Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Greatest Defeat"

Back in the pre-Amazon days, one had to actually go into book stores to buy books. And for some of us, there weren't book stores on every corner. We had a library in town, but the nearest bookstore was the Mr. Paperback in Waterville, 25 miles away. So the distribution of the Scholastic Books catalog at school was always exciting, and I never failed to find a couple of things that I wanted to have. One of my favorites of these books was Strange But True Baseball Stories by Furman Bisher.



I have long since misplaced, destroyed or lost my paperback copy, but I had such affection for it that I found and purchased a hardcover used copy when my boys were old enough to read. And one of my favorite stories from that book is the story of the Harvey Haddix perfect game.

Well, today is the 50th anniversary of that game. Harvey Haddix took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Braves in Milwaukee, and retired the first 27 men he faced, pitching a perfect game1. Unfortunately, while the Pirates had gathered some baserunners, they hadn't managed to score any of them, so they went into extra innings. And Haddix retired the Braves in order in the 10th. And the 11th. And the 12th. 36 up, 36 down.

And he lost it anyway, allowing one one hit and one intentional walk. Felix Mantilla led off the bottom of the 13th and became the first Brave baserunner when Pirate 3B Don Hoak committed a throwing error. Following a sacrifice bunt, Haddix intentionally walked Hank Aaron. And Joe Adcock ended the game with what was officially ruled a double. He hit it out of the park, and ran the bases, but Aaron thought that the ball was still in play, and that the game ended as soon as he touched second. He left the field, Adcock was ruled out for passing him on the bases, and it went into the books as a 1-0 Milwaukee win instead of 3-0.

But it was certainly the greatest pitching performance which ever ended in a pitcher being assigned a loss...


1 - It's not actually listed on Major League Baseball's list of perfect games, because he ended up allowing baserunners, and they removed it when they scrubbed the records for no-hitters in the 90s. I think that it, along with Ernie Shore's and Pedro Martinez' may be footnoted on the list, but I'm not sure. I am sure that Major League Baseball does not consider it to be an official "Perfect Game."

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