By Craig Muder
Fifty years ago today, Marcia Haddix was in Springfield, Ohio. Her husband, Harvey, was on the road with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And history was about to happen.
The phone at Marcia’s mother’s house rang, and on the other end was Marcia’s mother-in-law.
“She said to me: ‘Do you know that you’re husband just pitched a perfect game?’ Marcia Haddix remembered. “But the game wasn’t over. I ran around the house trying to get it on all the radios, then I went out to the car and tried that radio. Finally, I found that if I pointed the car in a certain direction, the station would come in.”
What Marcia Haddix heard on that radio has never been repeated since. Harvey Haddix, the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher, retired the Milwaukee Braves in order in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings – giving him a remarkable 12 perfect frames.
It is possibly the greatest game ever pitched.
Haddix passed away in 1994, but his masterpiece is carved into baseball history like few other one-game performances.
Methodically, Haddix began retiring batters on May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee. The Pirates, meanwhile, threatened regularly against Braves starter Lew Burdette. But neither team scored.
After 12 scoreless innings, Burdette had allowed 11 hits but had not walked a batter. Haddix was perfect.
Then in the bottom of the 13th, Milwaukee’s Felix Mantilla led off by reaching base on an error by Pittsburgh third baseman Don Hoak. With the spell broken – but the no-hitter still alive – Eddie Mathews bunted Mantilla to second, and Haddix then walked Hank Aaron intentionally to bring up Joe Adcock. The hulking Braves’ first baseman launched a shot to center field – a home run that was eventually ruled a double when Adcock passed Aaron on the bases.
But when Mantilla crossed the plate, the game ended with a loss for Haddix and the Pirates.
Fifty years later, Haddix’s game is still the stuff of legend. The Baseball Hall of Fame has several artifacts from that night, including a ticket stub, a ball from the game autographed by Haddix and his glove from that game.
Meanwhile, Marcia Haddix remains the keeper of the memories.
“Harv played because he loved the game, not because of the fame or because he made millions,” Marcia Haddix said. “He loved every minute and he had so many friends. (Former Pirates center fielder) Bill Virdon, who played in that game, stopped by last year and said: ‘I don’t think Harv ever realized just what he did.’ Then he said: ‘We just couldn’t get him any runs.’
“But Harv never thought like that. He just figured that that’s how it came out.”
For more on this story, check out the June issue of the Hall of Fame’s members magazine Memories and Dreams. To become a Member, visit www.baseballhall.org/membership.
Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.