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50 years since Haddix's masterpiece

50 years since Haddix's masterpiece

"And so history in pitching was written, but on a sorry note for the 155-pound, 33-year-old Pirate left-hander."

So read the final line of a story by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Jack Hernon about the game in Milwaukee County Stadium on May 26, 1959, a game that will forever be remembered and took place 50 years ago today.

In fact, all you have to say is the name Harvey Haddix for even casual baseball fans to know that on that night, a man pitched a perfect game -- for 12 innings -- and still lost.

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Haddix, who would go on to make three All-Star teams, win 20 games in a season and get the victory in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, is so well-known for retiring 36 batters in a row and then watching it all disappear that the feat is described on the headstone of his grave. Haddix passed away in 1994.

What would have gone down in history simply as the greatest game ever pitched -- and still might be, depending on whom you talk to -- ended in bizarre fashion in the bottom of the 13th when, in a scoreless tie because Lew Burdette had shut out the Pirates, also for 12 innings, the Milwaukee Braves rallied.

A fielding error ended the perfect game and put a runner on first base, and after a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Henry Aaron, Joe Adcock hit what appeared to be a home run. But because Adcock passed Aaron on the base path, the league eventually turned that three-run homer into an official one-RBI double, sealing the final score at 1-0.

Haddix, who was said to have roamed the streets of the city until dawn after he left the ballpark, wasn't shy about meeting with reporters right after the game, which somehow only lasted two hours and 54 minutes. But he didn't seem to be aware of the historical importance of what he had just done.

"Joe hit a high slider," Haddix told the Post-Gazette. "I thought I had fine control all night. I made a few bad pitches. The one to Adcock has to go down as a bad pitch. There were a few others, I don't remember when or what they were.

"Sure, I knew I had the no-hitter. Now and then I would look at the scoreboard to see what the count was on the hitter. I had to see that zero [next to] the Braves. I didn't know about the perfect game, though. I thought that maybe back there in the early innings I had walked a man.

"How do I feel about it? It's just another loss and that's not good for the club or myself."

Haddix got another loss when the Committee for Statistical Accuracy in Baseball, led by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent, announced in 1991 that Haddix's game, along with others, would not be officially recognized as a no-hitter by Major League Baseball because not only did he give up a hit, the pitcher did not the win game -- both requirements for a game to be listed as a no-hitter.

That brought out one musical protest as late as last year.

That's when Scott McCaughey of R.E.M. and the Young Fresh Fellows and Dream Syndicate frontman Steve Wynn released an album of baseball songs as The Baseball Project.

Their first single, written by Wynn, is entitled, "Harvey Haddix," and is an argument for Haddix's perfecto to be officially recognized as such in the annals of the game.

The lyrics say it all about what transpired 50 years ago today.

"The search for perfection is a funny thing, at least as I've been told/It drives you nuts, it makes you curse and eats away at your soul/Sometimes better isn't better, sometimes justice just ain't served/Sometimes legend isn't laid where it's most deserved.

"But humanity is flawed as the losers will attest/We're drawn to tragic stories, the ones that suit us best/But for 12 innings on that fateful day, old Harvey was a god/A perfect game if nothing else because perfection's always flawed."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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