Results tagged ‘ Bill Virdon ’

Pirate captain

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

02-11-11-Muder_TannerPIT.jpgWhen I was 10 years old, Chuck Tanner could do no wrong.

 Tanner, who passed away Friday, was the first manager of my childhood. I have no memories of Bill Virdon or Danny Murtaugh, who both led my Pirates to the postseason in the 1970s. But starting in 1977, Tanner was the leader of my team.

He always looked at the bright side.

The Bucs fell short of the 1978 National League East title after a spirited stretch run. Tanner kept smiling.

His mother passed away just before Game 5 of the 1979 World Series – with the Pirates down 3-1. Tanner kept going.

The Lumber Company teams of the 1970s got older, and the Bucs fell out of contention in the 1980s. Tanner kept believing.

The 1985 Pirates lost 104 games with a lineup more ancient than their manager. Tanner kept pushing.

Finally, he was let go after that terrible ’85 season. He spent the next three years with the Braves, then returned home to New Castle, Pa., unofficially serving as the Pirates’ number one fan.

After so many years of watching Tanner do a pretty convincing impersonation of Norman Vincent Peale, it was easy to peg him as an eternal optimist. But Tanner was so much more.

    02-11-11-Muder_TannerCWS.jpg

  • A decent big league outfielder, who homered on the first major league pitch he ever saw and played for eight seasons
  • A super-intense young manager with the White Sox, who kept the Pale Hose competitive throughout the early 1970s
  • A visionary of bullpen use, who was credited by Hall of Famer Goose Gossage for shaping his career
  • And a World Series winner, who led a diverse 1979 Pirates team to a glorious championship

But for me, it’s much simpler. Chuck Tanner will always be the manager – the first one I remember, and the one everyone else is judged against.

Somewhere, someone is smiling right now – thinking of Chuck Tanner. Who could ask for a better legacy.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Perfect anniversary

Muder_90.jpgBy 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.

5-26-09-Muder_Haddix.jpg“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.

5-26-09-Muder_HaddixMug.jpgMeanwhile, 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.

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