Heartbreak in Overtime

Milwaukee County Stadium was the site of one of the more interesting pitching duels of the last 50 years. (via Robert Jahnke)

Imagine you are in a race with a clearly defined finish line. You are well in the lead as the race progresses and your victory seems assured…then you see the finish line receding in the distance. You keep on running, you’re getting winded, but you can’t get any closer to the finish line. Next thing you know … you’ve lost. It sounds like a bad dream, but that’s what happened to the Pirates’ Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959.

Though it happened more than 60 years ago, the Haddix game has justifiably gone down in history as the ultimate pitcher’s heartbreak. Haddix, a 33-year-old veteran, was hampered by the flu bug, yet he pitched 12 perfect innings on the road against the Milwaukee Braves, only to lose the perfect game, the no-hitter, and the game in the bottom of the 13th.

Overlooked to a large degree was the performance (13 shutout innings, 12 hits, no walks) of winning pitcher Lew Burdette. Also overlooked was the fact that in 1959, Haddix led the league in hits-per-nine (7.6), WHIP (1.061) and lowest OBP (.268). In his 14-year career, Haddix fashioned a respectable career (136-113, 3.63 ERA, yet his 12 perfect/one imperfect inning game remains one of baseball’s most heralded feats.

Haddix’s sad saga has been well-chronicled elsewhere, so I won’t go into more detail about it. In an era when complete games are increasingly rare, Haddix’s performance assumes Herculean proportions, even though he stood a mere 5-foot-9 and weighed just 170 pounds. Of course, one of the benefits of maximum efficiency (his pitch count was a relatively low 115) is longevity.

Haddix is not the only example of a pitcher losing an extra-inning no-hitter, however. He had company. One of the pitchers you have probably heard of; the other, probably not. Let’s start with the former.

Jim Maloney was one of the mainstays of the Reds’ pitching staff in the final decade (1960s) of play at Crosley Field. At age 20, he made his debut on July 27, 1960.

Maloney’s first two seasons were lackluster, largely due to his control problems (37 walks in 63.2 innings in 1960, 59 BB in 94.2 innings in 1961). He showed slight improvement in 1962, then blossomed in 1963 with a 23-7 record (he still managed to lead the league in wild pitches), a club record 265 strikeouts, a league-leading K/9 rate of 9.53, and a 2.77 ERA. He backslid a bit in 1964, but in 1965, his only All-Star season, he returned to form with 255.1 innings (a career best) and 20 wins.

On Monday, June 14, 1965, the Reds were hosting the Mets under the lights at Crosley Field. Maloney had a 5-2 record when he ascended the mound. Given the opposition (the Mets were 20-39), a Maloney win was likely.

The Mets went down 1-2-3 in the first three innings. In the fourth inning, Maloney struck out Charley Smith on a wild pitch, but Smith advanced to first, only to be erased on a double play. So Maloney had still faced the minimum through four innings. And so it went through nine innings. No perfect game, but a no-hitter with no walks.

But Maloney’s opponent, almost equally sharp this day, was veteran Frank Lary, who had enjoyed a successful 10-year career with the Tigers. Now 35 years old, the famed Yankee-killer was in his final season. Before leaving in favor of a pinch-hitter, he had yielded five hits but no runs in eight innings.

Maloney soldiered on, mowing down the Mets in the 10th. Unfortunately for him, the Reds could not score in the bottom of the inning. It is mildly surprising today to see that Maloney came to bat (and grounded out) in the 10th inning. Would a starting pitcher be allowed to do that today? Admittedly, Maloney was not an automatic out, as he had a lifetime batting average of .201.

In the top of the 11th, Johnny Lewis led off for the Mets. After a ho-hum rookie season with the Cardinals in 1964, Lewis had been traded to the Mets. With them in 1965, he got a chance to play regularly and managed to hit 15 home runs in 544 plate appearances. His .245/.331/.384 was the best line of his brief career. So he was hardly a household word. Yet he led off the 11th with a home run. The Reds could not score in the bottom of the inning. Final score: Mets 1, Reds 0. Consolation prize: Maloney tied the NL record for most strikeouts (18) in an extra-inning game.

