Mark Buehrle might need time to process everything that took place Saturday afternoon when he was surrounded by friends, family, teammates and fans, showered with gifts and overwhelmed by emotion.
The White Sox officially retired the number of one of the most popular players in team history in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. A banner covering Buehrle’s No. 56 was unfurled during an afternoon ceremony that makes the left-hander one of 11 players in club history whose number has been retired. Surrounded by fellow honoree Frank Thomas among many others, the always humble Buehrle -- who won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox -- said afterward he’s not sure he belongs in the club.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Buehrle said. “It’s going to take time. I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in and realize there it is.
“Amazing feeling. Can’t really put it into words how you feel. I wasn’t actually as nervous as I thought I would be once I was up there. But obviously glad it’s over with and it’s a special day.”
Buehrle’s list of dignitaries included Thomas, managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Cliff Polite, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, John Danks and hitting coach Greg Walker.
White Sox play by play man Hawk Harrelson emceed a ceremony that lasted 30 minutes. Included were speeches by Thomas and White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper as well as an unveiling of a series of gifts. The team presented Buehrle with a new truck, a baseball collage put together by Ron Kittle, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle -- much to the enjoyment of his duck hunting club seated on the 400 level -- as well as the flip-through-the-legs ball from Opening Day 2010. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also spoke during the ceremony, dropping in a series of one-liners.
“I’ve never seen him upset,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen him overreact. Day in and day out he was the same guy. That’s what makes him so special. His teammates loved him.
“Buehrle did something: outsmart people. People don’t have stuff like him they think I’m smart, I can do this and fake it. Buehrle just grabbed the ball and threw it.
“To survive for so many years and have your number retired, there’s not that many people up there.
“It’s amazing with the stuff he had. I’ve seen a lot of better pitchers with better stuff. You don’t see too many guys with the same heart.”
Buehrle said Friday that he anticipated he’d be an emotional wreck for the event. The man beloved by the public isn’t much for public speaking. Throw in all of his friends and family present and Buehrle just hoped to get through his own speech. He said the sight of seeing his number unfurled almost put him over the edge.
“Emotions and trying to breathe deep and don’t start crying, tearing up,” Buehrle said. “I was trying to hold my emotions together. But just looking up there and seeing that. I can’t put it into words.”
When it was his turn to say the words, Buehrle spoke the way he pitched: tidy and efficient. Wearing a suit and sunglasses in case he teared up, Buehrle spoke with his wife and children at his side. Aside from his family, Buehrle said he avoided naming names during the 4-minute, 19-second speech because he had too many people to thank for the journey from 38th-round draft pick to all-time great.
Buehrle said he wouldn’t be able to pick out his favorite part until he watches the ceremony again later. After the ceremony, Buehrle's son sang the National Anthem and his daughter threw out the first pitch.
“When I watch it back in a couple hours and realize what happened and what really went on,” Buehrle said. “It’s kind of hard to hear out there, but it’s just everything. I had Frank Thomas and Jim Thome behind me. They’re here for my day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”