On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans could connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. White Sox fans relived Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, a true masterpiece thrown by the southpaw against the Rays on July 23, 2009, in Chicago.
“Opening Day at Home” also was an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
Buehrle made a franchise-best nine Opening Day starts, running from 2002-06 and then again from 2008-2011, so it seems only fitting to talk about the White Sox icon on “Opening Day at Home.” The veteran averaged 85.6 mph on his fastball per FanGraphs, but he was a mound craftsman and used those skills to no-hit the Rangers on April 18, 2007.
In that game, Buehrle walked Sammy Sosa but promptly picked him off first to face the minimum 27. He also faced 27 Cleveland hitters on July 21, 2004, allowing two singles which were erased by two double plays. On this warm July afternoon in 2009, Buehrle was perfect the old-fashioned way, with six strikeouts and 116 pitches in a crisp game covering two hours and three minutes.
Dewayne Wise’s spectacular over-the-wall catch opening the ninth robbed Gabe Kapler of a home run and kept history intact. Wise, who was a defensive replacement inserted by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen prior to the start of the final inning, caught the drive on a full sprint to left-center field and hung on to the ball despite a brief juggle.
A 3-2 changeup called by catcher Ramon Castro produced a Michel Hernandez swinging strikeout for the inning’s second out, and Jason Bartlett’s groundout to shortstop Alexei Ramirez ended the second perfect game in White Sox history. Philip Humber threw the organization’s third perfect game on April 21, 2012, in Seattle, joining Buehrle and Charlie Robertson (April 30, 1922).
That last out brought about the memorable “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! History!” call from Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the White Sox television broadcasting icon who was equally as perfect calling this game as Buehrle was throwing it.
“Of the thousands of games I’ve had the honor to call, and the big accomplishments of individual players, that was the greatest I’ve ever experienced,” Harrelson said. “I texted my wife and said, ‘Honey, Mark Buehrle has a perfect game and I think he’s going to get it.' The catch by Wise, under the circumstances, that was the greatest catch I’ve ever seen.
“He is my favorite White Sox player of all time. I had tears in my eyes after Alexei threw that last out.”
Buehrle retired the first 17 Twins hitters in his next start on July 28, setting a then-Major League record of 45 straight set down. He was a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and recorded at least 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings pitched from 2001-11. He had his No. 56 retired by the White Sox in 2017, but there may be no more memorable moment for one of the more popular and accomplished players in White Sox history than this perfect game.
“Winning the World Series [in 2005], that’s more of a team thing, that’s the ultimate goal and that was an absolute blast,” Buehrle said. “On a personal level, I’d probably have to go with that and [hitting] the home run [on June 14, 2009, off Milwaukee’s Braden Looper]. I thought I would never ever get a hit in the big leagues and I ended up getting a home run.
“Probably the perfect game, because that hasn’t happened very often. When I threw the perfect game and when I hit the home run, that was the same thing. It was like, ‘No way that just happened.’”
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and 2019 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.