You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1959, the Pirates’ Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings.
Thirty-six batters up, 36 batters down. It is one of the most incredible pitching performances in baseball history; there has been never been anything like it. It also is one of the most unappreciated performances because Haddix, at 33, pitching for his fourth team in four years, didn’t end up with a perfect game or a no-hitter, only a 1-0 loss in 13 innings.
Through 12 innings, Haddix had retired every Milwaukee Braves batter in order, a lineup that included Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. But the score was tied. Haddix and Pedro Martinez (June 3, 1995) are the only two pitchers to take a perfect game into extra innings. Pedro, then with Montreal, gave up a single to start the 10th inning that night in San Diego, then was pulled. The Expos won 1-0. In his, Haddix kept going. He struck out eight. The man they called “The Kitten” (Haddix was 5-foot-9, 170 pounds) was as neat as a cat, he was so efficient and precise.
“It was one of the best games I’ve ever played in, I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski said. “It was so different. I hardly got any ground balls. There were no difficult plays for anyone. The only hard-hit ball was a line drive [by Johnny Logan] to [shortstop Dick] Schofield. Everything else was routine. It was crazy. Harvey made it look so easy. I was in awe of what was happening. We knew history was being made.”
Mazeroski said that Haddix was so calm and cool on the mound and between innings.
“Harvey wanted to mix it up with guys on the bench during the game, but no one would even talk to him,” Mazeroski said with a laugh. “We all knew what the hell was going on.”
Milwaukee’s Felix Mantilla opened the bottom of the 13th by reaching on an error by Pirates third baseman Don Hoak, ending the perfect game. Mathews, who would hit 512 homers in his career, sacrificed him to second (one of 36 sacrifice bunts in Mathews’ career, fifth most for a 500-home run hitter). Hank Aaron was walked intentionally. Joe Adcock ended the no-hitter and the game with a home run, but in between second and third base, Aaron ran off the field, Adcock technically passed him on the bases, turning a home run into a double. But it was enough to win the game, and hand Haddix perhaps the most excruciating loss ever.
Haddix took it hard. He apparently wandered the streets of Milwaukee alone after the game.
“We were all so sad,” Mazeroski said. “We came into the clubhouse, we had a beer, and no one said anything. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we all decided, ‘Gee whiz, let’s go congratulate Harvey Haddix.’ Holy cow, what he did had never been done. It was just amazing.”
Other baseball notes for May 26
In 1931, Jim Frey was born. He was an excellent coach, manager and GM. And he was hilarious. When Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan once reached first base, Frey, the first-base coach, told him, “keep your left foot on the bag, and get as big a lead as you can with your right foot.”
In 2004, Daryle Ward hit for the cycle. He and his dad, Gary, were the first father-son duo to hit for the cycle.
In 1975, first baseman Travis Lee was born. He throws a baseball left-handed and a football right-handed.
In 1930, Hall of Famer Joe Sewell struck out for the last time that season. He would finish with three strikeouts in 414 plate appearances. In 2019, there were 254 instances when a player struck out four times in a game.
In 1960, reliever Rob Murphy was born. Thirty years later, Murphy had a ragged eighth inning in Seattle. So after the inning, he shaved his beard, came out, pitched the ninth and got the save. “I went through four razors, but I came out a new man,” he said. “I added a foot to my fastball.” I saw him at an airport a few years ago, and reminded him of that game. “I remember,” he said. “May 7, 1990.” He was right.
In 1993, the Indians’ Carlos Martinez hit a fly ball that hit Rangers right fielder Jose Canseco in the head, and bounced over the fence for a home run. “The World Cup is coming to Dallas,” teammate Jeff Huson said. “Jose was just getting ready.”
Brian Urlacher, Travis Kelce, DeMarco Murray join Jennifer Lopez-Alex Rodriguez bid to buy Mets
Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce, and 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray are part of a group of investors who have joined power couple Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez in a bid to buy the New York Mets.
The group already submitted its initial bid of $1.7 billion. Hedge-fund billionaire Stephen Cohen has made a top bid so far of $2 billion bid, according to a report by the New York Post. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon would prefer to sell to the Rodriguez-Lopez group if their offer is close to the best bid at the end of the auction, according to the Post.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have such high-quality individuals as part of our group,” Lopez and Rodriguez told ESPN.
The group is in standby mode awaiting word from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred regarding the next step in the process.
Rodriguez, who last starred with the Yankees, and fiancee Lopez have put $300 million of their own money toward the bid. Other investors include future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe Thomas, who spent his entire career with the Cleveland Browns, two-time NBA All-Star Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards, and Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee.
“Being a former athlete and having a chance to be a part of a group trying to purchase a professional team, it’s pretty cool,” Urlacher told ESPN on Monday. “It’s especially cool to be involved with Alex. Alex is the man. You’ve got Kelce, Joe Thomas, DeMarco Murray. It’s great to be in a group with them.”
