Saturday, January 08, 2005

January 8th, 1994

Harvey Haddix Dies

Haddix was nicknamed "Kitten" from when he was in St. Louis, based on his resemblance to Harry Brecheen. Brecheen was a thirty-seven year old ten year veteran nicknamed "The Cat" while Haddix was a twenty-six year old rookie ergo, Kitten. This is much moaned by baseball fans and writers but nicknames are truly terrible these days. If a rookie in Mets' camp this season reminded someone of Andres Galarraga, at best he would be "The Little Cat.” That isn't even an especially good nickname, but it would sadly rank as one of the best in modern baseball.

Haddix was a key player in the 1960 World Series, going 2-0, one victory coming as a starter in Game 5, the other when he relieved in the ninth inning of Game 7 and secured the victory when Bill Mazeroski hit his Series-winning home run off Ralph Terry.

Haddix would be all but forgotten however, if not for the events of Memorial Day, 1959. Although not feeling well, Haddix took his turn in the
Pittsburgh rotation against Milwaukee's Lew Burdette. Haddix pitched a perfect first inning retiring Johnny O'Brien, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron in order. He proceeded to do this for the next eight innings, thus completing a nine-inning perfect game. The problem was that after nine innings, Haddix's Pittsburgh teammates had failed to score a single run of their own off Burdette, so the game went into the tenth. Pittsburgh was held scoreless, but Haddix pitched another a perfect inning. Onto the eleventh: Another scoreless frame, and still no base runners for the Braves. The twelfth pasted again without either team scoring and without the Braves touching Haddix. At this point, it seemed a battle of whose helplessness with the stick would end first, the Pirates or the Braves.

In the thirteenth, the Pirates again went down without scoring a run against Burdette and Felix Mantilla, who had come into the game to play second base after Del Rice flied out for O'Brien in the tenth, led off. He hit a ground ball to Don Hoak. Hoak uncorked a low throw that first baseman Rocky Nelson couldn't handle and Mantilla was safe on the error. Haddix had lost the perfect game but still had his no-hitter. Eddie Mathews (who would finish second in the MVP vote after hitting .306/.390/.593 with a league-leading forty-six HRs) bunted Mantilla to second and the Pirates intentionally walked Hank Aaron. At which point, things got rather confusing. First baseman Joe Adcock connected with a ball that "barely cleared the right-center-field [sic] fence" according to the next day's New York Times. Adcock hesitated momentarily and then began rounding the bases, having ended both Haddix's no hitter, and the game. According to rules at the time however, once Mantilla scored, the game should have been over 1-0. Adcock however was initially credited with a home run, making the final score 3-0. This was taken away from him when umpires realized he had passed Hank Aaron on the bases, and thus declared the score to be 2-0.

After reviewing the end of the game, NL President Warren Giles credited Mantilla with a run, Adcock with an RBI and ended the game 1-0. Haddix took the loss despite pitching 12 1/3 innings of one-hit, one-run baseball. Burdette pitched 13 innings, giving up 12 hits but no walks, and more importantly no runs and left with his eighth win.

A final postscript, legend has it that Haddix arrived back in the clubhouse after the game and received a series of telegrams congratulating him on his performance from various MLB figures and one from a fraternity. Their telegram read just four words: Dear Harvey, Tough Shit. At first Haddix was angry but the more he thought about it (and the more
Harvey had that night at the bar one suspects), the more he decided the kids had, in fact, hit the nail on the head.

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