Buehrle besieged by media requests
Unassuming White Sox pitcher says no-hitter hasn't sunk in
CHICAGO -- In the split-second that it took for third baseman Joe Crede to field Gerald Laird's two-out, ninth-inning ground ball Wednesday night and fire a strike to first baseman Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle's life changed forever.
Well, Buehrle's existence at least was altered for the short term, with the left-hander appearing on television shows and doing radio interviews across the country the day after becoming the 16th pitcher in White Sox history to throw a no-hitter. Buehrle even held a press conference Thursday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, just a few minutes before manager Ozzie Guillen held his daily briefing, which certainly falls in the out-of-the-ordinary category for a starting pitcher.
But the amazing accomplishment produced by Buehrle against Texas, marking the first no-hitter in the existence of U.S. Cellular Field, would be considered anything but ordinary. In fact, this particular effort turned a very solid veteran hurler into an overnight media sensation.
"I just came here early and did a lot of interviews," said Buehrle, surrounded by the Chicago media during his seven-minute Thursday session. "I don't think it has really sunk in yet. I was more nervous coming to the field today than I was yesterday, and I don't know why."
Maybe it's the national recognition heaped upon Buehrle that has caused a few jitters. While Buehrle is as steady and straightforward of a quote as any player on the White Sox, through the good times and the bad, he's one of the last individuals to crave attention.
The irony surrounding Buehrle's day-after nervousness is that he might have been the calmest one on the field while he was making history Wednesday. Buehrle was joking about the no-hitter with teammates in the dugout as early as the second or third inning, while White Sox players were doing whatever they could to avoid putting a jinx on Buehrle's piece of baseball immortality.
"About the eighth inning, I was watching the game on the TV where I was doing my hitting underneath [in the cage]," said White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome in explaining his Buehrle superstition. "I have to be honest. I said I'm not going up [to the dugout] in the ninth. I watched it down below."
"He's the same and he's always been the same. He's just Mark," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Buehrle's calm exterior in the face of such a high-pressure situation. "He doesn't change his demeanor when he's going good or going bad. That's what makes him such a great pitcher."
Buehrle certainly has the body of work to back up Pierzynski's kudos, with Wednesday's 6-0 victory giving the left-hander a 98-66 record over parts of seven seasons as a starter. But Buehrle's style of pitching doesn't seem built to hold a team hitless, especially when you consider legends such as Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux or current stalwarts such as Johan Santana and Roy Halladay never have climbed this mountain.
In each of the past five years, Buehrle has allowed at least 236 hits. He attacks the strike zone and doesn't overpower the opposition, meaning he's more likely to give up singles and doubles as opposed to free passes when he's a shade off of his game.
That sort of trouble beset Buehrle in the second half of the 2006 season, when he finished 3-7 with a 6.44 ERA. As friend and foe alike pointed out on Wednesday and Thursday, though, that second half might be the exception that proves the rule of Buehrle as a high-quality starter.
"If you check the back of his baseball card, you will see the last half of last year was the exception to what he has done," Konerko said. "He's not a guy you would think would throw a no-hitter, but at the same time, a lot of guys just like him have thrown one because they attack, and when they are on, they put the balls on the corners and not in the middle."
"He's going to have a lot more complete games. Maybe not no-hitters, but he will go the distance and get you seven or eight complete innings," added Twins center fielder Torii Hunter of Buehrle. "He's a quick worker, and you can't really get a rhythm off him. It's really his pace and not your pace. So that's why it didn't surprise me. The brother could do it, and he deserves it."
Even with this outside analysis being thrown his way, Buehrle still had a hard time himself digesting the no-hitter. After the postgame celebration, Buehrle said he went home and played with his dogs, watched television and had a few cocktails, while his expectant wife, Jamie, was on the Internet looking at all the articles extolling with her husband's on-mound virtues.
At about midnight, the couple realized they hadn't eaten anything and put a pizza in the oven. Ninety minutes later, they went to bed.
"Just a normal night," said Buehrle with a smile.
Buehrle received 54 text messages and 12 voicemails of congratulations from family members and ex-teammates. He also got e-mails from college coaches and high school coaches.
"Pretty much everybody who has my number gave me a call," Buehrle said.
Buehrle's father, John, who usually is at Buehrle's starts with his mom and grandmother amongst other family members, called him on Wednesday night. But Buehrle said it was hard to understand his father's words of praise.
"My dad called crying," Buehrle explained. "He was up at my property, and he watches every game up there. He called, and I think I understood two words he said because he was crying all the time. Everyone was so excited."
Yet, Buehrle seemed to be the same unaffected staff ace as he was before facing the minimum 27 Texas hitters Wednesday, striking out eight. In fact, he even joked about the burden heaped upon him by Thursday's extra press conference.
"I ain't supposed to be talking to you guys today," Buehrle said. "It's my day off. I told Jamie, 'It's nice to throw a no-hitter, but it kind of [stinks].' All these phone interviews, and I can't kind of do anything on my own."
Such are the responsibilities of a history-making hurler. But don't blame Buehrle if he flinches for a second or two during a respective interview when he hears the no-hitter mentioned.
Almost 24 hours after the fact, the accomplishment still doesn't seem real.
"My name and no-hitter shouldn't go together," said Buehrle with a laugh. "It just doesn't sound right. I don't know if it will be until the offseason that it sinks in.
"You just have to have to so much stuff happen. I think Kenny Lofton hit one down the left-field line that was an inch foul. If the ball would have went an inch fairer, then the no-hitter would have been over. You just need so much to go your way, and I never thought it'd be me that got it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.