Haddix at least could console himself that Joe Adcock, a legitimate slugger (336 home runs in 17 seasons), had taken him deep to defeat him. Maloney had to live with the fact that he had been done in by Johnny Lewis (22 homers in four seasons).

Now let’s look at the heartbroken pitcher you probably haven’t heard of – unless you’re a deadball era aficionado. His name was Harry McIntire.

Baseball, You Make It Hard to Love You
Again, a scandal puts fans on the defensive about their game.

McIntire was in his sophomore season with the woefully-misnamed Brooklyn Superbas in 1906 when he flirted with no-hit glory. To say it was improbable was an understatement.

After five years in the minors, McIntire finished at 8-25 in his rookie year with the Superbas in 1905. He led the league in hits allowed (340), earned runs (127) and hit batters (20). To be fair, he pitched 308.2 innings. His ERA of 3.70 would net him a lucrative multi-year contract today but in the deadball era, it was definitely on the high side. Since the Superbas finished the year in the cellar with a record of 48-104 (56½ games behind the first-place Giants), McIntire’s performance was hardly egregious. In fact, his ERA was slightly better than the team ERA (3.76, last in the league). He was given the honor of opening the season in 1906, even though Doc Scanlan (14-12, 2.92 ERA) was the ace of the staff in 1905.

When McIntire took the mound against the Pirates on Wednesday, August 1, 1906, at Washington Park in Brooklyn, his record was 8-12 and the Superbas were at 38-53. Both were improvements over 1905 but neither McIntire nor the Superbas were world-beaters. The Pirates, however, were formidable opponents. After raiding the Louisville Colonels’ roster at the conclusion of the 1899 season, they had won NL pennants from 1901 to 1903. In 1905, they finished second with a 96-57 record.

At the end of 10 innings, both teams remained scoreless, and the Pirates remained hitless. Like Haddix and Maloney, McIntire had an opponent (Albert “Lefty” Leifield) who was matching his string of shutout innings. Leifield, in his sophomore season with the Pirates, would go on to a fine season of 18-13 with a 1.87 ERA and eight shutouts. He was 11-6 before his match-up with McIntire.

Earlier in the season, Leifield had been involved in another memorable pitcher’s duel. In the first game of a July 4 doubleheader against the Cubs, he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, only to give up a base hit to Jimmy Slagle, who eventually scored an unearned run. Leifield lost to future Hall of Fame inductee Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, who pitched a one-hit shutout. Leifield himself had been the spoiler; his single was the only safety Brown allowed.

In the August 1 game, with two outs in the 11th inning, the Pirates managed their first hit (a single by second baseman Claude Ritchey) but did not score. Neither did the Superbas. Both teams were scoreless in the 12th, but the Pirates broke through with a run in the 13th when Joe Nealon’s single scored Bob Ganley. The Superbas did not score in the bottom of the inning. Leifield had hurled a nine-hit, 13-inning shutout. Harry McIntire checked into the Heartbreak Hotel.

A frequent guest at said establishment, McIntire was widely regarded as a hard-luck pitcher. When he retired, his record was 71-117 with a 3.22 ERA. Nevertheless, he left his mark in the Brooklyn record book. Though he pitched only five seasons for the Superbas, he finished third in games (179), second in losses (98), third in innings pitched (1,300.1) and third in bases on balls(450) for the franchise during the dead ball era (1901-1919). Just before the 1910 season he was traded to the Cubs, with whom he spent three seasons. He finished his career with the Reds in 1913.

Maloney, who spent most of his career with the Reds (1960-1970), retired in 1971 after a brief stint (30.1 IP) with the Angels. He was only 31 but injuries had taken their toll. Oddly enough, the coup de grâce was a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered while he was running out a ground ball. Brief comeback efforts with the Cardinals and Giants came to naught, so Maloney finished with a very respectable 134-84 record a 3.19 ERA, and 1,605 Ks in 1,849 IP.

But the most interesting postscript to Maloney’s heartbreak was his second attempt at an extra-inning no-hitter a little more than two months later.

On August 19, 1965, Maloney faced off against Larry Jackson and the Chicago Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. At 46-65, the Cubs were just playing out the schedule (only 11,342 turned out for the double dip). At the end of nine innings both teams were scoreless. The Reds had seven  hits, the Cubs none. The Cubs were not lacking for base runners, however, as Maloney had walked nine! On the plus side, he had struck out 12.

