Perfection: Mark Buehrle pitches perfect game for White Sox with 5-0 victory over Rays

By Andrew Seligman, AP
Friday, July 24, 2009

Whitesox-Mark BuehrlePerfection: Buehrle tosses perfect game for ChiSox

CHICAGO — The 1-2-3 innings were piling up and Mark Buehrle wouldn’t leave his teammates alone.

While mixing curves and changeups, the chatty veteran was throwing an old baseball superstition aside and having a grand old time — just as he did the last time he pitched a no-hitter.

Only this time, he was perfect.

Buehrle got a big assist from center fielder DeWayne Wise, who made a spectacular catch in the ninth inning, and then coolly closed out the 18th perfect game in major league history, a 5-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s really soaked in,” he said. “I think it’ll soak in a little later. Obviously, anytime your name gets up there with some of the greats in the game, that means a lot. I think it’s a thing when you retire and sit back and see how many perfect games have been thrown — and your name’s in there — I think I’m going to sit back and be surprised.”

Along with the perfect pitches, he’ll probably think about Wise’s perfect play.

The image of Wise, just in as a defensive replacement, sprinting toward the fence in left-center after the ball jumped off Gabe Kapler’s bat leading off the ninth will be tough to forget.

Wise jumped and extended his right arm above the top of the 8-foot wall. The ball landed in his glove, then popped out for a split second as he was caroming off the wall and stumbling on the warning track. Wise grabbed it with his bare left hand, fell to the ground and rolled. He bounced up, proudly displaying the ball for the crowd.

A home run turned into an out, and with his biggest scare behind him, Buehrle finished off the perfect game.

“I was with the Braves in ‘04 and I was there when Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks pitched a perfect game. So I’ve been on both sides of it,” Wise said. “It was probably the best catch I’ve ever made because of the circumstances.

“It was kind of crazy, man, because when I jumped, the ball hit my glove at the same time I was hitting the wall. So I didn’t realize I had caught it until I fell down and the ball was coming out of my glove, so I reached out and grabbed it.”

Kapler called it “magical for both Wise and Buehrle, and most guys earn those moments.”

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was happy he made the switch to Wise, who came in for Scott Podsednik.

“I guess that’s our job,” Guillen said.

And as he made the perfect push toward history, Buehrle simply wouldn’t leave his antsy teammates alone. He kept talking to them, and even hit rookie Gordon Beckham with this question in the seventh: “You think I’m going to do it?”

“I just looked down and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to jinx it,” Beckham said.

In the fifth inning, Buehrle went back to the clubhouse and told everyday catcher A.J. Pierzynski — who had the day off — to go watch in the dugout and enjoy himself.

“People say you can jinx it, but not Mark,” Pierzynski said. “He’s all about having fun.”

Buehrle was having plenty of it before the game, when he kept reminding Pierzynski about his no-hitter against Texas two years ago.

So Pierzynski told him: “‘Go out and throw a perfect game, then.’ And he said: ‘I just might.”

With fans chanting Buehrle’s name, Jason Bartlett got ahead 2-1, then grounded to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who threw to first baseman Josh Fields. Buehrle put both hands on his head and was mobbed by teammates between the mound and first base.

“Never thought I’d throw a no-hitter, never thought I’d throw a perfect game, never thought I’d hit a home run,” said Buehrle, who has done all three. “Never say never in this game because crazy stuff can happen.”

The pitcher even received a congratulatory telephone call from President Barack Obama — a White Sox fan — following the 16th perfect game since the modern era began in 1900 and the first since Johnson’s on May 18, 2004.

“We joked around, a 30-second phone call, and I’m like ‘What? That’s all he’s got for me?’” Buehrle said.

Obama, a lefty like Buehrle, wore a White Sox jacket when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at last week’s All-Star game in St. Louis.

“I told him how surprised I was that he actually did it,” Buehrle said. “He said, ‘Congratulations, and it’s an honor. A lot of people are going to remember this forever.’”

Obama had spoken with Buehrle — a St. Charles, Mo., native — in the AL clubhouse last week.

“As a fan, it’s extraordinary,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs quoted Obama as saying. “When you’re a White Sox fan and know the guy who did it, it makes it even more fun.”

Buehrle (11-3) had the best time of all.

Backed by Fields’ second-inning grand slam, he threw 76 of 116 pitches for strikes and fanned six in his second no-hitter, helping Chicago move within a percentage point of AL Central-leading Detroit.

In a 6-0 win over Texas on April 18, 2007, Buehrle also faced the minimum 27 batters. He walked Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning of that game, then picked him off two pitches later.

“I bought everyone watches after the last one. That was an expensive no-hitter,” Buehrle said. “This one will probably be more expensive.”

NOTE: Home plate umpire Eric Cooper was also behind the plate for Buehrle’s no-hitter two years ago.

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