In the Wake of the News
5:37 PM EDT, August 22, 2012
Friends regularly tell Dewayne Wise he should write a book about his vagabond baseball career. And what a page-turner it would be.
A small-town kid from Chapin, S.C., who turned down a football scholarship to play quarterback at South Carolina so he could sign a professional contract in 1997 after the Reds selected him in the fifth round of the amateur baseball draft.
A survivor who spent six weeks in a wheelchair after bunion surgery on both feet as a minor league center fielder in 1998 yet found a way to persevere for 12 years in the majors despite being let go by eight teams.
A role player who claimed a small piece of baseball immortality, especially in Chicago, for saving Mark Buehrle's perfect game on July 23, 2009, with a grab commemorated at the left-center field wall of U.S. Cellular Field by the words "The Catch.''
A guy who found himself suddenly facing a final chapter of uncertainty July 23, unwanted and unemployed yet again, after the Yankees designated him for assignment.
This was not the happy ending Wise envisioned for his spellbinding baseball narrative, hanging around the house in North Carolina and hoping the phone will ring.
"I didn't even pick up a bat for 10 days,'' Wise recalled before getting a career-high four hits in Tuesday night's 7-3 victory over the Yankees. "Of course you worry. You don't want your season to end in July, sitting at home watching TV and seeing your ex-teammates still playing baseball.''
On the 11th day, the phone rang and Wise started preparing for new teammates with the Sox — many of whom were old teammates.
Wise believes he impressed the Sox brass playing against them in a June series at Yankees Stadium — and not by pitching the ninth inning of a blowout. Wise went 4-for-7, and suspects Sox general manager Ken Williams remembered.
"They were keeping their eye on me and I told my brother it'd be funny if the White Sox called and sure enough, a couple of days later, my agent said they called,'' said Wise, who signed a minor league contract Aug. 3. "I was excited right away.''
It shows. In eight starts since being called up from Triple-A Charlotte on Aug. 12, Wise had 13 hits in his 35 at-bats with three home runs and nine RBIs. The player major league baseball can't get rid of fits perfectly on a Sox team that won't go away — especially with Wise taking over the leadoff spot in the middle of a pennant race with Alejandro De Aza on the disabled list.
"They want me to be myself and don't want me to go up there thinking I need to do this or that,'' Wise said. "That's all you can ask for is an opportunity to get some at-bats on a regular basis.''
You don't last so long in the majors without learning to take the high road out of town so naturally Wise praised the Yankees, understanding his opportunities there disappeared when Ichiro Suzuki arrived via trade. His release inevitable, Wise took solace that he made an easy decision for the Yankees harder than it seemed.
"We didn't want to let him go,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a numbers game.''
A team full of stars can live without Wise's numbers, if not his nuance. When Derek Jeter told a Sox official Monday how much his teammates already missed Wise's presence in the clubhouse, it suggested why the 34-year-old journeyman keeps finding work.
"We lucked into that one,'' manager Robin Ventura said.
The Wise move typified the sage decisions Williams has made all summer to keep the Sox in first. Williams has found guys with capable talent, sure, but any new roster addition also must be compatible on a team near the league leaders in character. It turns out that during Wise's first stint on the South Side, he left more than an impression on the left-center field wall.
"It always surprised me Dewayne was fighting for a job with his talent because he's a great guy in the clubhouse and the kind of guy you want when he's not going to be a starter,'' Paul Konerko said. "He'd probably be first one to tell you he's probably not going to hit home runs at the rate he's hitting them but defensively he's great and he can run the bases. It's comfortable.''
The only adjustment? Wise wore No. 31 during his first Sox tour but that now belongs to hitting coach Jeff Manto.
"He can keep it, doesn't matter to me,'' Wise said in his No. 28 jersey.
All that matters to Wise is another chance to make history in a Sox uniform.
Quite a catch indeed for the Sox.
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