Stories You Should Know: May 26th, 1959

May 26th, 1959

The skies were threatening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 26th, 1959. It was a Tuesday night, the 2-time defending National League Champions, Milwaukee Braves were hosting the improving Pittsburgh Pirates. The first pitch was at 8:00 PM, the crowd was 19,194. Milwaukee entered the game in first place in the National League, with a record of 23-14, the Pirates were in third at 21-19.

The Braves #2 starter, Lew Burdette was facing the Pirates’ 33 year old left-hander, Harvey Haddix. The 32 year old Burdette had a career record of 113-67 with the Braves entering the game. He had been the hero in the 1957 World Series, when he beat the Yankees three times in Milwaukee’s 7-game World Series triumph. He was much more accomplished than Haddix, who’s career record entering the game was 87-70.  

The game got off to a very mundane start, with Burdette and Haddix both retiring the first six batters they faced. The top of the third saw the Pirates mount a rally. Don Hoak led off with an infield single, Roman Mejias forced Hoak at second. Haddix himself then singled, but Mejias was thrown out trying to take the extra base at third. Dick Schofield then singled to right. Mejias would have scored easily from second on Schofield’s hit, but instead the Pirates had first and third with two outs and the inning ended when Bill Virdon flied to left.

Haddix again set the Braves down in order in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. Burdette almost matched him, allowing only two base runners, one being eliminated by a double play. Burdette entered the 9th working on a 5-hit shut-out. He did allow two hits in the top of the 9th, but got Bob Skinner on come backer to the mound to strand the go-ahead run at third. That brought Haddix to the mound to face the Braves in the bottom of the 9th. 

Haddix struck-out Andy Pafko to lead off the bottom of the 9th. Shortstop, Johnny Logan then flew out to left field and Lew Burdette struck out swinging. Harvey Haddix had faced 27 batters in 9 innings and had retired them all. How rare was that? Well, it hadn’t been done in the National League in 79 years (John Mongomery Ward, June 17th, 1880). 

In the top of the 10th, Don Hoak singled for the Bucs with one out, but Pittsburgh stranded him at first. In the bottom half the Braves had some good swings against Harvey, but Haddix put them down in order despite two deep drives to center by pinch hitter Del Rice, and future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews. Henry Aaron ended the 10th with a ground ball to short. Haddix was now in uncharted territory; nobody had ever thrown 10 perfect innings.

Dick Schofield made a promising start to the 11th for Pittsburgh, with a single to left, but nothing came of it. Bill Virdon forced Schofield at second, and then Smokey Burgess hit into a double play.

Haddix cruised through the 11th, on a ground out and two fly balls to center, but the Pirates, despite a single by Bill Mazeroski, failed to score in the top of the 12th. Haddix took the mound for the bottom of the 12th. He again set the mighty Braves down in order. 36 up 36 down for Harvey Haddix. The Pirates would try again to break through against Lew Burdette in the top of the 12th. They couldn’t do it. Dick Schofield did manage a 12th hit off Lew, but it was also the 12th single and he was stranded at first. Haddix walked to the mound to face the top of the Braves order in the bottom half of the inning.

Haddix quickly got Braves’ second baseman Felix Mantilla in the hole, no balls and two strikes. On the 0-2 pitch, both Haddix and his catcher Smoky Burgess thought they had caught the corner for strike three. Home plate umpire Vinnie Smith didn’t agree, and called it a ball. It didn’t seem to matter when Matilla later in the at bat hit a routine ground ball to third. Buc’s third baseman Don Hoak fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw was low and first baseman Rocky Nelson couldn’t handle it. After 36 consecutive outs, the Braves finally had their first base runner on an error by the Pirate’s third baseman. 

Up came Milwaukee slugger, Eddie Mathews. Mathews had averaged 38 home runs a year over his previous six seasons, and would lead the Major Leagues with 46 in 1959, but Braves’ manager Fred Haney ordered him to bunt Mantilla over to second base (boy how the game has changed). Mathews’ sacrifice was successful, sending Mantilla to second.

That brought up the 1957 NL MVP, Henry Aaron. Haney wanted nothing to do with the great Aaron, so he had Haddix walk him intentionally and face Joe Adcock. Adcock was no Aaron or Mathews, but he was a very capable power hitter. Haddix had handled Adcock easily in his first four at bats, with two strike-outs and two ground-outs. Harvey’s first pitch was a slider, the same pitch he had struck Adcock out with twice during the game. This time he got too much of the plate, and Adcock drove it to deep right center. Pirates’ center fielder Bill Virdon raced to the wall, leaped at the last moment, but was unable to come up with it. Mantilla sped home, but Aaron, thinking the ball had hit the fence, rounded second and headed for the dugout. Adcock, thinking he had hit a home run began trotting around the bases. He passed Aaron between second and third, and was called out. The ball had ended up in the bleachers, but Aaron had never crossed the plate, and Adcock was ruled out for passing Aaron. So one of the most incredible games in baseball history ended in total confusion. What to do now? 

First base empire, Frank Dascoli, ruled that the Braves scored twice (Mantilla and Aaron) and awarded Milwaukee a 2-0 win, despite the fact that Aaron never touched home plate. Wasn’t Aaron also out for leaving the baseline? National League President, Warren Giles, settled the matter the next day. He ruled that only one run should count, and changed the final score to 1-0. The final line on the two pitchers was as follows:

Burdette:  13 IP, 12 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO Game Score:  85

Haddix: 12.2 IP,   1 Hit, 1 Runs, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO Game Score: 107

To put Haddix’ game score in perspective…In Sandy Koufax’ perfect game in 1965, he set down all 27 batters he faced and stuck out 14 of them. His game score was 101. Nolan Ryan’s highest game score in any of his no-hitters was 100 in his no-hitter against the Tigers in 1973, when he walked 4 and struck out 17. Randy Johnson’s perfect game, when he struck out 13, also registered a 100. This was an unprecedented performance by the Pirate left-hander. 

Harvey Haddix would be dealt to the Baltimore Orioles in 1964, and finish his career their in 1965. His final career won-lost record was a commendable 138-113. He passed away in 1994 at age 68.

The strangest irony to the Haddix classic was; in 1991 Baseball commissioned a committee to clarify the rules for No-Hitters. The ruling was that a pitcher had to pitch a complete game without allowing a hit. So, the greatest game ever pitched in the history of baseball, when Harvey Haddix retired the first 36 batters he faced, will not be on any list of no-hitters. He is now credited with the record for the longest one-hitter in baseball history.

1959: Milwaukee Braves player Joe Adcock rounds 2nd after hr to bust Pittsburgh Pirates Harvey Haddix perfect game. (Photo by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)

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