Harvey Haddix - Not Quite More Than Perfect
July 8, 2010
by William Szczepanek
It was a damp and foggy Milwaukee night. What do you do when you have just finished the ninth inning and pitched the 7th perfect game in MLB history? You might jump for joy. Your teammates might storm the field. In the case of Harvey Haddix, he returned to the dugout for a few handshakes and sat down, for the game was still tied 0-0 and would be for the next three innings. The bad cold and sore throat no longer was a concern. More work was to be done.
Harvey Haddix is best remembered for retiring 36 consecutive batters over 12 innings in a single game on May 26, 1959. While he worked his perfection into the 13th inning, his team, the Pittsburg Pirates, were being shut out by Lew Burdette and the Milwaukee Braves. The perfect game was spoiled when third baseman, Don Hoak, made a throwing error on an easy grounder allowing Felix Mantilla first base. After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock hit a Haddix pitch over the fence. To add to the quirkiness, Aaron, who headed for the dugout thinking the hit bounced into the seats, was passed by Adcock on the basepaths for the second out. Adcock's hit was later ruled a double giving the Braves a 1-0 victory.
Haddix was masterful, needing no spectacular plays to handle the two-time National League Pennant winners and one of the best hitting teams of the time. It is considered one of the best pitched games in history, even though it is not recognized as a perfect game. The closest thing to a run for the Pirates was a blast by Bob Skinner that appeared to be out of the park in the 7th. Aaron went back to the wall and then came in a step to catch the drive that was knocked down by a ferocious wind.
Most would think that Haddix was a big, burly, hard throwing, 6-foot-tall-plus pitcher, which is the standard of today. But, Haddix was a string bean, 5' 9", 170 lb. lefty. I doubt he ever really came within 20 pounds of his listed weight. He looked like a schoolboy on the mound. He relied on a fast ball and slider throughout his career. He compiled 136 wins and 113 losses a 3.63 ERA, pitched 99 complete games and had 21 shutouts. He was the winning pitcher when Bill Maseroski hit his game winning home run against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. Ironically, Joe Adcock was also the hitter who slammed a line drive off of his knee in 195, which forced him to change his pitching motion and destroyed his curveball. He probably never threw over 90 mph, but mixed up his pitches and had laser-sharp control. 1953 was his best season when he was 20-9. Nicknamed "The Kitten" as a rookie in St. Louis for his resemblance to Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, he was often mistaken for Brecheen.
So, no perfect game, not even a win for his effort. It is now not even the longest streak of perfect innings. Mark Buehrle has 15 perfect innings over two games. It was just the best pitched game in history.
You can check out Haddix's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.