"Alexeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiii … Yes … Yes … Yes … Yes … Yes … History!"
-- White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson, on the air, at the completion of Mark Buehrle's perfect game, July 23, 2009.
CHICAGO -- A day bathed in bright sunshine greeted the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, just as it did five years ago to the day when Mark Buehrle delivered his perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The left-hander, who couldn't throw a fastball through a wet paper bag, or so it seemed, used pinpoint control and his patented cutter to dispatch the Rays in order through nine innings.
It went 27 up and 27 down for a slice of history as Buehrle became the second White Sox pitcher, at the time, to deliver perfection. Charles Robertson had already done it in 1922, and Philip Humber repeated the feat three years later.
With 26 outs in the books, the Rays' Jason Bartlett was the final batter. He hit a ground ball to the left of shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who fielded the ball cleanly and threw to first base to end the game.
And what were Ramirez's thoughts before Bartlett came to the plate?
"I was hoping it wasn't coming at me," Ramirez admitted Wednesday through an interpreter. "If anything, I was hoping it was a fly ball, just not a grounder. I hadn't been feeling well. I had gotten a little injured before that. I was hoping it wasn't a grounder."
Buehrle finished his masterpiece in a tidy 2 hours, 3 minutes for his second career no-hitter. He blanked the Texas Rangers in 2007. But this was a perfect game, reaching the rarified air that only 20 other pitchers have in the history of the game.
And while the nerves must be on edge for the pitcher, at least they can dictate the game from the mound. The fielders end up playing an agonizing waiting game.
"I just tried to play my game and try not to make a bad play or think about it that much," Ramirez said. "When you get to the ninth inning, that's when you feel the pressure, when you feel like this is happening and trying to do everything you can to make sure Mark gets this."
Ramirez calls Dewayne Wise's ninth-inning grab at the left-center field the best catch he has ever seen. The only permanent sign of Buehrle's feat at U.S. Cellular Field is the small block lettering at the top of the wall in left-center that reads "THE CATCH."
Ramirez, though, doesn't need much to take his mind back five years ago.
"I remember it often," Ramirez said. "Whenever I see Buehrle, we signal each other and we recall that day and it's just such a special occasion that not that many pitchers have accomplished it. I remember it often."