Thursday, July 23, 2009


Until today, I hadn't been to a baseball game this whole season. Today, I was an eye-witness to history, or at least, baseball history. Jennifer M., my sales representative for Ticor Title Insurance Co. invited me to go see the Chicago White Sox-Tampa Bay Rays game at U.S. Cellular Field. We went to the game with Marcelino, an attorney, and Carmelo, a mortgage banker. We drove slowly down the construction clogged Chicago expressway system, arriving at the game during the National Anthem. We quickly located our seats in the 33rd row down the left field line.

Because it was a day game following a night game, the White Sox, although battling for first place, were resting several of their regular players. Slugger Jim Thome was on the bench, as was first baseman Paul Konerko who played designated hitter. The weaker fielding strikeout prone Josh Fields played first base in his stead. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski sat on the pines, replaced by the weak hitting Ramon Castro. Scott Podsednik was inserted in center field, not his best position. The second team is somewhat weaker defensively.

As it turned out, none of this was a problem for Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle who fields his position flawlessly. The ace lefthander breezed through the Rays' lineup the first 3 innings like it was child's play. He went to a 3 and 0 count on 9th place hitter Jason Bartlett before retiring him on a popup. Meanwhile, the White Sox loaded the bases in the second inning on a single by Konerko, a walk to Carlos Quentin, then 2 strikeouts and a single by Castro in which the slow footed Konerko had to stop at third base. The ninth place hitter, Fields, worked the count to 3 and 1 and crashed a 400 foot homer deep into the left field stands. At that point, with the score 4-0, the game was effectively over for the Rays. Fans who wanted to leave early and beat the rush hour traffic could do so. Not many did.

The second time through the Rays' lineup, Buehrle was on cruise control. Aside from a hard hit foul ball now and then, they hit weak pop-ups and bouncing balls to the shortstop.

After the fifth inning, there was a buzz among the 28,000 fans present. People stopped going to the refreshment stands and restrooms while the Rays were batting. They took their seats to watch the Rays flail away against Buehrle's offerings. The lefthander worked quickly, pitching from the stretch without winding up. He wasted no time out there.

In the seventh inning, Buehrle had to face the top of the Rays' lineup--their best hitters--for the third time. He got the dangerous Carl Crawford on a weak tap back to the mound and star third baseman Evan Longoria on a gentle grounder to third base.

By the eighth inning, the fans were on their feet. The Rays' Pat Burrell hit a rocket past third base that landed foul by inches. Both the third base umpire and our group had a perfect view and the call was correct. We were screaming in delight when Burrell then hit a soft liner to third baseman Gordon Beckham to end the inning.

The White Sox had to bat in the bottom of the eighth, but nobody paid attention. Let's get these guys outta here so we can watch Buehrle pitch the ninth inning!

Buehrle came out of the dugout to the mound to start the ninth inning, and the fans gave him a standing ovation. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Manager Ozzie Guillen made a defensive move, removing the sore footed Carlos Quentin from left field and moving Scott Podsednik there from center field. He inserted Dwayne Wise, a little taller with a little more range, in center field. The move turned out to be brilliant.

The first batter in the ninth inning, Gabe Kapler, worked the count full and hit a tremendous drive to left center field that appeared to be a home run. The collective silence of the crowd was deafening as eveyone's heart dropped. Center fielder Wise was Superman for one brief moment as he streaked toward the left field wall. At the last possible moment, he leaped up on the wall, with his glove extended over the top, and he brought the ball back in play. For Sox fans, it was a miracle as Wise juggled the ball on his way down, holding the ball high as he rolled over on the ground. Tears of joy filled our eyes. Almost a religious experience! Buehrle might actually do this!

The next hitter was the catcher Michel Hernandez, who struck out swinging, the sixth strikeout of the day for Buehrle. 26 batters up and 26 down! The fans were chanting "Buehrle!, Buehrle!" as the 27th batter for the Rays stepped into the batter's box. Although he was batting ninth, the talented shortstop, Jason Bartlett, a .342 hitter, was not someone you'd want to face with the game on the line. With the count 2 and 1, Bartlett hit a bouncing ball directly at shortstop Alexei Ramirez who threw to first for the final out. A perfect no-hit game!

As you can imagine, the fans were in partying mood. The White Sox players swarmed the field, mobbing Buehrle. Even his wife was on the field. The fans milled around for a long time, savoring the event. During the post game interview, Buehrle was interrupted by a phone call from President Obama, a Sox fan himself, from the South Side of Chicago. Apparently, the phone number is on the President's speed dial. He was coincidently in Chicago today for a fund raiser, but he regretfully didn't make it to the game.

The Sox victory propelled them into a tie for first place with Detroit. In the long run of a pennant race, it's just one game, and they'll have to win many more. But for just one magical moment of perfection we'll worry about the rest of the season tomorrow.



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