Harvey Haddix's near-perfect game

On May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched a perfect game for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves, but lost the no-hitter and the game in the 13th inning. The game was played at Milwaukee County Stadium.[1]

Haddix' perfect game bid was broken up in the bottom of the 13th inning, when a throwing error by Pirate third baseman Don Hoak allowed Félix Mantilla to reach base. Haddix lost the no-hitter, and the game along with it, when Joe Adcock hit what appeared to be a walk-off three-run home run. A baserunning mistake caused Adcock's home run to be ruled a one-run double by National League President Warren Giles, some time later.

Braves starter Lew Burdette, despite giving up eight hits through nine innings, was pitching a shutout of his own. Three times, the Pirates came close to scoring the winning run for Haddix. In the third inning, a baserunning blunder by Hoak negated three consecutive singles; in the bottom of the ninth inning, Bill Virdon, after reaching base on a one-out hit, advanced to third on Rocky Nelson's single; however, Bob Skinner grounded back to Burdette to end the threat. In the 10th inning, with the Pirates still scoreless, slugging pinch hitter Dick Stuart flied out to center fielder Andy Pafko on a ball that came within a few feet of being a two-run home run. The Pirates also recorded hits in the 11th, 12th and 13th innings, but left a runner on base in each of the latter two innings.[1]

The 13th inningEdit

Félix Mantilla, who entered the game in the 11th after Del Rice had pinch-hit for Johnny O'Brien, was the Braves' first hitter in the 13th inning. Mantilla hit a ground ball to third base, Hoak fielded the ball cleanly but threw wide to first, pulling Nelson off the base. Mantilla was then sacrificed to second by Eddie Mathews. Haddix, his perfect game bid gone but his no-hit bid still intact, then intentionally walked Hank Aaron to set up a double play situation for the slow-footed Adcock, who had already grounded out twice earlier in the game, striking out the other two times. Adcock hit a fly ball to deep right-center field, just beyond the reach of right fielder Joe Christopher, who was making his Major League debut (he replaced Román Mejías in right field after Stuart had pinch-hit for Mejías), for an apparent home run, the ball landing between the outfield fence and another fence behind it, in front of a line of pine trees.[2]

Mantilla rounded third and touched home plate for the winning run; however, in the confusion, Aaron saw the ball hit the second fence but did not realize it had carried over the first and, thinking that the game had ended when Mantilla scored the winning run, rounded second and headed for the dugout. Adcock rounded the bases, running out his home run. First base umpire Frank Dascoli ruled that the final score was 2-0; he was overruled by National League president Warren Giles, who changed Adcock's home run to a double and declared that only Mantilla's run counted for a final score of 1-0.[2][3][4]

In addition to Stuart being used as a pinch hitter, two other Pirate regulars did not play in this game: Dick Groat, who would win the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Award, was mired in a slump and had been benched, and Roberto Clemente was sidelined with a sore shoulder.

AftermathEdit

In 1989, during a banquet attended by players from both teams commemorating the game's 30th anniversary, Milwaukee pitcher Bob Buhl told Haddix that the Braves' bullpen had stolen Smoky Burgess' signs, the Pittsburgh catcher exposing them due to a high crouch. From their bullpen, the Braves pitchers repeatedly repositioned a towel to signal for a fastball or a breaking ball, the only two pitches Haddix used in the game. If a fastball was coming, the towel was made visible to the batter; if a breaking pitch was coming, the towel was out of sight. Despite this assistance, the usually solid Milwaukee offense managed only the one hit. All but one Milwaukee hitter, Aaron, took the signals.[2]

Haddix's ​12 23-inning complete game, in which he struck out eight batters against a team that had just won the previous two National League pennants (including the 1957 World Series championship), and featured one of the top offensive lineups in the Major Leagues, is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in big league history. Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski would say, "Usually you have one or two great or spectacular defensive plays in these no-hitters. Not that night. It was the easiest game I ever played in."[2]

In 1991, Major League Baseball changed the definition of a no-hitter to "a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit." Under this new definition, Haddix's masterpiece was one of 12 extra-inning no-hitters to be struck from the record books. Haddix's response was, "It's O.K. I know what I did."[2]

Haddix's near-perfect game is immortalized by the Baseball Project, whose song, "Harvey Haddix", appears on their debut album, 2008's Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.[5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Milwaukee Braves 1, Pittsburgh Pirates 0 Box Score". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. May 26, 1959. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Chen, Albert (June 1, 2009). "The Greatest Game Ever Pitched". SI.com. Sports Illustrated. pp. 62–67. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  3. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (May 23, 2009). "Linked to Haddix's Perfection by Western Union Ticker Tape". nytimes.com. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Freedman, Lew (September 12, 2009). Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost. McFarland. ISBN 9780786454198.
  5. ^ Hirsh, Marc (October 23, 2008). "Baseball Project: When Perfection Slips Away". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved August 26, 2019.

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