GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In all the years White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams has known Mark Buehrle, Williams can remember just one time when he had to ask the All-Star southpaw in a rather stern manner what he was thinking.
"For some reason, water and tarps and rain delays brought the little kid out of him," said Williams with a laugh as he spoke about one of the best pitchers in franchise history.
Buehrle probably won't be doing any tarp-diving on June 24, even if there is a rain delay that afternoon. On that day, the White Sox will honor Buehrle by retiring his No. 56 jersey during a special tribute before the first pitch against Oakland.
Fans can celebrate Buehrle's perfect game against the Rays in 2009, his no-hitter against the Rangers in '07, his save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, his shocking home run against the Brewers and his countless outstanding defensive plays. But as Williams notes, he also was a class act in the clubhouse and throughout the organization.
"You know he's one of the best that has ever put on a White Sox uniform. He represented the organization in a first-class, fun way," Williams said. "The next person I meet that says that Mark Buehrle wasn't a good teammate or wasn't a top-notch pitcher and person will be the first person I meet that feels that way."
"It's just outstanding and a well-deserved honor," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "All of us who were close to Mark or anyone who followed the club closely during his tenure with us knows just how special he is and how important he was to a very successful period of White Sox baseball."
Buehrle will be the 12th player to have his number retired by the White Sox, including former teammates Paul Konerko and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. He was drafted by the White Sox in 1998, making his MLB debut in 2000. With the White Sox, Buehrle was a four-time American League All-Star and three-time AL Gold Glove Award winner.
The left-hander went 161-119 for the White Sox, with a 3.83 ERA, 27 complete games, eight shutouts and 1,396 strikeouts over 390 appearances (365 starts). Buehrle ranks among the franchise leaders in strikeouts (4th), starts (4th), quality starts (4th, 231), wins (6th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7th, 2.48), innings pitched (7th) and games pitched (8th). He also posted 11 straight seasons of at least 200 innings pitched, 30 starts and double-digit victories.
Williams had talked to Buehrle about coming back during Spring Training to share his wisdom with the young players. Buehrle considered the offer, according to Williams, but a family commitment took precedence.
"His desire to come back and help out is part of who he is," Williams said.
"One guy I had to pick out who made the pitching coach good and made me keep my job, him first," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Nothing bothered him. He was the same every day, on and off the field. Steady performer, steady guy."
"Mark was one of my favorite people, and that is saying a lot," former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said via text to a pool reporter. "He was the best teammate ever. Everyone loved this man. Everyone."