This column slipped up by not mentioning the greatest game ever pitched 60 years ago last week.
If you just qualified for Medicare, that means you were probably in kindergarten when Pirates lefthander Harvey Haddix threw just 115 pitches in a 12-inning perfect game.
In his 14-year career, Haddix posted a 136-113 record with 1,575 strikeouts, a 3.63 ERA, 99 complete games, 21 shutouts, 21 saves, and 2,235 innings pitched in 453 games.
According to Bill Mazeroski, Haddix was involved in the second baseman’s two top baseball memories: Haddix was the winning pitcher in game 7 of the 1960 World Series, won 10-9 on Maz’s game-winning home run in the ninth inning. In all, Haddix won two of the four games that lifted the Pirates to baseball’s pinnacle.
The other memory, Maz said, was the Pirates’ 1-0 loss to the Braves on May 26, 1959, when the Bucs’ southpaw threw what “Sports Illustrated” called “the single best game ever thrown.”
It was a game Haddix almost missed.
“I had the flu, I felt terrible,” Haddix said. “We took a morning flight over from Pittsburgh the day of the game, and we didn’t have a lot of rest. I took throat lozenges the whole game to try to keep from coughing.”
Haddix threw a perfect game that night—27 up and 27 down.
But the Pirates had wasted 12 hits and had not scored.
So Haddix had to pitch the 10th.
Then the 11th. And the 12th. The Bucs couldn’t push a run across the plate all night against Milwaukee righthander Lew Burdette.
And just so you don’t think the Bucs’ baserunning blunders are recent developments, consider this: They collected three singles in the third inning that game, but didn’t score. After Don Hoak’s lead-off with a single, Roman Mejias’ ground ball forced Hoak. Haddix singled off Burdette’s leg and Mejias tried to go from first to third on the hit and was thrown out before Dick Schofield singled to left, which would have score Mejias easily from second base. With two outs, Virdon flied out to left.
Their only other legitimate scoring shot came in the 7th, when Bob Skinner hit a long fly ball. “I hit a ball to right field, and I thought it was gone,” Skinner told Mark Miller of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). “But a windstorm had started. Aaron went back on it and kind of gave up on it when the wind blew it back and he caught it against the fence. I thought it was gone.”
After becoming the only pitcher in major-league history to retire 36 consecutive batters, Haddix saw that streak snapped when Hoak’s throwing error allowed Felix Mantilla to reach first. Mathews sacrificed him to second before Haddix intentionally walked Aaron. Adcock hit the ball out of the park. Mantilla scored, but Aaron thought the ball had landed in the playing field and stopped and ran off the field after the run had scored, which caused Adcock to pass the future Hall of Famer.
The eventual ruling was that Aaron was out, Adcock was credited with a double, and the Braves had a 1-0 win.
On the day after the game, Burdette reportedly asked for a raise since he was the winning pitcher in “the greatest game ever pitched.”
Even without round-the-clock sports channels on television and sports talk shows on radio,
Haddix received mounds of praise.
And his achievement lives—despite MLB’s actions some 32 years later. In 1991, MLB 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.” The rule in effect turned the greatest game ever pitched into a one-hitter.
In his 14-year career from 1952-1965, Haddix was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. Following his retirement, he was a pitching coach for five teams, including a six-year stint with the Pirates. He died in 1994.
JIM SANKEY is a baseball columnist for The Allied News.