For the past 12 years, one of the worst-kept secrets in Chicago sports was that Mark Buehrle had enjoyed a few cold ones before recording a save in the 2005 World Series. It was talked about among sportswriters, mentioned on Chicago White Sox fan message boards and even confirmed by his pitching coach Don Cooper in a television appearance two years ago.
But while Cooper said there was “no telling” how many beers Buehrle drank before closing out the Houston Astros in the 14th inning of Game 3, Buehrle is now here to confirm the tallest of tall tales in his South Side legend.
In a piece for the Players’ Tribune on the eve of his number retirement ceremony, Buehrle says he drank three beers “max” before entering the game at Minute Maid Park.
And who could blame him? Buehrle had thrown 100 pitches over seven innings in a Game 2 victory just two nights earlier. The White Sox held a 2-0 series lead and it seemed like there was no chance the Sox would ever need Buehrle’s services that night.
It’s here where Buehrle picks up the story:
I would’ve bet my house that I wasn’t going to pitch a day and a half later. Anyone would have.
So, that being the case, you better believe that I was gonna do what came natural to me — grab a few beers during the early innings, kick back and enjoy the game like everyone else.
And it was just like one or two beers.
Every time I grabbed one, I’d go over and check in with the coaches.
“Hey, you guys are sure you’re not going to need me, right?”
“No, Mark. You are not pitching today. You just went.”
So I’d hear that and grab a beer.
It was only like three beers….
Definitely no more than three, though.
The Astros, however, tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning and the march to the longest game in World Series history (five hours, 41 minutes) was on.
By the 11th, I began to get the feeling that something strange might be taking place. At that point, I started to bear down and prepare. And I was ready to pitch when my name was called.
An unlikely home run by Geoff Blum in the top of the 14th inning gave the White Sox a 7-5 lead. Damaso Marte, Chicago’s eighth pitcher of the night, started the bottom of the inning. But with two outs and a runner on third, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen signaled that he wanted Buehrle.
He ended up throwing just three pitches, the last of which induced a game-ending pop out from Adam Everett.
When it was all said and done, I got the save. We got the win. And we won the whole thing the next day.
Six years later, the baseball world lost its mind over the Boston Red Sox “chicken and beer” story, in which pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey and Josh Beckett were credited for a late-season collapse after drinking and eating in the clubhouse during games.
Buehrle’s clubhouse beers, of course, are viewed quite differently by a fan base that saw No. 56 pitch a no-hitter and a perfect game after also helping the franchise to its first World Series title since 1917.
No one gives me any grief about it … because, first and foremost, sports fans in Chicago care about winning. And we brought home the trophy.
But also, I think part of it has to do with the fact that the people there really love their beer.
The legend of Mark Buehrle was already quite big on the South Side. A 38th-round draft pick out of community college, he had far from overpowering stuff or an ideal pitcher’s physique. But he pitched 12 seasons for the White Sox, going 161-119 with a 4.13 ERA and earning a reputation as an approachable everyman. He was the guy White Sox fans could picture sitting in a deer stand with or talking trucks in a parking lot.
And as the White Sox prepare to hang his number aside Hall of Famers like Frank Thomas, Carlton Fisk and Nellie Fox, it seems like his Game 3 confirmation will make White Sox fans only love Buehrle even more.
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