Mark Buehrle, the best Sox pitcher in generations, has a heck of a day
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If the White Sox had any sense of timing at all, they would have sent a stadium full of fans home happy after a nice two-hour victory Saturday. You know, Mark Buehrle-style.
Alas, you’ve met these Sox. What happened instead was starting pitcher James Shields hanging meatballs that A’s hitters Matt Olson, Franklin Barreto and Jaycob Brugman crushed for their first career home runs.
What happened instead were more misplays by a subpar defense, multiple members of the Sox getting the heave-ho from umpires and a 10-2 joke of a game that lasted an unofficial 87 hours and change.
Is it any wonder chants of ‘‘BUEHR-LE!’’ rose from the stands early and often?
Of course, the stands weren’t full just because a ballgame was being played on a glorious early-summer day. The fans turned out in postseason-like numbers to see the greatest Sox pitcher in generations have his No. 56 retired by the team.
‘‘In case you weren’t aware,’’ chairman Jerry Reinsdorf cracked from the podium in front of the pitcher’s mound, ‘‘we don’t draw 40,000 people every day.’’
Forget the score. Forget the fifth consecutive losing season. Forget that the Sox have one flipping playoff victory since winning the World Series in 2005.
Good times will come again.
They sure were good when Buehrle was on the mound for 12 seasons in a Sox uniform.
‘‘You guys have been so good to me,’’ Buehrle said to the crowd during a rousing pregame celebration. ‘‘I spent a third of my life here. There’s nowhere else I’d rather spend it than on the South Side of Chicago.’’
You have to figure Buehrle’s Saturday was about as fine a day as a human being could have. All those adoring fans. Former teammates from Jon Garland to Joe Crede to Scott Podsednik and others at his back as he acknowledged his good fortune. Former managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Sox icons Frank Thomas, Harold Baines and Hawk Harrelson — all on hand to pay tribute.
Buehrle’s parents, John and Pat, beamed. Son Braden, only 9, sang the national anthem beautifully. Daughter Brooklyn, 8, threw out the first pitch. More family and friends camped on the field or cheered from the stands.
As his placard was unveiled among 11 other retired numbers lining the facade of the upper-deck behind home plate, Buehrle grabbed the podium tightly with both hands, exhaled deeply and did what a guy does when he’s trying not to fall apart completely.
‘‘Actually seeing it, pulling [the curtain] off and seeing my name and number up there?’’ he said a couple of hours later. ‘‘Just emotions and trying to breathe deep and [not] start crying. I was tearing up and just trying to hold my emotions together. Looking up and seeing it? I can’t put it into words.’’
Buehrle never has been much for words. Despite the dark shades, slicked-back hair and natty suit he wore to the festivities, he’s still as understated as a superstar can be.
The Sox presented him with an ATV named for the perfect game he threw in 2009 and a truck named for his no-hitter in 2007. Yet what those who played with or coached Buehrle wanted to share were memories of the little things he did that went such a long way.
Little things such as the time he gave up seven runs in the first inning in Minnesota, hung tough and got the victory anyway. Or how he almost never shook off signs from his catchers, letting a long line of them know through the years that he respected their ability to do their jobs.
‘‘I’ve seen a lot of pitchers with better stuff,’’ Guillen said, ‘‘but you don’t see too many guys with the same heart.’’
Buehrle’s never has been more full.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.