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The title always seemed like the most reasonable baseball advice I ever heard. Since I was a lousy ballplayer, maybe I can apply that advice to a blog.
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Thanks, Mark

Posted 05-08-2009 at 03:11 PM by tebman

Playing with the pencil in my hand Thursday night, my mind wandered. I was sitting in the midst of a meeting where the discussion floated between topics like clouds on a breezy day, and I realized I had no idea what was being discussed.

The cellphone buzzed in my pocket. It was a text message from my son asking me if I was watching the White Sox game. "No," I wrote back, "I'm at a meeting. What's going on?"

He wrote back to tell me that Mark Buehrle had a no-no going into the 7th inning. Man, so few bright lights so far this season and I'm missing this one! The game was over by the time I left and I listened in the car to Chris Rongey talking about Buehrle's performance. Words like "dominant" and "masterful" came out. And I missed it.

It was a long drive home. Thinking about Mark Buehrle, it occurred to me that a guy like him is what baseball is about. Baseball is an everyday game and Buehrle is an everyday player. In a game that rewards consistency, Mark is a player who earns that reward.

Following the Sox for many years I've developed a set of expectations that come from the tribal experience of being part of the fan base. It has to do with fortitude and a sense of tragic irony. Jean Shepherd (writer of "A Christmas Story") once said that if he was in an old war movie and was told to pick soldiers to storm a pillbox and face certain death, he'd pick White Sox fans because they've known death every day of their lives.

Shepherd was over the top with that description, but his point was clear enough to me. As White Sox fans we expect the players to enter the arena each day and battle the invading hordes, whether they're Yankees, Cubs, or any other group of poseurs who regard us with condescension. And that battle might end in a frustrating defeat, but by God, we gave them a game! To do that a team needs a certain personality: not barbaric, but determined and workmanlike. To me, Mark Buehrle is Exhibit A of that personality.

His stats speak for themselves but it's the outline of his character that impresses me: put me in coach, I'm ready to play. He wants the ball and does not back off his plan of attack even on days when he doesn't have his best stuff. No shirk, just work. That's the kind of thing Ken Williams meant when he used the term "grinder" some years ago.

The tortoise won the race against the hare because he kept going and didn't stop to preen or malinger. Mark Buehrle is certainly no tortoise, but he shares the same determination to do what has to be done. Man, am I sorry I missed that game.
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