Light shines on unassuming Buehrle
Those in the know appreciated star pitcher before perfecto
DETROIT -- During the past 24 hours, Mark Buehrle has taken calls of congratulations from President Barack Obama, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and more friends then he even remembered having.
Just another day in the life of the unassuming All-Star from St. Charles, Mo., who claims to not be a fan of media appearances, but continues to produce accomplishments that bring on national attention.
"Not much sleep," said Buehrle of how he spent his time since throwing the 18th perfect game in the history of baseball during Thursday's 5-0 victory over the Rays at U.S. Cellular Field.
"In the hotel watching SportsCenter, looking at stuff on the Internet," Buehrle said. "Texting my wife, trying to respond to 65 text messages, 12 phone calls, trying to respond to everybody. Trying to soak it all in."
Buehrle became the 24th pitcher in the game's long and storied history to throw multiple no-hitters, and only the sixth to include a perfect game. Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax and Cy Young already are in the Hall of Fame among this elite group, and Randy Johnson certainly will be elected five years after he retires.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, approximately 195,000 games have been played in Major League history, so somewhere around 0.000092 percent of those games have resulted in a perfect game. Buehrle also became the first pitcher among the 17 regular-season perfect games to throw one against a defending league champion. He joined Jim "Catfish" Hunter as the only pitcher to throw a perfect game against a team ranked in the top five in the Majors in runs scored, with the Rays entering the game sitting third.
Suffice to say, Buehrle is a special hurler. That fact was known to those who followed him even prior to this superlative effort, but even more people around baseball are starting to take notice.
"Well, I know he isn't [underappreciated] with the Texas Rangers, because of his ability to get the ball where he wants it and his ability to get his secondary pitches over," said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan, the all-time leader in no-hitters with seven, during a Friday interview on the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.
"Location is the first thing that affects a hitter, and then being able to change speeds, and get the secondary pitches over makes it really tough," Ryan said. "We always look at him. We're such a left-handed-laden ball club, that our hitters find it challenging to face left-handers, and then when you face a left-hander that has the command that he does, it makes it even tougher."
By the time Buehrle's career comes to a close, and based on some previous comments from the left-hander, it possibly could be after his four-year, $56 million deal expires following the 2011 campaign, how will he be judged? With two no-hitters, a World Series championship that includes a start and a save in the Fall Classic and a career record that has him 43 games over .500, could the Hall of Fame someday be possible for this 38th-round Draft pick?
Such suggestions brought a wry smile to Buehrle's face when he was asked on Friday, indicating he didn't have any plans in the future to begin work on his induction speech.
"I got to do a lot more in this game to be thought of in that category," Buehrle said. "Obviously, it's an honor for people to even mention that. I got  wins now. I need a lot more wins, and a lot more stuff in this game to be mentioned there."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen joked about Buehrle reacting as if he had just made another in his 34 or 35 starts on the charter to Detroit on Thursday night. Buehrle celebrated by having dinner with first baseman Paul Konerko, assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger and his wife and assistant trainer Brian Ball. A team-wide dinner is planned following Saturday's late-afternoon contest.
As far as gifts go, Buehrle hasn't decided on anything for the team to commemorate his moment of perfection. Buehrle did talk about getting a painting made for Dewayne Wise of one of the most historic catches in franchise history to rob Gabe Kapler of a home run leading off the ninth on Thursday.
Having Buehrle as the rotation anchor serves as gift enough for the White Sox, at this point. And for the moment, he has become a local hero with a more national following.
"You know, it's still hard to believe he has two [no-hitters] already," said Guillen with a laugh. "Not because he's not that good -- because this kid is a strike machine. He knows how to pitch. He knows what he's doing on the mound. But his gameplan is not to throw a no-hitter. It's to win the game as quick as he can."
"He has to be considered one of the best lefties in White Sox history," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.