In the top of the 10th inning, the Reds broke through on a solo home run by shortstop Leo Cardenas. In the bottom of the inning, Doug Clemens led off with a walk, but that was the end of the Cubs’ offense. Billy Williams flied to left, and Ernie Banks grounded into a double-play. So Maloney finally had his extra-inning no-hitter. (He also pitched a nine-inning no-hitter against the Astros on April 30, 1969).

No-hitters are rare; extra-inning no-hitters are especially rare. Win or lose, however, the extra-inning no-hitter may be extinct. The designated hitter rule means that AL pitchers will not be lifted for pinch-hitters. That should be an advantage, but the dearth of compete games (there were only 45 in athe majors in 2019, and onlynine pitchers had more than one) means that you might spot a unicorn before you witness an extra-inning no-hitter.

Pity the manager who has to make a late-inning decision as to whether to lift a pitcher pitching a no-hitter. Famously, on July 21, 1970, Padres manager Preston Gomez lifted Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning, even though he had given up no hits (the Mets scored in the first inning without a hit). Predictably, Gomez rationalized his decision by saying his primary duty was to win the game…but why? So the Padres could have finished the season at 38, as opposed to 39, games out of first place?

Just as predictably, the 10,373 San Diego fans were vociferous in their disapproval. The Padres, in their second year of existence, were going nowhere, and the fans knew that, but they relished the chance to witness a no-hitter. As it turned out, Jim McAndrew pitched a three-hit shutout and the Mets won (3-0) anyway.

Contemporary managers would likely make the same decision Gomez did but with much less controversy. We’ve grown accustomed to incomplete games no matter how effective the starter. A manager pulling a starter in the late (or extra) innings would explain it by saying something to the effect of, yeah, he looked good, but his pitch count was getting up there, we didn’t want to damage his arm, and what are we paying the bullpen for anyway?

So Harvey Haddix, Jim Maloney, and Harry McIntire probably will keep their niche of extra-inning baseball history to themselves. If they were active today, there is very little chance they would be on the mound at the end of the game.

But they would get credit for a quality start.

References and Resources

Baseballalmanac.com
Baseballreference.com
Clay Kirby SABR Biography by Charles F. Faber
Deadball Stars of the National League, ed. Tom Simon, SABR/Brassey’s, Inc. (Washington, D.C., 2004)
Harvey Haddix SABR Biography by Mark Miller
Lefty Leifeld SABR Biography by Lenny Jacobsen
Jim Maloney SABR Biography by Gregory H. Wolf
Harry McIntire SABR Biography by John Struth
Retrosheet.org


Frank Jackson writes about baseball, film and history, sometimes all at once. He has has visited 54 major league parks, many of which are still in existence.
newest oldest most voted
Victory Faust
Member
Victory Faust

Overtime?

Da Bear
Member
Da Bear

Rich Hill lost an extra-inning no-hitter just 2 years ago, as you probably remember. At least he got his disappointment out of the way early, losing it (and the game) on the first possible batter of extras.

He and Cliff Lee (2012) are the only starting pitchers this decade who even got a chance to keep pitching into extra frames.

Dennis Bedard
Member
Dennis Bedard

Here are some numbers that make Haddix even more remarkable:
1. Five days before his “perfect” game, he pitched a complete game against St. Louis, giving up 2 runs in a W.
2. Seven days after throwing 12 perfect innings, he shutout St. Louis and pitched a complete game.

johnaedie
Member
johnaedie

Pedro Martinez pitched nine innings of perfect ball in 1995 and then gave up a lead off double in the bottom of the tenth after his Expos broke the tie in the top half of the inning. He was removed from the game after he gave up the hit but they ended up winning the game anyways. Not quite Harvey Haddix throwing the complete game, but still lost a perfect game in extras.

Charles Balter
Member
Member
Charles Balter

I was surprised this wasn’t mentioned.

avcoleham
Member
avcoleham

yeah, I figured this article would be partly about that when I clicked on it. I was definitely surprised when I searched “Pedro Martinez” and the only thing that came up was this comment.

WoundedSprinter
Member
Member
WoundedSprinter

I purely love the final line …
Excellent reading on Christmas day. Thank you for the present!