Mark Buehrle was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Chicago White Sox. He was the ace of the staff for 11 seasons and is top 10 in White Sox history in strikeouts, games started, wins and innings pitched. Additionally, he was the first pitcher in World Series history to record a start and a save in consecutive games. The moment that Buehrle is most known for, however, is his perfect game. While all perfect games are as rare as they come, Buehrle’s was perhaps more unlikely than them all. In celebration of his 42nd birthday, here is a rewind of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.
Nobody expected the White Sox to win on July 23, 2009. The White Sox were playing the Rays in a day game, the day after a night game, and the day before a doubleheader. As a result, the White Sox did not have a usual lineup. Many starters rested that day because they were playing a lot of games in a short period of time. Gordon Beckham, who played in the minors two months prior was starting at third. Because of this, primary third basemen Josh Fields made only his seventh career start at first base. Adding on, Buehrle’s main catcher AJ Pierzynski was out that day as well. Ramon Castro, a may acquisition from the Mets was making his first-ever start with Buehrle. When Castro went over the signs pregame with Buehrle, he had no idea that Buehrle threw a changeup.
In addition to all of the lineup changes, Buehrle was not feeling it before the game. He would always stop at the Shell gas station for a Rockstar energy drink before every game. He realized he forgot to stop when he was ten minutes away from the stadium. “Forgot my drink. I’ll definitely lose today,” Buehrle texted his wife Jamie. He arrived at the clubhouse later than usual and was just not feeling it. Expressing his frustration AJ Pierzynski who was not playing that day, Pierzynski told him “Just forget about it go out there and throw a no-hitter.” Buehrle responded and said, “Nah, I’ve already done that.” (Buehrle threw a no-hitter two years prior against the Texas Rangers). Pierzynski responded and said, “You know what then just go out there and throw a perfect game.”
Buehrle decided to take Pierzynski’s advice. Buehrle was feeling it early, as he threw only 10 pitches in the first inning with no balls leaving the infield. Some trends began to develop after the first few innings. Buehrle’s favorite pitch was normally the cutter, but in this game, he relied on the changeup and curveball almost completely.
With each out, the excitement grew. “In that game, the crescendo that Hawk (White Sox play-by-play announcer) built audibly, from Ken Harrelson early to Hawk Harrelson late,” said White Sox color commentator Steve Stone. The sixth inning is normally the inning where the nerves really start to kick in. Buehrle faced shortstop Jason Bartlett with two outs in the sixth inning and went to a 3-0 count. He then attacked the strike zone throwing three consecutive strikes to get the out. In between innings, Buehrle kept bragging to Pierzynski that he was missing his perfect game.
When centerfielder Dewayne Wise heard that Buehrle was perfect late in the seventh inning, Wise thought that he’d better get loose. When the eighth inning ended, manager Ozzie Guillen knew he needed to put Wise in the game as a defensive replacement. “How would you like to be DeWayne Wise right now? He’s probably hoping the ball isn’t hit to him,” White Sox reliever D.J. Carrasco said to reliever Scott Linebrink. Wise made sure to take a few steps forward because he did not want a blooper to be what ended the perfect game.
Gabe Kapler led off the ninth for the Rays. He worked a good at-bat and found himself in a 2-2 count. He was able to make contact and drive the ball into deep left-center field. Everyone in the crowd thought that ball was gone, or at least down for extra bases if it did not reach the fence. Wise sprinted toward the wall where there was a mural of pitcher Billy Pierce who had a perfect game ruined in the ninth 51 years prior. He took one peek at the wall before focusing his entire attention on the ball. Wise leaped up, made a huge impact with the wall, and was able to just barely catch the ball after juggling it. The entire place went nuts. It was one of the greatest catches in baseball history. To this day, the words “The Catch” are written on the part of the wall where Wise made the catch.
Buehrle knew he had to finish the perfect game after Wise’s catch. The last two outs were special. The crowd could not process what had just happened but still had two outs to go. Buehrle struck out Michel Hernandez for the second out of the ninth en route to completing his perfect game. With one out to go the crowd rose to their feet. They were one out away from witnessing something special. The final out was a groundball to shortstop Alexei Ramirez who threw the final out to Josh Fields. The place went nuts. Buehrle put his glove on his head and collapsed to the ground as the rest of the team dogpiled him. It was a perfect game that began with an imperfect morning.
“From Our Haus to Yours”