When the final out was anticlimatically recorded Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga was not alone in posting an imperfect perfect game. Sure, he had his legendary and compassionate manager, Jim Leyland. His Detroit Tigers teammates shared in his disbelief and disappointment. Somewhere in Ohio, where Harvey Haddix was born in 1925 and died in 1994, the Haddix family understands.
Far too much focus has been on the umpire, Jim Joyce, who incorrectly called safe the Cleveland Indians runner, Jason Donald. SportsCenter focused on highlights of the 1985 World Series, when a similar close play at first base with a pitcher covering was missed by the umpire in the ninth inning. The Kansas City Royals rallied for a Game 6 victory, then won the championship the next day.
Far too little focus was shown to the young pitcher and to any comparison the Haddix gem, which was even more impressive and more unjust. Galarraga is a 28-year-old right-hander from Venezuela. Wednesday’s start was his third this season and 57th of his journeyman career. His previous start was 11 days prior. He threw a 28-out perfect game, as we all know by now, but the official record books show that he crafted a complete-game, one-hit masterpiece.
Haddix was a 33-year-old left-hander with the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26, 1959, when he faced the Braves in Atlanta. This was a Braves team that had gone to the previous two World Series and boasted a lineup that included future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. They went a combined 0-for-8 in that game.
Haddix retired 27 consecutive batters over the first nine innings. Ordinarily, that would be a perfect game. But the Braves Lew Burdette matched Haddix with zeros on the scoreboard. They continued to shut down the batters in innings 10, 11 and 12. When Haddix went to the mound in the bottom of the 13th, he had set down 36 straight Braves, but it was still 0-0. First, the perfect game went when Felix Mantilla, a substitute second baseman, reached safely on an error. After a sacrifice bunt, Haddix intentionally walked Aaron. Haddix still had a no-hitter going when Joe Adcock smashed a home run. Adcock never scored because he passed Aaron on the base paths. He was credited with a double, and the Braves won 1-0. (See the box score.)
Haddix had other highlights in his 14-year career, which was spent with five teams. He had a 136-113 record with 1,575 strikeouts, a 3.63 ERA, 99 complete games and 21 shutouts. He started and won Game 5 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, then helped the Pirates upset the Bronx Bombers in Game 7 as a reliever.
So when you’re feeling sorry for Galarraga and Joyce, think not of blown calls but remember and honor Harvey Haddix. He and Galarraga share imperfect perfection.