A personal look at Chicago White Sox great Mark Buehrle
In Thursday's Daily Herald, we presented 56 highlights of Mark Buehrle's stellar 16-year career, the first 12 spent with the Chicago White Sox.
In advance of Saturday's ceremony at Guaranteed Rate Field -- Buehrle's uniform No. 56 is going to be retired before the Sox play the Oakland Athletics -- the highlight list was both exhaustive and exhilarating.
My favorite Buehrle factoid? While averaging a staggering 205⅔ innings per season, the left-hander never went on the disabled list.
Getting off the statistics and superlatives, allow me to take a more personal look at Buehrle, whom I got to know quite well beginning in 2000, when he made the jump from Class AA Birmingham to the White Sox.
It was in 2001, Buehrle's first full season in the majors, when I ran into him in the lobby of a downtown Cleveland hotel where we were both staying.
Talking about something other than baseball, I believe it was fishing, a group of Sox fans headed our way.
"They're coming for autographs," I said.
"Not for mine," Buehrle said. "I'm sure they don't know me, and that's the way I like it."
As the years went by and Buehrle pitched a perfect game, no-hitter and became one of the top starters in baseball, the early attitude never changed.
He was always just a regular guy from St. Charles, Missouri, and Buehrle never looked down on teammates, reporters or fans.
That's why he always caught the ceremonial first pitch at home games, ran the NCAA Tournament pool every March and signed endless autographs.
That's why he would talk to reporters before games he was starting, typically about any subject but baseball.
Buehrle always enjoyed talking about hunting and fishing, and I remember the time during spring training in Tucson, Arizona, when he shot a javelina that was wandering near his residence.
"You know that's illegal, right," said a security guard at the White Sox's complex.
"Do now," Buehrle replied.
Nothing was ever off limits with Buehrle, and that's where he's particularly missed.
Near the end of the disappointing 2003 season, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf visited the clubhouse and player after player declined to discuss what was said behind closed doors.
"He just told us we had no heart and were stealing money," Buehrle said with a shrug. "He told the truth."
Late in the 2002 season, William Ligue and his son William Jr. decided it would be a good idea to run on the field and attack Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa.
After the game, most White Sox players were willing to talk about what happened, but Buehrle was nowhere to be found in the clubhouse.
He finally appeared, after walking back from the holding cell.
"Just wanted to see what they looked like and what they were thinking about," Buehrle said.
Fans can get one last look at Buehrle on Saturday, when he becomes the 11th Sox player to have his number retired.
Scouting reportWhite Sox vs. Oakland Athletics at Guaranteed Rate Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Friday and Saturday; WGN Sunday
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Pitching matchups: The White Sox's Mike Pelfrey (3-5) vs. Jharel Cotton (4-7) Friday at 7:10 p.m.; James Shields (1-0) vs. Daniel Gossett (0-2) Saturday at 1:10 p.m.; Derek Holland (5-7) vs. Sonny Gray (2-3) Sunday at 1:10 p.m.
At a glance: After playing 44 of their first 71 games on the road, the White Sox are home for 10 straight games. The Sox were 5-2 vs. Oakland last season and are 14-5 vs. Oakland since May 14, 2014. Pelfrey is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in his last 6 starts. After sweeping the Yankees in a four-game series to begin their last homestand, the A's lost four straight to the Astros. Kris Davis leads Oakland with 18 home runs and 46 RBI.
Next: New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field, Monday-Thursday.
-- Scot Gregor