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Buehrle, who started the game throwing fastballs in the mid-80s, was at 90 in the ninth. Having gotten 26 consecutive outs and needing one more, Castro crouched behind home plate. You could make out his jersey number, separated by the strap on the back of his chest protector—27. When the last out was made, on a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, Buehrle placed both hands on his head. Fields rushed in for the tackle but, like a quarterback, pulled up. Cooper cried, as did Harrelson, as did Bob Dunahue, Buehrle's coach at Francis Howell North High, who was watching at the T.G.I. Friday's in St. Charles. Jamie came down to the field, and since she was shaking, Guillen offered to hold Brooklyn. The Rays stood at the edge of their dugout and applauded.
Forget the energy drink. Buehrle was the Rockstar. The President called, the commissioner wrote a letter, Letterman requested an interview. Buehrle's father asked him on the phone, "Do you realize what you just did?" "No, Dad," Buehrle said. "I don't."
On the 40-minute flight to Detroit that night he tried to figure it out. Buehrle sat on the plane with Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, and they calculated the percentage of major league games that have been perfect. According to baseball-reference.com, 779,118 starts had been made, which meant all but .0023% had at least the smallest of blemishes. Put another way, there's been a perfect game thrown once in every 43, 284 opportunities.
Not many sports allow for perfection. A football team could win 56--0, and the coaches would still pore over videotape finding flaws. Tennis players don't win every point, boxers don't land every punch, golfers don't birdie every hole. As Buehrle sat in the dugout at Comerica Park on Saturday, deconstructing his unforgettable afternoon and debating whether he still wants to retire in two years—"Maybe I won't," he said with a smile—Tigers manager Jim Leyland walked over and put a hand on his left shoulder. Leyland seemed to be searching for a word, a synonym for perfect. "Beautiful," he finally said. "Just beautiful."
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