Fifty years ago from today on May 26, 1959, the greatest game ever pitched took place. The two-time defending Milwaukee Braves were hosting the up-and-coming Pittsburgh Pirates. But on a cool evening that day, the two starting pitchers were set to engage in a pitching classic for the ages!!!
Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette and Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix shut down the opposing team for 12 consecutive innings each. The former had surrendered 11 hits during that stretch while the latter surrendered none.
Both men had walked nobody after 12 innings. In fact, the latter had retired the first 36 hitters of the game!!! Haddix had a perfect no-hitter going through the end of 12 innings; however, Pittsburgh, despite scattering eleven hits in their first 12 innings against Burdette had failed to score a single run.
The best chance for Pittsburgh came in the third inning when the Pirates smacked three singles but failed to score a run, largely due to a huge baserunning mistake by rightfielder Roman Mejias. Mejias tried to advance from first to third on a tricky infield hit but was gunned down at third base.
The reason this mistake was painful was that Dick Schofield followed up with a base hit of his own which would have scored Mejias if he had held up on second base earlier.
In the bottom of the thirteenth inning, fate cruelly turned against Haddix. Leadoff hitter Felix Mantilla reached on an error by Pittsburgh third baseman Don Hoak. The perfect game was officially over…but the no-hitter still stood.
Following Mantilla’s reach on error, Eddie Matthews sacrificed him with a bunt to second becoming the first out of the inning. Pittsburgh decided to intentionally walk Hank Aaron in order to face Joe Adcock.
Adcock had a miserable game at that point. In his four previous plate appearances versus Haddix that night, Adcock failed to get the ball past the infield, striking out twice.
However, this was the thirteenth inning…and fifth time is sometimes the charm. On Haddix’s second pitch of the at-bat, Adcock slammed a three-run homerun that just crept over the center-field wall. No hitter…gone. Shutout…gone. Victory…gone. DEFEAT!
Milwaukee 3 Pittsburgh 0 (F/13 Innings)
It is quite remarkable how quickly a game can change. Baseball is a funny sport where the goat can become a hero and a hero can become a goat over the course of a single ballgame. Fate can change on a whim…sometimes with special skill, sometimes with luck, but always due to a measure of effort.
Haddix had pitched a no-hitter [according to the rules at that time] because he had successfully taken his no-hitter through the ninth inning. And yet…he was the losing pitcher!!!
Burdette surrendered 12 hits in a complete game effort…and he had a shutout!!!
And to add to the bizarre, the final score of the game was amended a day later on May 27 by National League President Warren Giles to 1-0. During the Adcock homerun trot, Hank Aaron reached second and walked to the dugout failing to finish the trot. Thus, Adcock had passed Aaron on the base path.
Adcock was ruled out, thus disqualifying his run and Aaron’s on the home run trot. Since the infraction occurred after Adcock rounded second base, his homerun was changed officially to a double.
So, the only run that did count for the game was Mantilla’s…and it was UNEARNED because of the Hoak error. The amended box score showed Haddix as having allowed 1 run but 0 earned runs for the game.
[Note: Had Hank Aaron made this baserunning blunder with two outs in the inning, none of the runs would have counted and the game would have been suspended!!!]
Milwaukee 1 Pittsburgh 0 (F/13 Innings)
In this game today where a quality start these days for pitchers are those games when they can advance beyond five innings, this game should put the modern era of pitching to shame. Bullpens??? Ha!!! Those guys never needed bullpens!!! Relief pitching was for emergencies only…not as a convoy of hurlers collectively assigned to finish a nine-inning game.
Harvey Haddix versus Lew Burdette
Innings Pitched: 25.67 [13 by Burdette, 12.67 by Haddix*]
Walks: 1 [the intentional walk of Aaron in the 13th]
Earned Runs: 0
Strikeouts: 10 [2 by Burdette, 8 by Haddix]
Hits: 13 [12 off Burdette, 1 off Haddix]
Extra-Base Hits: 1 [the Adcock “double” in the 13th]
* Haddix earned an extra out in the ninth from Adcock passing Aaron on the base path of his homerun, which later was changed to a double because of Aaron’s blunder.
NOTE: Randy Johnson is currently the last player in MLB who hurled a perfect game, which occurred in 2004. That is why I chose that photo for this article. I could not find any file photos from Getty Images on Harvey Haddix. Sorry!