07/23/09 6:36 PM ET
Obama calls Buehrle after perfect game
President congratulates White Sox lefty on his achievement
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
This time, President Barack Obama was calling him to say "congratulations" on "an extraordinary achievement" only moments after the pitcher completed his perfect game against the Rays on Thursday afternoon.
Obama -- a left-hander as well -- is the First Fan of the White Sox, having just thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at 80th All-Star Game on July 14 while wearing a black White Sox jacket. Before that appearance, he had hugged Buehrle while meeting with all the All-Star players to congratulate them for their selections.
Coincidentally, Obama was scheduled to fly in the late afternoon from Cleveland to Chicago, where he is attending a fundraiser at the residence of Penny Pritzker. The White House staff schedule said he would be arriving at O'Hare Airport and would then meet with reporters, meaning he would be expected to talk about Buehrle's gem at length -- including how he followed it or got word.
Then the president will deliver remarks at a fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and late in the evening, he is scheduled to return to Washington.
Buehrle was seated beside his wife Jamie and 4-month-old daughter Brooklyn while the phone was handed to him in the office of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, the closest quiet spot away from the loud clubhouse they could find. Buehrle immediately said:
"Hello? Yes. Thank you, sir."
Presidents have a long history of calling Major League Baseball clubhouses to offer congratulations, but it typically has been after a World Series clincher. This was another extreme example of Obama's love for baseball and specifically the White Sox.
Buehrle explained after the call that Obama also "was taking a little bit of credit because he wore the White Sox jacket at the All-Star Game and I told him how surprised I was that he actually did it. He said, 'Congratulations,' and 'It's an honor. A lot of people are going to remember this forever.'"
So, is Buehrle talking with the president every week now?
"Let's hope," the pitcher replied with a smile. "It's weird, like I said at the All-Star Game when he came up. He's almost like a buddy. I met him one time, and meeting him again, everybody else was in awe."
Buehrle then was asked how excited Obama sounded over the phone.
"It was hard to tell," Buehrle said. "Obviously he's got a lot of stuff going on, and I think I was more nervous talking to him and trying on my end not to say something stupid. But I was just sitting there in the press conference and somebody says, 'Hey, the president wants to talk to you.' I got goosebumps. Obviously that's never happened before and hopefully it happens again."
Underlining the importance of the day, Buehrle said, "Yeah, we joked around, a 30-second phone call, and I'm like, 'What? That's all he's got for me?' Obviously I know he's got more important things to do, but it's just an honor that he took a couple seconds out of his day to call me."
Obama had said a week earlier in the Fox broadcasting booth during the All-Star Game: "This is the national pastime. ... It's such a reminder about what's great in this country."
On Thursday, it was very much on his mind. Accustomed to receiving urgent briefings on serious matters like health care debate and international intelligence, Obama was getting updates on Buehrle's perfect game.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that as the president was leaving Shaker Heights High School after a town hall meeting in the Cleveland area, he was quickly briefed on the fact that Buehrle was carrying a perfect game into the ninth inning at U.S. Cellular Field.
Gibbs said that as the president's motorcade headed to the airport for the flight to Chicago, he received an e-mail update from an aide that the perfect game had been completed.
"As a fan, it's extraordinary," Obama told Gibbs before Air Force One took off from Cleveland, according to the press secretary. "When you're a White Sox fan -- and I know the guy -- it makes it even more fun."
Obama then had Buehrle pulled out of the postgame news conference and, according to Gibbs, told the pitcher it was "an extraordinary achievement."
The president also joked that perhaps his decision to sport a White Sox jacket as he tossed out the first pitch last week in St. Louis brought Buehrle a little bit of luck.
Ironically, Buehrle pitched one other no-hitter that came against the favorite team of the president at the time. That was on April 18, 2007 -- when George Bush was in the Oval Office -- against the Texas Rangers, which Bush had once partly owned. Buehrle also faced the minimum number of batters in that game at U.S. Cellular Field, but he missed a perfect game by walking Sammy Sosa, who was picked off straying too far off first base.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Associate reporter David Just contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.