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.