Monday, June 26, 2017

Pix of 56: My Photos of Mark Buehrle's White Sox Uniform Number Retirement Ceremony - June 24, 2017

As heretical as it may sound to some, I am a fan of both the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox.

This goes back to my childhood when the Cubs were more readily on the family TV and--with friends, relatives and school field trips--more commonly attended, but the White Sox had night games, an exploding scoreboard and the wonderfully-coiffed Oscar Gamble.

And, before he switched sides of town, Harry Caray.

The Sox were the first Chicago baseball team in my lifetime to make the playoffs and, years later, to win a World Series (in 2005). I reveled in both, with t-shirts to prove it, although I was admittedly a bit more overjoyed when the Cubs finally won it all last year. (If the two teams play for a title, I'll root for the Cubs, but otherwise unabashedly support the Sox as well.)

With close friends who are more avidly and exclusively White Sox fans, I've enjoyed going to many Sox games over the years and was--quite fortuitously--at Mark Buehrle's first no-hitter in 2007 (the only one I've ever seen live; I was a day shy of being at his 2009 perfect game). 

A cornerstone of the White Sox for 12 seasons, Buehrle was--rather astonishingly--a 38th round draft pick with little fanfare who would make it to the majors just two years later at the age of 21, win 214 regular season games (161 with the Sox), make five All-Star teams, garner four Gold Glove Awards, help the Sox capture their first title in 88 years and earn nearly $140 million dollars.

Yet his considerable on-the-field accomplishments only partly explain why Buehrle is so beloved by Sox fans, such as my best friend Jordan who considers him his all-time favorite player by a wide margin.

By almost all perceptions, Buehrle is a humble, down-to-earth, exceptionally cool guy who was as personable with members of the grounds crew as with his teammates or club executives. (This piece he recently wrote for The Players Tribune is a wonderful read toward that end.)

And his tarp-sliding rain delay escapades further bespeak his knack for exuding child-like passion while never taking himself too seriously to have fun. 

Finishing his 16-year major league career with the Toronto Blue Jays--you can view his impressive stats here--Buehrle retired after the 2015 season.

This past Saturday, the White Sox and their fans warmly welcomed him back to Chicago with a day in his honor, at which his uniform #56 was retired.

So I was delighted when Jordan and his wife Erin wound up with an extra ticket to offer me. Though interested, I don't think I would have otherwise gotten to the game, which itself didn't work out so well for the White Sox. (They lost 10-2 as starter James Shields served up the first career homers to three different Oakland A's.)

I also caught up with my diehard Sox pal Dave and another friend, and as is my wont took numerous pictures throughout the pregame ceremony for Mark Buehrle.

To honor him, but also to thank my friends for enabling me to see it in person, here are some of my best shots:

Longtime White Sox announce Ken "Hawk" Harrelson served as the ceremony's MC. On the chairs to his right are
Mark Buehrle's wife Jamie, daughter Brooklyn, his parents and Jamie's mother. Former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is in
the white shirt closest to the bottom, alongside Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, Jerry Manuel and Don Cooper..
This was before the Buehrle ceremony began, but I got a good shot of Frank Thomas reporting to his TV gig
alongside Bill Melton.
In addition to Thomas several of Buehrle's teammates were present, including Joe Crede (in the blue shirt) and
to his left, Jon Garland and Jim Thome. Sitting behind the former players were members of the Sox' clubhouse,
maintenance and/or groundskeeping crew from Buehrle's years in Chicago.
At bottom right, Mark Buehrle takes the field with his son Braden, as also shown below.

With his own number already retired by the White Sox, Frank Thomas spoke at the ceremony.
White Sox principal owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who noted the large turnout to salute Buehrle by telling him:
"We don't get 40,000 fans at every game."
On behalf of the White Sox, Reinsdorf gave Buehrle both an ATV and pickup truck.
After making this incredible play in 2010, Buehrle gave the baseball to a young fan,
who on Saturday brought it back for him.

A brief video I shot of the unveiling of Mark Buehrle's number 56 among other retired numbers.

I'm not sure what Mark's dad was photographing here as his son spoke.
During his speech, Buehrle insisted Jamie, Braden and Brooklyn stand alongside him.
I thought it was classy for several current A's to watch the ceremony and join in the standing ovation.
 Mark Buehrle greeting Jon Garland
Always classy, Buehrle again shows his appreciation for White Sox crew members.
Former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle made this commemorative artwork for Buehrle and poses with him.

Braden Buehrle, Mark's son (soon to turn 10) sang the National Anthem
Brooklyn Buehrle, Mark's 8-year-old daughter, threw out the first pitch...
...and her purported velocity was noted as exceeding her dad's in his prime.
The White Sox take the field on Mark Buehrle Day. Giving up 10 runs in a game lasting nearly 3-1/2 hours,
they did not exemplify him well.

A commemorative pin given to all fans on Saturday

All photos by Seth Arkin, copyright 2017. Please do not repost without permission or attribution.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Some really great shots Seth! Thanks for posting. I felt like I was there.