Buehrle braces for emotional day as White Sox retire number
CHICAGO (AP) Calm and composed throughout his 16-year big league career, Mark Buehrle is bracing for the worst when the Chicago White Sox honor their longtime ace by retiring his No. 56 on Saturday.
”Complete disaster,” he said.
Buehrle figures he will be a wreck when he steps onto the field prior to Chicago’s game against Oakland for a ceremony 12 seasons in the making.
He will become the 12th player to have his number retired by the White Sox, joining former teammates Paul Konerko and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. And it sure will be a fitting tribute. After all, Buehrle played on a World Series winner, threw a perfect game as well as another no-hitter and made four All-Star teams during his time in Chicago.
As nervous as he is about the ceremony, Buehrle also knows this:
”It’s going to be awesome,” he said. ”I probably won’t remember most of it until I watch it on video a little bit later. Just try to go out there and soak it in.”
He said his speech will be short – no surprise for a guy known to work fast on the mound. But there is plenty of territory he could cover.
Buehrle was 161-119 with a 3.83 ERA in 12 seasons in Chicago, pitching a no-hitter against Texas in 2007 and a perfect game against Tampa Bay in 2009. The left-hander was 161-119 with a 3.83 ERA for the White Sox and 214-160 with a 3.81 ERA during a 16-year career that included time with Miami and Toronto.
He pitched more than 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons. He started Game 2 of the 2005 World Series and earned the lone save of his career in Game 3 against Houston after having a few beers in the early innings, thinking there was no way he would pitch. But with a two-run lead and two men on, the White Sox turned to Buehrle to get the final out in the 14th inning.
He retired Carl Everett on a pop fly, and Chicago took Game 4 by 1-0 to complete the sweep.
Buehrle did all that without a blazing fastball. He won with guile, by mixing pitches and changing speeds.
”So, reliable, consistent, dependable, winner, good guy, unflappable,” White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. ”These are words that come to mind when I think about him.”
He remembers a pitcher who was rarely rattled, who hardly ever shook off a catcher because he believed in whatever he was throwing.
Buehrle was the guy always signing autographs for fans prior to games, sliding head first on the soaked tarp during rain delays and tossing baseball superstitions aside by chatting up teammates as he closed in on that perfect game against Tampa Bay.
”I wanted to be liked by everybody,” he said. ”I had fun at the field, tried to stay loose, try to joke around with guys. I think at the end of the day I’m just a normal dude who was fortunate to play professional baseball and play that long and be healthy.”
Buehrle recalled watching Thomas growing up, then becoming his teammate. Now, his number will be retired – just like The Big Hurt’s.
Buehrle joked that he thought the White Sox were offering a contract when they called to tell him they were retiring his jersey. He said he’s happy shuttling his kids to their sports events, knocking items off the to-do list at home and playing on a beer league softball team.
On Saturday, Buehrle will have a large contingent of friends, family and teammates on hand. His son Braden will sing the National Anthem and daughter Brooklyn with throw out a first pitch.
”You don’t think of getting numbers retired or any stuff like this,” Buehrle said. ”You just go out there and play the game and the numbers take care of themselves. I knew I would come back but not for something like this, no. No chance.”
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