven innings two days earlier. Well, even "highly unlikely" can mean "So you're saying there's a chance!"
Sure enough, Game 3 went 14 innings, the Sox ran out of pitchers and, after Geoff Blum homered to put the Sox ahead, Guillen called on Buehrle to get a one-out save with two runners aboard. Buerhle converted, but not before he had converted several beer cans to empty. Buehrle admitted to having, "like, three" of them. Fittingly, Buehrle made three pitches (one for each beer, he alleges) and got the save:
Did he appear to be buzzed? Not at all. He's a professional!
Also: Easy, on that pop-up, Uribe!
7. All of the sliding practice pays off
Sometimes, even American League pitchers have to hit or run the bases or do other position-player things. That's why they practice sliding just like anyone else. And it's a good thing for Buehrle, otherwise his tarp adventures might have been (more) dangerous:
8. Buehrle hits a home run
If you thought Buehrle's turf sliding was great athleticism, just watch his one and only major league home run, coming June 9, 2009 at Milwaukee against right-hander Braden Looper:
Looper's a pro jock but Buehrle got total consciousness on that swing.
9. Meep, meep! Buehrle strikes out 12 in 99 minutes
You know how we're always complaining about how slow baseball games are? Well nobody ever did that when Mark Buehrle pitched. He worked as fast as any of his contemporaries, probably faster than all of them. The ultimate example game April 16, 2005, when Buehrle struck out 12 Mariners in a complete-game victory that lasted 99 minutes. Here are those 99 minutes condensed to 2 minutes, 6 seconds:
Or, if you have all day, here's the 99-minute event condensed to 75 minutes. Hey, let's also give credit to the other pitcher: right-hander Ryan Franklin of the Mariners, who also went the distance. (There you go, Ryan. That was it.)
10. White Sox retire Buehrle's uniform No. 56
Buehrle's major league career lasted beyond the 2011 season, only the Sox didn't want to pay him anymore, so they let him go as a free agent to the Marlins. As a compensation pick for Buehrle, the Sox selected a high school slugger named Keon Barnum. He's 26 now, never rising above Double-A, and no longer in the Sox system. Not much compensation for Buehrle, was he?
Buehrle continued to pitch, more or less, at the same levels. He was even an All-Star for the Blue Jays in 2015. Meanwhile the Sox were tearing it down, building it back up, and tearing it down again.
Buehrle retired after the 2016 season and, in 2017, the Sox retired Buehrle's No. 56. His take:
"It doesn't make sense."
Ever the self-deprecator. But if you look at just this list, retiring Buehrle's number makes total sense.
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