Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
Posted: 12:56 a.m.
By Chuck Garfien
If Ozzie Guillen was the face of the White Sox, Mark Buehrle has long been their arm.
For 365 starts, its been there time and time again, providing some of the greatest moments in franchise history.
The perfect game.
All of them permanently etched in our memories.
But its not just the arm, its also the lungs, because for 12 memorable seasons Buehrle has taken everyones breath away. Tuesday night was no different.
It would be nice to see a vintage Buehrle game tonight, said Paul Konerko, standing at his locker a couple hours before the game.
Once again, Mark delivered.
In what could be his final game in a White Sox uniform, the soon-to-be free agent went out and was typical, trademark Buehrle.
7 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.
That, plus a goosebump exit from the field that left 23,934 fans with a collective lump in their throats.
With Buehrle on the mound, ready to start the eighth inning, interim manager Don Cooper came out and took the ball from his Gold Glove pitcher, allowing Buehrle to leave the field to a raucous standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.
It felt like a normal game, but the crowd going crazy and Paul Konerko pushing me out there and he was like Theyre calling for you. Ive never had a curtain call in my career. It got kind of emotional there towards the end.
Before the game, Buehrle was most concerned about the beginning.
He confided with his older brother that if he saw his family in the crowd as he took the field he worried hed be fighting back tears. Turns out it was much ado about nothing. Mark came out, grabbed the ball, and struck out the first batter he faced.
When he arrived at the ballpark around 4 p.m., the first player Buehrle spotted was none other than Dewayne Wise, his former Sox teammate now with the Blue Jays who magically saved Buehrles perfect game in 2009 with that incredible catch in the ninth inning.
Buehrle asked Wise if he was in the lineup. He wasnt. Too bad.
"Its going to be a weird feeling, not looking over and seeing Mark with a smile on his face, joking and laughing.-- A.J. Pierzynski.
I think he was going to throw me a cookie, Wise said with a smile on his face.
It could have been Buehrles way of saying thank you for helping him make history.
It also could have wiped away the dream Wise had the night before. While sleeping in his Chicago hotel, Wise dreamt that he hit three screaming line drives right back at Buehrle, and all three times Mark laid out and caught every one of them.
And after the last one, I raised my bat in the air like I was going to throw it at him as a joke, and the whole crowd laughed, Wise said.
If laughter is the best medicine, Buehrle has long been the joke doctor inside the White Sox clubhouse.
I asked A.J. Pierzynski what it will be like without Buehrle on the team anymore. Mark, whose locker has been right next to Pierzynskis for seven years, overheard my question and chimed in with a sarcastic He gone!
Thats just who Mark is. And if he leaves?
Its going to be different, Pierzynski said. Like Ozzie not being here. Its all Ive known for seven years is those two guys. Coming to spring training next year, if theyre not here, its going to be a weird feeling, not looking over my left and seeing Mark with a smile on his face, joking and laughing. I hope that Mark is back, and hopefully they find a way to get it done.
That will be up to Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams, who will be playing financial gymnastics during the off-season, likely cutting payroll after this thoroughly disappointing 2011 season.
As a left-handed starter with a 13-9 record and 3.59 ERA, Buehrle will be in high demand. But speaking after the game, Buehrle didnt sound like he was closing the door on returning to the South Side. If anything, he was almost begging the White Sox to leave it open.
"Obviously doing this for 13, 14 years of my life, this is all I know. It's kinda hard to think otherwise. It's hard to go home in this offseason and think I'm going to go to spring training somewhere else," Buehrle said. "Deep down inside, I'd love to be back, but reality might sink in. It just depends on which way they go.
With two games still on the schedule, Guillen couldnt wait to leave.
Buehrles different. He says he wants to be here, and since hes an avid dog lover, theres really only one word that needs to be said: Stay.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.