Friday, November 14, 2008

Harvey Haddix: Portrait of a Pittsburgh Legend

2008 "Blackened Gold" award winning story

"My main aim was to win. I was more tired than nervous. All I know is that we lost. What's so historic about that? Didn't anyone else ever lose a thirteen inning shutout?" - Harvey Haddix after losing perfect game.


For a team that has never been known for its’ great pitching, it is truly one of the great ironies of the game that what is generally regarded as the greatest pitching performance in history came from a player wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.


Harvey Haddix, Jr. (sept. 18, 1925- January 8, 1994) was a left-hander who played with the Cardinals (1952-1956), Phillies(1956-1957), Reds (1958), Pirates (1959-1963) and Baltimore Orioles (1964-1965). He was nicknamed " The Kitten" in St. Louis for his resemblance to Harry “The Cat” Brecheen, a left-hander on the Cardinals during Haddix' rookie campaign.

Haddix enjoyed his best season in 1953 while pitching for St. Louis. He compiled a 20-9 record with 163 strikeouts, a 3.06 ERA, 19 complete games and six shutouts…a remarkable achievement in any season.

Haddix, however, will always be remembered for taking a perfect game into the 13th inning of a game against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959. He retired a record 36 consecutive batters in 12 innings, but ironically his Pittsburgh teammates didn't score either, as Braves pitcher Lew Burdette was also pitching a shutout.

After a fielding error by third baseman, Don Hoak, ended the perfect game in the bottom of the 13th, the runner was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, which was followed by an intentional walk to one Henry Aaron. Joe Adcock then hit a home run, ending the no hitter and
the game. However, in the confusion, Aaron left the base paths and was passed by Adcock for the second out. Eventually the hit was changed from a home run to a double by a ruling from National League President Warren Giles. So instead of three runs on a home run, only the first Braves run counted. But the game ended there, with the Pirates and Haddix losing 1-0.

Haddix's 12 and 2/3-inning, one-hit complete game, against the team that had just represented the NL in the previous two World Series, is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in major league history..
After the game, Haddix received many letters of congratulations and support, as well as one from a fraternity which read, in its entirety, "Dear Harv, tough s____." "It made me mad," recounted Haddix, "until I realized they were right. That's exactly what it was.".
Amazingly, In 1993, Milwaukee's Bob Buhl revealed that the Braves pitchers had been stealing the signs from Pittsburgh catcher Smoky Burgess who was exposing his hand signals due to a high crouch. From their bullpen, Braves pitchers continually repositioned a towel on the bullpen fence to signal for a fastball or a breaking ball, the only two pitches Haddix used in the game. Despite this major advantage, the usually solid Milwaukee offense managed just the one hit.
Over his 14-year career, Haddix had a 136-113 record with 1575 strikeouts, a 3.63 ERA, 99 complete games, 21 shutouts, 21 saves and 2235 innings pitched in 453 games (285 as a starter).. He was in the spotlight in the 1960 World Series against the Yankees.. After winning Game Five as a starter, Haddix relieved in Game Seven and won when Bill Mazeroski hit his famous home run.
Harvey Haddix later followed his namesake Brecheen into the ranks of major league pitching coaches, working with the Mets, Reds, Rex Sox, Indians and Pirates. He died in Springfield, Ohio in 1994 at the age of 68.
Certainly every Pirates fan wishes we had a pitcher of his caliber on the major league roster today!
Special thanks to Wikipedia for biographical assistance
(Above left, Joe Adcock, above right Ohio Memorial marker)
Harvey Haddix
Born: September 18, 1925, Medway, Ohio
Died: January 8, 1994 (aged 68) Springfield, Ohio
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut August 20, 1952 for thte St. Louis CardinalsFinal game August 28, 1965 for the Baltimore Orioles.
Career statistics
Won-loss record: 136-113
Earned Run Average: 3.63
Strikeouts: 1,575
Career highlights and awards
3x All Star selection (1953, 1954, 1955)
World Series Champion, 1960
3x Gold Glove Award winner (1958, 1959, 1960)
"He (Haddix) pitched the greatest game that's ever been pitched in the history of baseball. It was a damned shame he had to lose": Lew Burdette, Haddix' mound opponent during the "perfect game".