September 17, 2014

When Twelve Weren’t Enough

February 10, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

Where were you on the afternoon of April 17, 2010? That afternoon the Cardinals and Mets embarked on a 20-inning game that lasted close to seven hours. On the way to their 2-1 win, I wonder if anyone on the Mets had epiphanies of Harvey Haddix.

Haddix pitched a perfect game for 12 innings in May 1959, with the Pirates but that’s not how the game ended. This week, “Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost” by Lew Freedman takes you back to that incredible game.

Read this book because:

1. The May 26, 1959 contest between the Milwaukee Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates featured all the elements to be either great or horrible.

Haddix awoke with the flu. It did not help that the skies appeared as if the floodgates could open at any moment. Wouldn’t you know that this game also reunited Braves skipper Fred Haney with his former club? How about that Haddix’s counterpart that outing was Lew Burdette? As it turned out, Burdette played a role in two of the biggest games of Haddix’s career, his Major League debut (a shaky 9-2 loss by Burdette) and this history maker. On this day, Burdette did not have perfect-game stuff, but he kept his team in position to win.  Only the Pirates, who averaged 97 losses from 1950-57, could have so much stacked against them.

2. Author Lew Freedman keeps you rooting for perfection.

Cue the foreshadowing. Haddix had it all figured out. Before the game, he told teammates that he planned to pitch the Braves high and tight and low and away. “Harv, if you pitch those guys that way, you’re gonna pitch a no-hitter,” third baseman Don Hoak said (6, Hard-Luck). Nearly six years earlier in 1953, Haddix had a no-hitter through eight innings before Richie Ashburn dismissed that attempt with a leadoff single in the ninth. Army service had delayed Haddix’s big-league debut until age 26. Haddix would not let this chance go.  

3. Thirteen innings allows for plenty of time to acquaint yourself with this cast of characters.

Haddix owned a 408-acre farm and had a taste for wild game. Dick Groat played college basketball at Duke and later won the 1960 NL MVP. Dick Schofield took to politics. Hoak compiled a 28-11 ledger as a middleweight fighter and later arrived in Pittsburgh in the same 1959 deal that landed Haddix in Pittsburgh. Pirates announcer Bob Prince knew everyone throughout the sprawling Steel City and everyone knew him.

Unlike the ever-present Prince, Haddix stayed out of the spotlight. He finished 12-12, 3.13 ERA in 1959, won the World Series with Pittsburgh in 1960 and retired in 1965 after two seasons with Baltimore.

To think that Haddix sat down 36 straight Braves hitters. No other pitcher had done away with more than 27 in a row. Haddix used a mere 78 pitches through nine innings and 115 pitches total. Furthermore, no one had thrown a perfecto in the regular season since 1922.

What could have been wasn’t. An error in the 13th halted perfection and Joe Adcock’s double won it for the Braves. In 1991, Commissioner Fay Vincent struck the one take away from Haddix’s effort. Before then, Haddix owned a no-hitter, having pitched the equivalent of an “official game.” (184) Vincent changed the rules to require a complete game for qualification. Could only happen to a Pirate.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements.  During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate.  Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Comments

4 Responses to “When Twelve Weren’t Enough”
  1. The game of baseball has such an interesting array of characters and fills the annals of history with not only its human interest occurrences but the game and art of play never ceases to unfold as if it were a mystery novel yearning to be told.

    I enjoyed the game as a youngster but now as I have entered my senior citizen era it still so fascinates for so much about the game and the men and events of baseball is like wow! time upon each new reading and every story written and told about this grand game of baseball.

  2. Sam Miller says:

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comment, Wiley. All the best to you.@Wiley B. Channell -

  3. @Sam Miller

    Baseball people players game it is all one great story I enjoyed recounting the game as http://www.baseballfarming.com/GameForThe Ages.html

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