Buehrle's former teammates thrilled about honor

Buehrle's former teammates thrilled about honor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A number of current and former White Sox made their way to Topgolf on Monday night in support of the Swing Into Spring fundraiser, hosted by Jesse Crain and the Crain Family Foundation.

As one-time reliever Matt Thornton joked, a pretty good team could be assembled from the players on hand. But a number of those former players also took the time to praise Mark Buehrle and the White Sox decision to retire Buehrle's No. 56 on June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"Oh my gosh," said Jim Thome, who played with Buehrle from 2006 to 2009 and now serves as a special assistant to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "The ultimate teammate."

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"He deserves it," said Paul Konerko, the former captain who was teammates with Buehrle from 2000 to 2011 and whose own jersey was retired by the White Sox. "We all know Mark is a great guy and teammate, but if you look at the numbers, he deserves it."

Buehrle was an even-keeled performer, in good times and bad, posting a 161-119 record with the White Sox (365 starts, 2,476 2/3 innings). A few players remembered the one distinct time he lost his cool, violently taking one of Juan Uribe's bats to a dugout space heater after a particularly rough home start against the Twins in May 2008.

But on the following day, a smiling Buehrle signed the space heater.

"The guy didn't throw a bullpen for, like, 10 years," Konerko said. "One time he threw a bullpen in a tunnel. One time in Spring Training, there was something wrong with one of the mounds, a warmup mound, they were messed up. He said. 'That's fine, I'll just throw on flat ground and go.' He threw seven pitches and jumped on the mound and pitched.

"Nothing could rattle him. He could roll out of bed and pitch, a throwback, really, in that sense."

Although Buehrle isn't thrilled about speaking in front of a large crowd, he'll get through that part of the gig with humor and grace, as he handled most everything else.

"Usually, the guys that don't take themselves so seriously are the guys that are usually liked by their teammates," said Gordon Beckham, who played with Buehrle from 2009 to 2011. "He was that guy. He never wanted to talk about himself."

"Fearless. The greatest competitor ever," said Thornton, who played with Buehrle from 2006 to 2011. "I'm really happy for him. It's a great honor. Nothing but great ballplayers on that wall for sure."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.