What may have been the best pitching performance in baseball history only resulted in a loss.
On May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates as his team prepared to play the two-time defending National League champions Brewers under the lights of Milwaukee’s County Stadium. A crowd of 19,194 settled in to watch the action. However, there was little of it. Although the Pirates put together eight hits through nine innings of play, the home team was not able to get even a single base runner.
Normally, that latter feat would have resulted in Haddix and his teammates celebrating his perfect game, which would have been just the seventh in baseball history. However, the game instead went to extra innings. A determined Haddix kept putting the Brewers down in order. Incredibly, he kept his perfect game going through 12 complete innings. By the end of the 12th, his teammates were up to 11 hits but still no runs.
After the visitors added a 12th hit in the top of the 13th, they were yet again unable to push across a run. Haddix then headed out to the mound for his 13th inning of work. However, his perfect game was immediately ended through no fault of his own. On a ground ball hit by leadoff hitter Felix Mantilla, Pirate third baseman Don Hoak threw the ball across the diamond but in the dirt, and first baseman Rocky Nelson was not able to scoop it. That error allowed Milwaukee to have its first baserunner of the game.
A sacrifice bunt by Eddie Matthews moved Hoak to second, and Hank Aaron was intentionally walked. That set the stage for Joe Adcock to end the game in heartbreaking fashion as he smashed the second pitch that he saw from Haddix, “a slider a little bit up and over the plate” over the right-center field fence, ending the game with the first and only hit that the pitcher allowed. Although Adcock would pass Aaron on the base paths and be called out, Hoak still scored. The final score was 1-0.
Incredibly, the Ohio native threw 12-2/3 innings of ball and only allowed one run and one hit after retiring the first 36 men that he faced but was handed the loss.
Fortunately, Haddix was able to experience glory a year later when his Pirates won the World Series over the Yankees. He played a pivotal role, earning the wins in games five and seven of that year’s Fall Classic.