2019 Top Moment in White Sox History inductee: DeWayne Wise, The Catch

“THE CATCH”
JULY 23, 2009
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD

IN THE NINTH INNING OF MARK BUEHRLE’S PERFECT GAME ATTEMPT VS. THE TAMPA BAY RAYS, VETERAN DEWAYNE WISE WAS INSERTED IN CENTER FIELD AS A DEFENSIVE REPLACEMENT. ON THE SIXTH PITCH OF THE INNING, GABE KAPLER DROVE A DEEP FLY THAT WISE TRACKED DOWN, GLOVING THE DRIVE OVER THE OUTFIELD WALL AND BOBBLING THE BALL AS HE TUMBLED BACK ONTO THE FIELD. THE 18TH PERFECT GAME IN MLB HISTORY REMAINED ALIVE, TWO FINAL OUTS WERE RECORDED, AND ONE WEEK LATER THE TEAM UNVEILED A PERMANENT TRIBUTE TO “THE CATCH” AT THE TOP OF THE WALL IN LEFT-CENTER, FOREVER COMMEMORATING THE MIRACLE PLAY.


On Thursday, July 23, 2009, Mark Buehrle threw baseball’s 18th perfect game, and the second-ever by a White Sox pitcher. And it would never have been possible without a miraculous defensive play by center fielder DeWayne Wise.

Trailing 5-0 in the top of the ninth inning, Rays leadoff hitter, Gabe Kapler hit a deep fly ball to left-center field, where Wise, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, made a spectacular catch, robbing Kapler of a home run and preserving the perfect game for Buehrle.

The play is considered one of the greatest in White Sox history, not just for saving the perfect game, but also because of its degree of difficulty, the amount of ground covered to get to the wall, and Wise holding onto the ball after briefly juggling it on the way to the ground after the catch.


And now, a personal story.

On Tuesday, July 21, as I sat working on a contract project, my lovely wife, philskatie, a teacher on summer vacation, suggested we jump-start our wedding anniversary celebration by going to the White Sox afternoon game on Thursday. That sounded like a great idea to me. I arranged to take the afternoon off, double-checked the start time to make sure we’d have time to pick up our kids from day care afterward, and had a pair of tickets held at will-call. It all sounded like a great idea.

We had our usual seats in the 534 box (I still have the ticket stubs, of course), the wife with a hot dog, me with a polish and a brat. We were ready to go. So, apparently, was Buehrle. So too, apparently, was DeWayne Wise.

In typical Beuhrle fashion, he whipped through the first few innings before the onions cooled on the sausages. (The entire game lasted 2:03. And I’ve actually been to a Buehrle complete game that was shorter.) The game was fun, the Sox were winning, the crowd was excited.

In the sixth inning, though, the park had become electric. When Buehrle retired the side in the bottom of the inning, the crowd exploded. My wife asked me, “Why is everybody going nuts?” Following now-outdated protocol, I pointed silently to the scoreboard. She got it then. But I confess, neither of us could remember for certain if he had walked anybody. So I threatened convention and asked a guy in the row ahead of us. “Nope,” he said. “At least I don’t think so.”

As with most Buehrle starts, he made it seem ordinary, workmanlike, another day at the office, even as the crowd got more and more animated and excited through the seventh and eighth. I noticed when Wise was inserted for the ninth, but didn’t initially think much about it. Seemed like a good move, though I’d never have guessed how good.

The Catch itself was one of those great moments where when it happens, you only realize how great it was afterward. There was a palpable and audible collective inhale as the ball arced up and out, which you can hear it in the video. The ball drifted some, and it wasn’t clear initially that it was going out until it started carrying farther and farther. And, as you can also hear in the video, the ballpark erupted at and after The Catch. I cannot recall, in all honesty, if I noticed the juggle in real time or not. I saw Wise go down and then hold the ball aloft as he jumped back to his feet.

After that, the perfect game seemed ordained, and the rest of the inning became in its own way anticlimactic. Hernandez’s K and Bartlett’s grounder felt about as routine as the last two outs of a perfect game can feel, I suppose. I can’t really say because, like fellow attendee Brett Ballantini and undoubtedly every soul standing in the ballpark that day,  I’ve never been to another perfect game.

We did, though, go back to a game about 10 days later when, and without our prior knowledge, the Sox were distributing posters of the Sports Illustrated cover commemorating the game. One of these days (I’ve been telling myself for 10 years) I’m going to get it framed, along with the stubs.

They say, correctly, and perhaps obviously, that any no-hitter or perfect game is dependent upon the defense. DeWayne Wise provided a great case study.


And now, back to our regularly scheduled post.

DeWayne Wise could be the poster boy for the replacement-level, journeyman major leaguer. He played a total of 11 seasons, for six different teams, the longest of which was the White Sox, for four years in two different stints. He compiled a grand total of 0.7 bWAR (0.8 for the Sox), and a career slash line of .228/.264/.381, for an OPS of .645. The 2009 season was, statistically, his best: a 0.8 bWAR. Defensively, he was solid, if unspectacular, for his career.

Except, of course, for that one play capping a miracle start. That one great Catch that seals Wise’s little corner of history, and his place of honor in the SSHP White Sox Hall of Fame.


 

4 thoughts on “2019 Top Moment in White Sox History inductee: DeWayne Wise, The Catch

  1. Certainly given the circumstances it was a catch for the ages but I’ve been told by some players of a catch Luis Aparicio made in 1960 against the A’s “Whitey” Herzog (yes the same guy who later managed the Cardinals and Royals).

    I was told it was a ball hit into left center field, the left fielder was confused by the wind at Comiskey Park and couldn’t get to the ball…Aparicio ran all the way into left center (not just behind the infield) and made the catch over his shoulder.

    Then you had the catch by Ken “The Bandit” Berry in 1969 when he leaped up on top of the chain link fence in center field (Gary Peters was pitching), reached up, caught what was a sure home run and fell backwards into the bullpen area. He hung on to the ball, immediately stood up and showed the ball in his glove to the umpire who signaled out.

    This doesn’t qualify as a catch but it certainly has to go down as one of the strangest plays in Sox history:

    June 27, 1967 – It was one of the most bizarre individual plays in White Sox history. The Sox were at Baltimore and in the last of the fourth inning of a scoreless game the O’s Frank Robinson slid hard into second baseman Al Weis trying to break up a potential double play on a ball hit by Brooks Robinson. Robinson’s head slammed into Weis knee knocking him out. The next day he woke up with double vision. Weis meanwhile had his knee torn up and his season ended because of the contact. While both players were lying on the ground Sox right fielder Ken Berry noticed that time had never been called and Frank wasn’t on the base! He ran in, picked up the baseball and tagged him with it. Second base umpire Nestor Chylak called Robinson out. Officially it went into the books as a force out; third to second to first to right field. The Sox behind Joe Horlen would win the game 5-0.

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    1. Thanks for bringing up some other great plays. I agree that, from a purely defensive, difficulty standpoint, Wise’s catch is very good, but even in this category in the voting, Iguchi’s and Uribe’s probably have a greater degree of difficulty. But this one, in the context, with the added juggle, stands above them for me, and apparently a lot of others. Yeah – some of Engel’s HR robs are probably more spectacular as individual plays.

      I love being able to highlight defense and I love the baseball is the one major sport where defensive plays make highlight reels.

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