CSN's coverage of Mark Buehrle Day will begin at 12:30 p.m. and can be live streamed on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.
On Saturday, Mark Buehrle will become the 11th player in White Sox history to have his number retired, joining a select group of players who are synonymous with baseball on 35th and Shields.
Nellie Fox. Harold Baines. Luke Appling. Minnie Minoso. Luis Aparicio. Paul Konerko. Ted Lyons. Billy Pierce. Frank Thomas. Carlton Fisk. And, beginning Saturday, Buehrle’s No. 56 will be never be worn again, instead enshrined between a pair of Hall of Famers in Thomas and Fisk.
“It doesn't really make sense, to be honest with you,” Buehrle said. “Trying to wrap my head around it -- I watched Frank Thomas as a kid growing up and even when I came here and played with him, I couldn't believe it. I’m, like, a fan of Frank Thomas, who's right there. It just doesn't make sense that I'm up there with those guys, Again, I went out there and tried to do what I could do every day and had fun with it and obviously had a good, long successful career. And now here we are getting my number retired. I can't really explain it. It's pretty hard.”
Buehrle is one of only three pitchers to have his number retired by the White Sox, joining Lyons (the franchise leader in wins) and Pierce (the franchise leader in strikeouts). Buehrle won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox, threw a no-hitter and a perfect game, saved Game 3 of the World Series and never threw fewer than 200 innings in a season after his 2000 debut.
While he didn’t seek out the spotlight, Buehrle’s consistency — plus those historic moments and a few tarp dives mixed in — made No. 56 one of the White Sox most popular players during his time in Chicago. He was well-liked by his teammates and coaches, too, after working his way from being a 38th round draft pick to becoming a five-time All-Star in his career.
“I think that's one of the best compliments I can get, people liking me,” Buehrle said. “I wanted to be liked by everybody. I had fun at the field, tried to stay loose, try to joke around with guys.
“I think at the end of the day I'm just a normal dude who was fortunate to play professional baseball and play that long and be healthy.”
Part of Buehrle’s sense of disbelief over his jersey retirement is that he’s only 38 and pitched his last game 21 months ago. While he’s enjoying life after baseball — and is playing first base and hitting cleanup for his beer league softball team — he’s not that far removed from it, unlike even Frank Thomas, who last played nine years ago.
“I was just a kid playing baseball, little leagues a few years back, and here I am getting my number retired,” Buehrle said. “It’s hard to soak it all in and figure it out.”
Don’t expect Buehrle’s address to the crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field Saturday to go long — just like his starts here — as he said he a “complete disaster” emotionally thinking about the pregame ceremony. His nine-year-old son, Braden, will sing the national anthem and his eight-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, will throw out the first pitch, though Buehrle said he won’t be nervous for those moments since his speech will be over with. It's a moment that'll be special for him and his wife, Jamie.
But Saturday’s festivities weren’t something Buehrle was expecting when he debuted with the White Sox on July 16, 2000 — or even when he last started for the franchise on Sept. 27, 2011.
“You don’t think of getting numbers retired or any stuff like this,” Buehrle said. “You just go out there and play the game and the numbers take care of themselves. I knew I would come back but not for something like this, no. No chance.”