This Day in Transaction History: Phillies set Harvey Haddix in motion

Harvey Haddix
NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

If you know a young baseball fan, or someone who recently got into the sport, you can wow them with a Harvey Haddix piece of trivia. The left-hander, in 1959, threw 12 perfect innings and lost. Before we get to that, though, let’s acknowledge the title of the post. On May 11, 1956, the Phillies acquired Haddix along with Ben Flowers and Stu Miller in exchange for Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.

Haddix, 30 years old and in his fifth season at the time of the trade, was a three-time All-Star. He finished second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jim Gilliam. The Phillies were definitely getting a quality pitcher, which is why they gave up two proven veteran starters in Dickson and Weimeier and took on additional risk in Flowers and the unproven Miller.

Haddix (right, in the picture above) was solid for the Phillies, posting a 3.48 ERA over 206 2/3 innings through the end of the 1956 season. In ’57, he finished with a 4.06 ERA over 170 2/3 innings. That offseason, the Phillies dealt him to the Reds. Haddix would spend just one year with the Reds before they traded him to the Pirates just a couple of months before the start of the 1959 season.

Over his first seven starts of the 1959 season, Haddix was excellent, limiting the opposition to 16 earned runs with 40 strikeouts and nine walks over 54 innings. Little did he know that his eighth start, against the Milwaukee Braves, would become one of the most memorable in baseball history. Haddix had to face Lew Burdette, an excellent pitcher in his own right. Burdette led the league with a 2.70 ERA in 1956 and finished third in Cy Young Award balloting in ’58.

Burdette gave up the occasional single but always worked himself out of trouble, putting up nothing but zeroes. Haddix saw Burdette’s shutout and raised him one better: a perfect game. Haddix entered the ninth inning with a perfect game but the score was tied at 0-0. Burdette worked around two singles in the top half to keep the game scoreless. Haddix once again set the Braves down in order. In the 10th, Burdette allowed a one-out single to Don Hoak but the Pirates couldn’t capitalize. Haddix, again, retired the side in order, this time on just six pitches. In the 11th, Dick Schofield led off with a single, but Smoky Burgess would hit into an inning-ending double play. Haddix did his job with another six-pitch, 1-2-3 inning to send the game to the 12th. It was more of the same: Burdette worked around a two-out single to Bill Mazeroski; Haddix set the side down in order again. To the 13th we go, Haddix still working on a perfect game.

Schofield singled again with two outs, and the Pirates again couldn’t do anything with it. To this point, Burdette had logged 13 shutout innings, allowing 12 hits with no walks and two strikeouts. In the bottom of the 13th, leadoff batter Félix Mantilla hit a grounder to third baseman Don Hoak. Hoak’s throw to first base was in the dirt. Mantilla reached and Hoak was charged with an error, ending Haddix’s bid for a perfect game but leaving the no-hitter intact. Eddie Mathews bunted Mantilla to second base. With first base open, Haddix intentionally walked Hank Aaron which had the double benefit of setting up a double play and avoiding Hank Aaron. With Joe Adcock at the plate, the no-hitter, shutout, and game ended on one swing as Adcock doubled to right-center, scoring Mantilla.

The ridiculousness wasn’t over yet. Aaron thought Adcock had homered. Rather than running the bases, Aaron simply started jogging off the field. Adcock passed Aaron and touched home. Well, it wasn’t a homer so the final score wasn’t 3-0. First base umpire Frank Dascoli ruled that the final score was 2-0, but was overruled by National League president Warren Giles, who said that it was a 1-0 game. As it was a double, not a home run, and the game ends as soon as the winning run scores, Adcock’s run did not count.

Haddix was stuck with the loss, allowing the lone unearned run on a hit and a walk with eight strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings. No one has pitched 12 or more innings and gotten a loss since Tommy John in 1983 when the Angels lost to the Athletics. No one has gotten the loss after allowing one or fewer runs in 12-plus innings since Vida Blue in 1976 when the Athletics lost to the Angels. Given modern pitcher usage, we won’t ever see a feat like Haddix’s again. Heck, a pitcher hasn’t even logged 12-plus innings since Charlie Hough tossed 13 for the Rangers in a 16-inning game in 1986.

As Albert Chen reported for Sports Illustrated in 2009, Braves pitcher Bob Buhl told Haddix in 1989, at a banquet commemorating the 30-year anniversary of Haddix’s performance, that the Braves were stealing signs. Buhl said Braves pitchers in the bullpen used binoculars to see the signs given to Haddix by catcher Smokey Burgess. A reliever would put a towel on his shoulder to signal fastball, while no towel would signal breaking ball. On top of everything else, that Haddix managed to shut down a Braves lineup that not only featured two of the game’s all-time greatest players in Aaron and Mathews, but one that was actively stealing signs, is incredible.