CHICAGO -- If the White Sox can finish off their ongoing rebuild with the rousing style they use to honor the 2005 guys, it won't be too long until there are fresh icons on the South Side.Two years after retiring Paul Konerko's No. 14 in spectacular fashion, the White Sox
CHICAGO -- If the White Sox can finish off their ongoing rebuild with the rousing style they use to honor the 2005 guys, it won't be too long until there are fresh icons on the South Side.
Two years after retiring Paul Konerko's No. 14 in spectacular fashion, the White Sox did it for Mark Buehrle's No. 56 on a beautiful Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field -- or, as broadcaster Hawk Harrelson called it when describing Buehrle's perfect game and no-hitter, "right here on this field!"
There were funny moments and poignant ones, with former managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel watching along with Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, John Danks and other former teammates. John Buehrle, Mark's father, was wiping away tears before the 30-minute ceremony even began.
Braden Buehrle, Mark and Jamie's 9-year-old son, sang the national anthem before the White Sox game against the Athletics. Their 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, threw the ceremonial first pitch to her father.
This was the message on the center-field scoreboard after Buehrle caught the high fastball: "Brooklyn Buehrle, 85 mph; Mark Buehrle, 77 mph in his prime."
Nobody loved that more than Buehrle, who turned Brooklyn around and pointed to the scoreboard. He didn't mind the two vehicles he received, either -- an over-sized four wheel drive named "Perf56t Game" and a tricked-out Toyota Tacoma pickup christened as "27 Up. 27 Down" -- although he seemed almost embarrassed to get such flashy gifts.
Even the guys watching from the visiting dugout loved taking time to honor the 214-game winner, who saved Game 3 of the 2005 World Series two nights after working seven innings in Game 2.
"He's a gamer," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's a pitcher, but probably has a position player's mentality. He's a tough guy. I know he was just beloved here. I think one of the things that impressed me, too, was that he always caught the first pitch. He wanted to be part of everything that went on here. ... He's just a great pitcher and a great guy on top of it."
Some highlights from the ceremony:
• Harrelson recalled when pitching coach Don Cooper first asked him to go take a look at Buehrle on the back fields in Tucson, Ariz., in Spring Training, 1999.
"Don Cooper said, 'There's a left-hander down there, we just signed him in the 38th round. Why don't you go take a look at him?'" Harrelson said. "I went down there and looked at him, then I said, 'I'll see him another time.' I saw him one more time and Coop said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'He doesn't throw hard, breaking ball's just a roller, but I like him,' and he said, 'That's good, because I do, too.' What you couldn't tell was he has a big heart and [guts]."
• White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf referred to Buehrle's kick-save, hustling retrieval and between-the-legs glove flip to Konerko on Opening Day, 2010, as the greatest play he's ever seen. "He did it just the way he practiced it," Reinsdorf said.
The White Sox then brought out a fan named Tommy Maloney to present the ball from that play to Buehrle. Konerko had flipped the ball to Maloney, who was then 8, and he'd gotten Buehrle to autograph it. Now it will go in the trophy case at Buehrle's home near St. Louis.
• Reinsdorf flashed the sense of humor he's largely kept out of public view, getting off a series of good lines.
"Mark, as I look around this stadium, it's just amazing how much people love you," Reinsdorf said in his opening remarks. "In case you don't know, we don't get 40,000 people every day."
In presenting Buehrle a wall hanging featuring his No. 56 formed from dozens of baseballs, Reinsdorf zinged former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle, who had produced the piece in the Indiana shop where he makes benches and other items from baseball bats.
"We commissioned a noted American artist -- well, Ron Kittle -- to make an art piece to commemorate your career," Reinsdorf said, drawing howls of laughter from the crowd.
Reinsdorf referenced Buehrle's style of working fast and throwing strikes, which produced quick games.
"Thank you for all you've done for the White Sox and all the fans," Reinsdorf said. "It was a pleasure to watch you take the ball every five days, but you sure killed the concession sales."
• When it was his turn to speak, Buehrle called Jamie, Braden and Brooklyn to stand next to him at the podium. He thanked them for their support, then turned his attention to Reinsdorf and White Sox officials. Jamie, Braden and Brooklyn headed for their seats at that point, but Buehrle wasn't having it.
"Hey, come here," Buehrle said. "Get back over here. We're not done. I've told you, don't listen to your mother."
They returned and stayed by his side until he finished.
• The 38-year-old Buehrle said when he first got the call from the White Sox about retiring his number, he thought they were calling because the team needed a pitcher.
"It turns out, I'm an old, washed up former pitcher," Buehrle said.
One who will never be forgotten.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.