By: Aaron Shariq
On June 24th 2017 Mark Buehrle will join an elite group of former White Sox becoming the 11th player to have his jersey retired by the team. For those faithful Sox fans who followed the team since Buehrle’s major league debut in July of 2000 there is nothing but love for number 56. Buehrle never had overwhelming stuff on the mound but his accuracy, defense and ability to force hitters into weak contact made him arguably the best pitcher in White Sox history.
With Buehrle joining former teammate Paul Konerko in the retired number club, it’s only fitting we look back at the top five moments that secured Buehrle’s number a spot above the new Guaranteed Rate Club.
5) Opening Day Between the Legs Pass
Opening day 2010, Mark Buehrle made a defensive play that many titled “the play of the year” only 4 1/3 innings into the new season for the White Sox. Lou Marson of the Cleveland Indians hit Buehrle’s pitch right back to the mound where Buehrle then kicked the ball up off his left foot and towards the first base line. Buehrle gave pursuit all the way into foul territory using his glove to flick the ball between his legs and into the bare hand of first baseman Paul Konerko to record the out. In one play Buehrle showed the grit, hustle and defense that made him such a great player on the south side.
4) Complete Game in ALCS
During the ALCS in the 2005 post season Buehrle was the first of four White Sox pitchers to throw a complete game in the series. The ALCS meant there was a World Series birth on the line which would be the White Sox first since 1959. To start off the ALCS, the White Sox were handed their only loss of their 2005 playoff run in game one against the Los Angeles Angels. In game two of the series Chicago turned to their ace to get them back to their winning ways. Buehrle pitched all nine innings for the Sox in the victory, allowing only one run on five hits. Buehrle achieved his goal of getting his team back on track considering they did not lose another game on their way to win the 2005 World Series.
On April 18th 2007 Buehrle used 106 pitches to throw the 16th no-hitter in White Sox history. He did so against a strong Texas Rangers lineup that featured Mark Teixeira and Sammy Sosa. This historic day ended when the final out was recorded on a ground ball hit by Rangers catcher Gerald Laird to third basemen Joe Crede. Even his lone flaw in this game, a fifth inning walk to Sammy Sosa, was followed immediately by Buehrle picking off Sosa at first base. Buehrle’s big day was possible thanks to the combination of his great pitching and the great defense played behind him, especially that of Joe Crede and right fielder Jermaine Dye.
2) 2005 World Series Save
This event edges out the no-hitter for one simple reason, it took place on baseball’s biggest stage. During the 2005 World Series, the White Sox had jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the National League champion Houston Astros. In those two victories the Sox starting pitchers were Jose Contreras for game one and Mark Buehrle for game two. Game three of the series would go on to be the longest game in World Series history (at the time). After heading to extra innings, the White Sox waited until the 14th inning to take the lead on a go-ahead homerun by utility player Geoff Blum; the Sox would add one more run in the inning going to the bottom of the 14th with a two-run lead.
The Bottom of the 14th started with Damaso Marte on the mound but he was pulled from the game with two outs after allowing two runners to reach base. The White Sox then turned to their starter from two days prior, Mark Buehrle. Buehrle only threw three pitches before getting Adam Everett to pop out and end the game, giving the White Sox a 3-0 series lead.
(Fun fact: pitching coach Don Cooper confirmed years later that Mark Buehrle was drinking beers in the bullpen during game three of the World Series, taking the mound intoxicated to record the final out for the save.)
July 23, 2009 is the date that will always define Mark Buehrle’s career. On that date the Tampa Bay Rays had no hits, no walks and no one reached on an error; 27 up, 27 down. This game was vintage Mark Buehrle, he worked quickly and his defense played well behind him. The play of the game came from outfielder Dewayne Wise who saved the perfect game in the top of the ninth when Gabe Kapler crushed a pitch that would have been a homerun if Wise had not extended his glove over the fence to record the 25th out. The final out of the game was recorded when Jason Bartlett sent a ground ball to shortstop Alexei Ramirez who promptly threw the ball to first.
Mark Buehrle had an electric career that not many scouts saw coming, as a matter of fact Buehrle didn’t even see it coming. “I never thought I’d throw a no-hitter, never thought I’d throw a perfect game and I never thought I’d hit a home run,” Buehrle said in an interview in 2009. This Sox fan would like to thank Buehrle for all the memories. Congratulations, Mr. Buehrle.