Remembering "The Kitten's" 12 perfect innings

Harvey Haddix and Smokey Burgess

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Harvey Haddix's "Imperfect Masterpiece" against the Milwaukee Braves.

Haddix, who was fighting a cold on May 26, 1959 and figured he'd "just go out there and do my best," retired the defending N.L. champs one-two-three for 12 straight innings – 36 consecutive outs. It still stands as the longest string of perfect innings in a major league game.

The lineup that Haddix faced was one the toughest in the game at that time.

Right fielder Hank Aaron and third baseman Eddie Mathews are in the baseball Hall of Fame. Coming into the game Aaron had been pounding the ball in the first part of the season, compiling a .453 batting average and 13 homeruns. Mathews had cooled off, but was still on his way to .306 season with 46 homeruns.

Billy Bruton was hitting .344 while Joe Adcock had attained a .323 average in limited duty.

Haddix lost the perfect game, the no-hitter, and the game itself in the 13th on an error, a sacrifice, an intentional walk, and a home run by Adcock that was later ruled a double. The final score was 1-0 because Adcock passed Aaron between second and third base. Thus he was out for passing another runner and was credited with only a double.

Afterwards, Haddix couldn't understand the fuss. "All I know is we lost in 13 innings," said Haddix. "What's so historic about that? Didn't anyone else ever lose a 13 inning shutout?"

For 12 innings, Haddix and Braves right-hander Lew Burdette dueled to a draw. Burdette labored giving up 12 hits but no runs over the same stretch.

"Burdette came up to me the next day," Harvey would later recall, "and says, ‘You're a dumb pitcher.' I said, ‘Whatdya mean?' and he says, ‘I give up a bunch of little hits and you give up one big one."

One of the more amazing anecdotes to the Haddix 12 perfect innings concerns Braves pitcher Bob Buhl, who admitted that the Braves pitchers were stealing the signs from Smoky Burgess‚ who could not crouch down all the way. They would place a towel on the bullpen fence in such a way to signal fastball or breaking ball.

Even so, Haddix handled the Braves with apparent ease. "There was nothing close to being a hit," Haddix said. "They hit some balls hard, but they were right at guys. There was no running, diving catches or anything like that."

When the Pirates celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1987, Haddix was named the Pirates' all-time left handed thrower, while Vernon Law was voted the best right handed pitcher, and Elroy Face the best relief pitcher. Haddix who passed away at the age of 68 in January of 1994 took great pride in that honor.

Les Biederman, the longtime baseball writer for The Pittsburgh Press, wrote when he retired that his biggest thrill in baseball was not Bill Mazeroski's home run to win the 1960 World Series – that was too sudden he said – but rather a toss-up between Haddix's 12 perfect innings, and Dale Long's home runs in eight consecutive games in May, 1956.

Sadly the game is not officially recognized as a no-hitter by Major League Baseball. The Committee for Statistical Accuracy announced in 1991 that it didn't meet the criteria because Haddix lost.

Haddix took that snub in stride, "I know what I did," Haddix said. Recommended Stories

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