You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1959, the Pirates’ Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings.
Thirty-six batters up, 36 batters down. It is one of the most incredible pitching performances in baseball history; there has been never been anything like it. It also is one of the most unappreciated performances because Haddix, at 33, pitching for his fourth team in four years, didn’t end up with a perfect game or a no-hitter, only a 1-0 loss in 13 innings.
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Through 12 innings, Haddix had retired every Milwaukee Braves batter in order, a lineup that included Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. But the score was tied. Haddix and Pedro Martinez (June 3, 1995) are the only two pitchers to take a perfect game into extra innings. Pedro, then with Montreal, gave up a single to start the 10th inning that night in San Diego, then was pulled. The Expos won 1-0. In his, Haddix kept going. He struck out eight. The man they called “The Kitten” (Haddix was 5-foot-9, 170 pounds) was as neat as a cat, he was so efficient and precise.
“It was one of the best games I’ve ever played in, I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski said. “It was so different. I hardly got any ground balls. There were no difficult plays for anyone. The only hard-hit ball was a line drive [by Johnny Logan] to [shortstop Dick] Schofield. Everything else was routine. It was crazy. Harvey made it look so easy. I was in awe of what was happening. We knew history was being made.”
Mazeroski said that Haddix was so calm and cool on the mound and between innings.
“Harvey wanted to mix it up with guys on the bench during the game, but no one would even talk to him,” Mazeroski said with a laugh. “We all knew what the hell was going on.”
Milwaukee’s Felix Mantilla opened the bottom of the 13th by reaching on an error by Pirates third baseman Don Hoak, ending the perfect game. Mathews, who would hit 512 homers in his career, sacrificed him to second (one of 36 sacrifice bunts in Mathews’ career, fifth most for a 500-home run hitter). Hank Aaron was walked intentionally. Joe Adcock ended the no-hitter and the game with a home run, but in between second and third base, Aaron ran off the field, Adcock technically passed him on the bases, turning a home run into a double. But it was enough to win the game, and hand Haddix perhaps the most excruciating loss ever.
Haddix took it hard. He apparently wandered the streets of Milwaukee alone after the game.
“We were all so sad,” Mazeroski said. “We came into the clubhouse, we had a beer, and no one said anything. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we all decided, ‘Gee whiz, let’s go congratulate Harvey Haddix.’ Holy cow, what he did had never been done. It was just amazing.”
Other baseball notes for May 26
In 1931, Jim Frey was born. He was an excellent coach, manager and GM. And he was hilarious. When Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan once reached first base, Frey, the first-base coach, told him, “keep your left foot on the bag, and get as big a lead as you can with your right foot.”
In 2004, Daryle Ward hit for the cycle. He and his dad, Gary, were the first father-son duo to hit for the cycle.
In 1975, first baseman Travis Lee was born. He throws a baseball left-handed and a football right-handed.
In 1930, Hall of Famer Joe Sewell struck out for the last time that season. He would finish with three strikeouts in 414 plate appearances. In 2019, there were 254 instances when a player struck out four times in a game.
In 1960, reliever Rob Murphy was born. Thirty years later, Murphy had a ragged eighth inning in Seattle. So after the inning, he shaved his beard, came out, pitched the ninth and got the save. “I went through four razors, but I came out a new man,” he said. “I added a foot to my fastball.” I saw him at an airport a few years ago, and reminded him of that game. “I remember,” he said. “May 7, 1990.” He was right.
In 1993, the Indians’ Carlos Martinez hit a fly ball that hit Rangers right fielder Jose Canseco in the head, and bounced over the fence for a home run. “The World Cup is coming to Dallas,” teammate Jeff Huson said. “Jose was just getting ready.”