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Almost Perfect

May 25, 2009 - John Mehno

It was 50 years ago Tuesday night that Harvey Haddix pitched the greatest game ever lost.

He pitched 12 perfect innings against the powerful Milwaukee Braves. He was battling a cold that night, and he found out more than 20 years later that the Braves were stealing catcher Smoky Burgess' signals through the entire game. No matter. Haddix was in such complete command that it didn't help the Braves to know what was coming.

The game fell apart in the 13th inning on an error, an intentional walk and a three-run homer by Joe Adcock that only counted as one run. It was that kind of night.

I got to interview Haddix in 1984 for a big 25th anniversary blowout. I also spoke to some the other major figures in the game. It's funny what details stick. Haddix said he was sucking on throat lozenges all night. Winning pitcher Lou Burdette recalled that the innings were so fast he didn't have time to sneak a smoke in the dugout. Burdette said that after the game, he called the clubhouse to needle Haddix, telling him, "After all these years of pitching, you should know not to bunch your hits like that." Haddix, in no mood to joke, hung up on Burdette, but visited with him the next day.

After Haddix retired in 1965, he was a pitching coach for a bunch of teams, including the Pirates. He was on Chuck Tanner's staff and was part of the 1979 World Series team. He said that every day he was in baseball, someone would mention that night in Milwaukee. Haddix, who died in 1994, won 136 games in 14 seasons, and two more games in the 1960 World Series, including Game 7,

But he's best remembered for one he lost.

His favorite story was about the telegram he received from a college fraternity. It read: "Dear Harvey. Tough (luck)."


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