May 26, 1959: Harvey Haddix defines pitching perfection
By CRAIG MUDER
May 24, 2010
Marcia Haddix was in Springfield, Ohio, that May night in 1959, while her husband Harvey was on the road with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The phone at her mother’s house rang, and on the other end was her mother-in-law.
|Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect frames on May 26, 1959. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
“She said to me: ‘Do you know that you’re husband just pitched a perfect game?’ Marcia Haddix remembered. “But the game wasn’t over. I ran around the house trying to get it on all the radios, then I went out to the car and tried that radio. Finally, I found that if I pointed the car in a certain direction, the station would come in.”
What Marcia Haddix heard on that radio has never been repeated. Harvey Haddix, the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher, retired the Braves in order in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings – giving him a remarkable 12 perfect frames.
Fifty-one years ago this week, Haddix authored what is arguably the greatest game ever pitched.
Haddix passed away in 1994, but his masterpiece is carved into baseball history like few other one-game performances. Marcia Haddix, who was married to Harvey for 38 years, recalls May 26, 1959, as an important moment in her husband’s life – but not the defining one.
“He always said the game was just a part of his career, and it wasn’t even the best part,” said Marcia Haddix, who still lives in Springfield – where she and her husband shared a farm. “The best part was winning two games in the 1960 World Series with the Pirates.
“We loved working in Pittsburgh. I could have lived there forever, but Harv always had to get back to the farm. His favorite thing to do was pick corn.”
The green stalks for Haddix’s nibblets were just sprouting in late May 1959 when the wiry left-hander took the mound at County Stadium against the Milwaukee Braves. Opposing Haddix that Tuesday night was Braves right-hander Lew Burdette, who had already won seven games that season. Haddix entered the game 4-2.
Methodically, Haddix began retiring batters. The Pirates, meanwhile, threatened regularly against Burdette. But neither team scored.
In the top of the ninth, the Pirates had runners on first and third with two outs before Bob Skinner grounded out to end the frame. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Haddix fanned Andy Pafko, got Johnny Logan to fly out and struck out Burdette.
And the game played on.
The Pirates put men on base in the 10th, 11th and 12th – but never got a runner past second. Meanwhile, the Braves went down in order each time, with Burdette fanning to end the 12th.
At that point, Burdette had allowed 11 hits but had not walked a batter. Haddix remained perfect.
In the 13th, Dick Schofield notched Pittsburgh’s fifth two-out hit of the game – but once again the Bucs came up empty. Then in the bottom of the 13th, Milwaukee’s Felix Mantilla led off by reaching base on an error by Pittsburgh third baseman Don Hoak.
With the spell broken – but the no-hitter still alive – Eddie Mathews bunted Mantilla to second, and Haddix then walked Hank Aaron intentionally to bring up Joe Adcock. The hulking Braves’ first baseman launched a shot to center field – a home run that was eventually ruled a double when Adcock passed Aaron on the bases.
But when Mantilla crossed the plate, the game ended with a loss for Haddix and the Pirates.
Haddix remained with the Pirates through the 1963 season, helping Pittsburgh win the 1960 World Series with two wins – including one in Game 7 – over the Yankees. He retired after the 1965 season, but returned to Pittsburgh later as the Pirates’ pitching coach.
Then in 1992, Haddix returned to the news when baseball’s rules regarding no-hitters were amended. No-hitters are now defined as happening only during a victory, thus making Haddix’s 12 perfect innings a footnote in the history books.
“When they said it wasn’t a perfect game, I was so upset,” Marcia Haddix said. “But Harv just said: ‘That’s all right. I know what I did.’”
Fifty-one years later, Haddix’s game is still the stuff of legend. The Baseball Hall of Fame has several artifacts from that night, including a ticket stub, a ball from the game autographed by Haddix and his glove from that game.
Marcia Haddix, however, has all the memories.
“Pittsburgh was – hands down – where we had our best baseball memories,” Marcia Haddix said. “Harv played because he loved the game, not because of the fame or because he made millions,” Marcia Haddix said. “He loved every minute and he had so many friends.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the Baseball Hall of Fame