CHICAGO -- There are two kinds of effective left-handed pitchers. There's the Randy Johnson/Chris Sale kind, who can be terrifying to hit against, and there are the kind who just seem to have the DNA to throw strikes and produce outs.The Mark Buehrle kind, that is."The lefty either has it,
CHICAGO -- There are two kinds of effective left-handed pitchers. There's the Randy Johnson/Chris Sale kind, who can be terrifying to hit against, and there are the kind who just seem to have the DNA to throw strikes and produce outs.
The Mark Buehrle kind, that is.
"The lefty either has it, or he has a strong arm and you're trying to help him find it,'' Jerry Manuel said. "Buehrle had it. He had it. He had it up here [in his head].''
• Mark Buehrle Day
Manuel was the White Sox manager when Buehrle almost won a Major League job in his first professional Spring Training, less than a year after pitching for Jefferson College, and when he made his debut as a 21-year-old reliever midway through the 2000 season.
"We were begging for Buehrle,'' Manuel said. "All of us were begging for Buehrle.''
They got him after only 271 Minor League innings. Seventeen years, 214 wins and 15 consecutive seasons of 30-plus starts later, the White Sox are retiring Buehrle's 56, the linebacker number he was assigned as a 20-year-old.
Buehrle worked quickly, and he usually seemed to be having fun. He fielded his position well and was almost impossible to run on -- he had more pickoffs (100) than stolen bases allowed (59 in 140 tries) -- and he came out to catch the ceremonial first pitch every night when the White Sox were home.
Here are 10 moments that speak loudly about his career and personality:
1. Knocking down milk bottles
Less than a year after leaving Jefferson College, Buehrle was invited to camp with the White Sox. He had impressed general manager Ron Schueler during an outing in the Midwest League.
"Ron Schueler was tremendous recognizing pitchers,'' Manuel said. "That was his strong suit.''
Buehrle seemed anything but intimidated, throwing strikes and working quick innings until he was finally sent to Double-A Birmingham. Buehrle told reporters he had honed his skills knocking down milk bottles at carnivals while he was a teenager.
2. Cool as a cucumber under pressure
The Indians were closing on the first-place White Sox in Buehrle's rookie season in 2000. Manuel brought in Buehrle to face Jim Thome with a bases loaded one day at U.S. Cellular Field. Buehrle struck out Thome on a changeup.
Asked afterward if he threw many 3-2 changeups, Buehrle said, "That might have been the first one.''
3. No camouflaging his feelings
Early in his Major League career, Buehrle proposed to his girlfriend, Jamie, who he had known since his high school years in St. Charles, Mo., south of St. Louis. They were in a deer stand at the time, both wearing camouflage. John Buehrle, his father, recalls him saying, "'Dad, I love a girl in camo.'"
4. Pitching version of Cal Ripken Jr.
Buehrle was the most durable starting pitcher of his era, never going on the disabled list. He made 493 of 494 scheduled starts. The only one he missed came on the last day of the 2003 season, when he was healthy and ready to go but stepped aside so Esteban Loaiza could start on short rest to get his 21st win, a record for a Mexican-born pitcher. Buehrle put together 14 consecutive 200-inning seasons, a feat previously achieved by only Christy Mathewson, Phil Niekro and Greg Maddux.
5. Always in the express lane
On Opening Day 2005, Buehrle and the Indians' Jake Westbrook combined to work a game that lasted only 1 hour, 51 minutes, with the Sox winning, 1-0. No pitcher in his era worked quicker than Buehrle, who constantly challenged hitters to hit his high-80s fastballs (mid-80s in much of the second half of his career) and his changeup.
6. Wrapping a late-night bow around a great October
Buehrle faced only one hitter in his best-known postseason appearance, getting the Astros' Adam Everett to hit a popup to shortstop Juan Uribe to nail down a 14-inning win in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. Buehrle, who started Game 2, became the first person in history to start and save consecutive Series games. His best start of the postseason was in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels, when he evened the series and started a run of four consecutive complete games for the Sox rotation.
Pitching coach Don Cooper has said Buehrle was drinking beer in the clubhouse before his World Series save, figuring he had the night off.
7. Mowing down the Rangers
On April 18, 2007, Buehrle thrilled himself and a crowd at U.S. Cellular Field by throwing a no-hitter against Texas. He walked 38-year-old Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning, then picked him off, and wouldn't allow another runner to reach base.
"I just kept saying, 'Oh, my God,'" Buehrle said. "I didn't know what hit me. Never in a million years did I think I would be able to have this happen.''
8. Driving Dewayne Wise up the wall
Buehrle raised the stakes with a perfect game against the Rays on July 23, 2009, at U.S. Cellular. The first out of the ninth inning is probably the most famous play in White Sox history. Wise, inserted in the game as a defensive replacement by Ozzie Guillen, was playing shallow but raced to the wall in left-center field and leaped to rob Gabe Kapler of a home run.
The ball bounced out of Wise's glove as he caromed off the wall, but he grabbed it in his bare left hand, cradled it to his body and held it high in the air after rolling on the warning track.
"I still don't know what happened,'' Buehrle said after finishing off the 18th perfect game in Major League history.
9. Whatever it takes
Buehrle was cruising against the Indians on Opening Day 2010, when catcher Lou Marson, a right-handed hitter, hit an ugly roller up the first-base line for an almost certain infield hit. Buehrle backhanded it just in front of the foul line and from foul territory somehow pitched it between his legs to Paul Konerko for an out. He was in the midst of winning Gold Glove Awards in four consecutive years, but he never made a better play than this one.
10. Saying goodbye with class
Buehrle was only 32 when he hit free agency after the 2012 season. Having given teammate John Danks a five-year, $65 million contract extension the year before, the White Sox passively allowed Buehrle to sign a four-year, $58 million deal with the Marlins. Buehrle said he would have done the same thing, with Danks being six years younger than him.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.