With Mark Buehrle’s number being retired on Saturday, the White Sox, along with their fanbase, have taken this week to reminisce on his achievements throughout his career. And so will we.
214 wins. 1870 strikeouts. Career 3.81 earned run average. 5 All-Star appearances. 4 Gold Glove awards. 2 no hitters. And 1 World Series ring. Needless to say Mark Buehrle stands as one of the greatest pitchers in White Sox history, along with the most accomplished.
No one at first really expected a lot from Mark. And many have said watching him pitch is not very entertaining. He didn’t have a whole lot of velocity, but had a pretty decent curveball and a lot of control. Something completely out of the ordinary at the time, when the league was run by fastball pitchers like Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. And besides, he had proven himself to be a ground ball pitcher, conserving his arm for the later innings. Nevertheless, Buehrle made his debut in July of 2000, as the White Sox were on the road against the Twins; he threw for seven innings, giving up six hits, two runs, and sealing a win. Not a bad start for the 20 year old from St. Charles, MO, and it only budded from there.
2005: A Year to Remember
When people think back to that World Champion team, they think of the offense: Paul Konerko, Joe Crede, AJ Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, etc. Buehrle led the charge on the defensive side, proving to be consistent each time he went on the mound. A 16-8 record with 142 K’s and 82 runs given up in 236.3 innings; not too shabby for a guy who throws a 90 MPH fastball. His stats only improved in the playoffs, proving once again he was more than willing to step up when the team needed it most. He compiled a 2-0 record with 12 K’s and allowed only 1 walk in 23 innings pitched, along with a key save in the marathon Game 3 of the World Series. He had done his part in the chase, and the team pulled theirs as well. That hard work paid off, and now they had a ring to prove it.
2007: 27 up, 27 down vs. Texas Rangers
Like I said earlier, Mark Buehrle was known as a ground ball pitcher in an effort to last through all 9 innings. One clear cut example of this was his performance against the Texas Rangers on April 18, 2007. Don’t forget, the Rangers had a stacked team back then, with names like Mark Teixiera, Hank Blalock, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Sammy Sosa. A team who had weapons to go very far into the playoffs. And #56 retired them all! 8 strikeouts in the game, 11 ground outs, 7 flyouts, and a sweet pick off move on Sammy Sosa took care of Texas and put Mark in the record books. Of course, he did have a lot of help from his defense, with Joe Crede on the hot corner, and Iguchi chasing down those tough grounders. That was sure a game to watch, but if you missed it, don’t worry. Because an encore is just a couple years away.
Mark had accomplished something 22 other pitchers had done before: throw more than one no hitter. This time, his culprit was the Tampa Bay Rays, who again were a playoff caliber team. Carl Crawford, Melvin Upton, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, etc. Once again, Buehrle was able to retire them all, this time not even allowing a runner to get on base. That’s right, a perfect game! And of course most of us remember the game-saving catch by Dwayne Wise in the ninth to help preserve the win. What did Mark had to say after the game? “I don’t know (how I’m feeling). They said that throwing a no hitter was impossible, but I’ve thrown that. Now I’ve thrown a perfect game…I don’t know, it’s unbelievable.”
2010: Defense on Display
Sure, Mark Buehrle was known for his consistency on the mound, but what he did fielding was nothing short of spectacular, if not magical. One such moment was on Opening Day of the 2010 season against the Cleveland Indians. Mark had a ball hit back to him, glanced off his leg and rolled toward the first base line; he ran after it, back to Konerko, and he ended up flipping the ball between his legs to first base. Konerko, not expecting it at all, reached out with his bare hand to complete the web gem. This act of fielding had not been seen out of a Chicago pitcher since the Greg Maddux era, and this play in particular showed how multidimensional and talented Buehrle actually was. Looking back, I still love watching that play, and I remember replaying it again and again in disbelief.
Mark Buehrle is by far one of the best left handed pitchers the White Sox have ever seen, and I believe they are right in retiring his number. The amount of effort he displayed on the field, his flair, and his overall personality as a teammate help shape the role he’s had in this organization. Again, the ceremony will be held on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field, with some of his former teammates coming in attendance, including Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas. I know growing up, I always aspired to play like Mark; I too was a left handed pitcher with not a whole lot of velocity. I too relied on my control and fielding abilities, and watching Mark really helped me grow as a player. I’m just one person who he has had an influence on, and I can guarantee you that hundreds of others around the Chicago area can say the same. Coming from me, it is sure nice to see him finally get the recognition he deserves from the place it all started. And I can assure you I will have my face glued to my T.V. screen when the time comes.