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Miracle On The South Side
August 03, 2009
On an afternoon when everything could've—maybe should've—gone wrong, everything went perfectly right. Here's why Mark Buehrle's masterpiece goes down as this season's coolest moment
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August 03, 2009

Miracle On The South Side

On an afternoon when everything could've—maybe should've—gone wrong, everything went perfectly right. Here's why Mark Buehrle's masterpiece goes down as this season's coolest moment

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With two outs in the sixth Buehrle went to 3--0 on Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett, and he was confronted with the dilemma that faces any pitcher in the midst of a perfect game. He could walk Bartlett and sacrifice the perfect game for the no-hitter, or he could attack him and gamble everything against a hitter sitting on the fastball. Cooper has lectured Buehrle in the past to be cautious when behind in counts, but Buehrle despises walks, so he threw two consecutive fastballs to Bartlett for strikes and induced a grounder to short on a 3-and-2 count. As Buehrle walked to the dugout, he thought about texting Jamie again and telling her to have the neighbor wake Braden and bring him to the ballpark, but he was afraid of jinxing himself, so he held off.

Back in St. Charles, Pat Buehrle was being just as careful. John still could not get a signal at Mark's house, so he was regularly calling Pat, and she was answering the phone with the greeting, "Mark still has his you-know-what."

As the White Sox got ready for the seventh inning and Beckham went to retrieve his glove, Buehrle tried to catch the rookie's attention. Buehrle had noticed in the sixth that whenever Beckham threw the ball from third base back to the mound, he was averting his eyes and trying to hold back a smile. "Question of the day," Buehrle said. "Think I'm going to do it?" Beckham pretended not to hear.

Meanwhile, Wise had left the bench and gone down to the batting cage under the stadium to take a few cuts, unaware of what was developing outside. With one out in the seventh Wise heard over the radio "19 up, 19 down," but he was sure the announcer was mistaken. A frequent late-game defensive replacement, he checked the scoreboard for himself. "I'd better go get loose," he said, hustling to the weight room. When the Rays' Evan Longoria flied out to end the seventh, Cooper turned to manager Ozzie Guillen and said, "Now it's real. Game on." Castro ran to the dugout and told pitcher Jose Contreras, "He hasn't missed a spot all day. I think he's going to do it." Contreras replied, "Shut the f--- up." Castro's legs were starting to shake. Jamie's stomach was starting to churn. But the usually expressive Guillen was not getting emotional. He ordered reliever Tony Peña to be ready to face the second hitter in the eighth, Ben Zobrist, prompting some eye rolling in the bullpen.

Buehrle got Zobrist to foul out, at which point the satellite dish on the ranch in Missouri finally found a signal, and John was able to watch his son. Next up was Pat Burrell, who hit a ball so hard down the third-base line that it nearly struck umpire Laz Diaz. It took Diaz a moment to compose himself, but he ruled the ball foul, by about six inches. "I had a heart attack in 2000 and had a pacemaker installed," John says. "I'm glad I did that because I don't know if my heart could have made it through this game."

After Burrell lined out to third, White Sox announcer Ken (Hawk) Harrelson pleaded with viewers on CSN to "Call your sons! Call your daughters! Call your friends! Call your neighbors!" Harrelson wrote in his score book, "Perfect!!!" When Buehrle went to his clubhouse locker for a breather, Pierzynski pulled up the seat next to him, shaking his head. "One more!" Pierzynski said. "One more!" To break the tension, Pierzynski caught Buehrle's warmup pitches before the ninth inning and fired the first one back over his head.

Wise had worked up a decent sweat in the weight room by the time Guillen told him that he was going to play centerfield in the ninth; the starter, Podsednik, would shift to left. As Wise ran out to center, White Sox reliever D.J. Carrasco asked Linebrink in the bullpen, "How would you like to be DeWayne Wise right now? He's probably hoping the ball isn't hit to him." In fact Wise was thinking exactly the opposite. "I was hoping I could make a diving catch in the ninth," Wise says.

Wise has bounced around the major leagues for seven seasons, and when his batting average dipped under .200 this summer, he became a convenient target for disappointed White Sox fans. After the club demoted centerfielder Brian Anderson to Triple A Charlotte this month and kept Wise on the roster, Guillen received e-mails claiming the move was racially motivated because Wise is African-American and Anderson is white.

Since high school Wise has always played a shallow centerfield, and he crept a few steps closer because he could not bear the thought of Buehrle losing a perfect game on a blooper. The first batter of the ninth was Gabe Kapler, one of the few Rays who had made decent contact that day. On the 105th pitch of the game he hit a high drive deep to left centerfield. In the bullpen Linebrink bowed his head. In the dugout Guillen said, "Home run," and prepared to summon Peña. In the stands Lisa Podsednik asked Jamie, "Oh, my God, is that Scott?" Wise did not look at the ball. He turned and ran to the point where he thought it would land, to the mural on the eight-foot wall of Billy Pierce, the White Sox pitcher who had a perfect game ruined with two outs in the ninth 51 years ago.

Wise hit the fence as the ball hit his mitt, but because the collision was so violent, Wise didn't feel the ball enter his glove. He could only see it, a snow cone quickly spilling out of its wrapper. He fell and the ball fell, but in a motion reminiscent of the Giants' David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, he stuck out his left hand and snagged it. Beckham put both arms over his head and leaped "like we won the World Series." It was the best play ever in a perfect game, trumping the ninth-inning diving catch that rookie Rangers centerfielder Rusty Greer made on July 28, 1994, against the Angels, snaring a sinking liner hit by Rex Hudler and preserving Kenny Rogers's perfecto.

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