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He threw 12 perfect innings, and was the defeated pitcher

Enjoy a new installment of "En La Pelota" by Juan Vené

That was the perfect defeat.

And the story is simple and dramatic.

Harvey Haddix, left-handed and diminutive, but a fierce competitor, was in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform when he pitched 12 perfect innings, making 36 outs in a row! And yet, he lost 1-0 in the thirteenth. It happened on the night of May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee, where the Braves were then playing.

Only 24 perfect games have been recorded in the history of the Major Leagues, and this one by Haddix, which does not count in that group, has however been the only one in extra-innings. In the World Series, since 1903, only Don Larsen's game has been thrown, Yankees, against the Dodgers, on October 1956, XNUMX.

Haddix finished his 14-season career in 1965, with a record of 136-113, 3.63, and without the slightest chance of reaching the Hall of Fame. Numbers similar to those of Fernando Valenzuela, 158-133, 3.49, in 15 campaigns. And like Valenzuela, 21-11 in 1986, this other southpaw won 20 times only once, in 1953, 20-9.

But Harvey, a native of Medway, Ohio, who died on January 1994, 68, in Springfield, Ohio, at the age of XNUMX, went down in history for that disappointing ending.

He dominated a lineup that included second through sixth hitters Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Wes Covington and Deelmar Crandall.

On the other side, Lew Burdette allowed 12 hits in 13 innings, but they did not reach home plate.
Milwaukee County Stadium received 19 people that night. There was thick humidity, cloudy weather and the threat of rain.

In the first three innings, Haddix's violent fastball, and an almost unhittable slider, made the nine outs with ground balls and flies, plus two struckouts, by Adcock and Burdette.

"I think we were in the fifth when I looked at the scoreboard and said, 'Oh well, I'm throwing no-hitters!' But I didn't realize it was perfect,” the left-hander later recalled.

In the ninth, Andy Pafko, struckout, was the 25th consecutive out. John Logan flied out to leftfield, and Burdette struckout. This continued as he went through the first perfect extra-innings in the Majors.

Now, how did this man lose the game?

Burdette, far from a no-hit, but the author of pure zeroes, hung his 13th zero. And then in the second part of that same inning, Haddix faced his 37th hitter of the night, the Puerto Rican Félix Mantilla, who had replaced John O'Brien at second base.

Félix hit a ground ball for third, which seemed to guarantee that perfection would last. However, no... Don Hoak picked up well but threw short to first. Rocky Nelson couldn't control the boat. Error in the third baseman's throw. First runner for the Braves in the entire journey.

Mathews sacrificed himself. Mantilla at second with one out. Due to an intentional walk to Aaron, two remained on bases. Adcock at bat, who had not hit the ball out of the infield, so there was hope for a doubleplay. But on a 1-0 count, he connected between right and center, over the walls. Home run?… who knows!… Mantilla scored. But no one else.

Because after stepping on second, Aaron went to the dugout, certain that the game was over. Addock continued his march around the bases, that is, he passed Aaron, so he was declared out by Rule, and his trip to third base and home plate was annulled. His hit was declared only a double, due to Aaron's mistake when leaving and Addock himself, when following the trot. Final score, 1-0. Left on the ground.

“I'm very proud of that game,” Harvey commented years later, “because I was a boy from a small town making good baseball history.”

Much has been written and talked about this imperfect game for 65 years, more than any of the numerous no-hitters in history.

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