Fifty Years Ago, Haddix was Perfect and Lost

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most astonishing, and ultimately heartbreaking, performances in all of baseball history. ↵

↵At County Stadium in Milwaukee, Harvey Haddix, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, threw a perfect game against the Milwaukee Braves, the two-time reigning winners of the National League pennant. Unfortunately, while Haddix was hurling perfection, the Braves’ pitcher, Lew Burdette, was dealing a shutout, and so, after nine innings, the game went into extra innings. ↵

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↵This being the good old days, when men were men and sheep were nervous, Haddix stayed in the game. He pitched a perfect 10th, a perfect 11th, and then a perfect 12th. Thirty-six batters faced, thirty-six down without reaching base. Simply unbelievable. ↵

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↵Perhaps more unbelievable, however, was that the score of the game was still locked through twelve with dueling bagels in the runs column. Burdette was still battling away for the Braves, yielding twelve hits on the night but nary a run in a heroic effort long overlooked due to the superior heroism of his opponent. ↵

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↵The unthinkable happened in the top of the 13th. The Braves’ Felix Mantilla led off the inning and chopped a grounder to Pirates’ third baseman Don Hoak, who threw it in the dirt to first baseman Rocky Nelson. Mantilla was safe on the error, and Haddix’s perfect string was broken, though the no-hitter remained intact. ↵

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↵The next man up, Braves’ great Eddie Matthews, sacrificed Mantilla to second, and then predictably Haddix gave Henry Aaron a pass to face slugger Joe Adcock. ↵

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↵Adcock proceeded to make Haddix pay, and also to make history with the Braves only hit of the game, stroking a high slider just over the fence in right center for a three-run home run. In the pandemonium that ensued, the runners had difficulty navigating the bases, and because of the confusion, Adcock passed Aaron on the base paths. This resulted in the most famous home run of Adcock’s career being downgraded to a double, and the final score of the game being 1-0 and not 3-0. ↵

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↵One run or three, the fact remained the same: After pitching twelve perfect innings, Harvey Haddix had nothing to show for his efforts but a loss. In the clubhouse after the game, his stoicism and team spirit befit the manner of the greatest generation. “All I know is that we lost,” Haddix said. “What’s so historic about that? Didn’t anyone else ever lose a thirteen-inning shutout?” ↵

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↵Not quite like that, Harvey, never before and never again. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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