Added Chiefs tight end Kelce, “This is a crazy opportunity. I had a chance to meet Alex Rodriguez a couple years ago and just told him how much of a fan I was as a kid of him. I’m very thankful for the success that I’ve had in the NFL, to have an opportunity like this come across the table. I couldn’t think of a more unique set of people to be in charge of this.
“Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are a star-studded couple that have gotten to where they are because they work their tails off. And they’re good human beings. I thank them for letting me be a part of this.”
Rodriguez was a 14-time All-Star during his baseball career with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Yankees. He was a three-time American League MVP, the 1996 batting champion, and a World Series champion in 2009.
Fantasy baseball going mad over Vlad
Kudos to the Toronto Blue Jays for realizing that future Hall of Fame slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — and yes, I expect his induction sometime around 2042 — is simply not a passable third baseman. He will move to first base, or combine that role with designated hitter duties. Guerrero underachieved at the plate as a rookie, but that happens to plenty of folks. Defensively, he was poor with little hope of significant improvement, and while I am generally loathe in acknowledging this, perhaps it did affect him at the plate. Just let the slugger slug.
MLB roundtable – Is the ball still juiced and other key home run questions for 2020
Among all of the unknowns heading into the shortened 2020 campaign for Major League Baseball, one of the biggest is this: How much of an encore will even a 60-game season be on last season, the Year of the Home Run? With memories of 2019’s exploding scoreboards and record rates of balls belted into the cheap seats, we asked three of our MLB insiders — Bradford Doolittle, Sam Miller and David Schoenfield — for their thoughts on what we should expect as far as big flies in an abbreviated season.
Predict how many total home runs will be hit in 2020
Bradford Doolittle: Let’s say 2,238, or thereabouts. This estimate balances some regression for what’s happened over the past five years, along with a wild guess at how the ball will play on contact this year, which is a big, fat unknown.
Sam Miller: I’m going to assume the full 60-game schedule gets played — which, in actuality, I don’t assume at all. But assuming that: 2,450, just a very small tick down from a prorated share of last year’s total. August is typically the month with the most home runs, per game.
On the other hand, April is typically the month with the fewest. So part of the question is, does that put us on track for even more homers, because the whole season will be played in summer heat, in which baseballs travel farther? Or fewer, because it takes a few weeks for hitters to find their power stroke, and “a few weeks” is half of the 2020 season? I lean toward the former explanation and think we could have a lot of 14-9 games this year.
David Schoenfield: In 2019, teams averaged 1.39 home runs per game. I’m not predicting any changes in the ball, so expect it to be flying once again. The obvious difference in 2020 is pitchers won’t be hitting in National League or interleague games.
Some quick math: National League pitchers batted an average of 1.96 times per game in 2019, so that’s an estimated 1,764 new plate appearances to be taken by designated hitters over the 60-game schedule. Last year, NL DHs homered in 4.2% of their plate appearances — or 74 home runs over 1,764 PAs. NL pitchers would have homered an estimated nine times over that many PAs, so we estimate an additional 65 home runs thanks to the universal DH. However, it could be more than that. There will be fewer pinch-hitting appearances that will now also be given to DHs, and NL pinch-hitters homered in 3.3% of their PAs. So I’ll go with an additional 70 home runs or a total of 2,580.
The Twins hit 307 home runs in 162 games last year. How many will the team that leads MLB hit this year?
Doolittle: The team home run leader has in aggregate been right at two standard deviations better than the league average over the past half-decade. Given my overall home run stab, that works out to an average of about 75 homers per team. So I’ll say the team home run leader ends up with 99.
Miller: Sixty-game stretches are inherently prone to more extreme outliers. From games 101 to 160 last year, the team with the most home runs was the Yankees, with 135, which would be 365 over the course of a 162-game season. That’s going to be a theme of this year’s final stats: The rate leaders are going to be absolutely bonkers. If the leaguewide offense is where I estimated it would be in the first question, I’d be pretty confident saying somebody hits 120.
Schoenfield: I just predicted no decline in overall home runs, so I’m with Sam here: Some team will go bonkers over a 60-game stretch. The Twins should face a little tougher pitching in their division this year, so I’m not predicting them. The Yankees might go nuts again if Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge can remain on the field. But I’ll go with the Dodgers, who led the NL with 279 home runs last year (just 28 fewer than the Twins) and now get a full-time DH and get to face some shaky pitching staffs in the Rockies and Giants. The Dodgers lead the majors with 123 home runs.
Is 60 games enough for us to know if something like the 2019 baseball is going on again?
Doolittle: The physics nerds (a label I apply with love) started flagging outlying results right away last season. So, yeah, if the ball is performing at last year’s level, they’ll pick up on it. What’s much more uncertain is how batches of balls will be distributed. Do we start with whatever is left over from last year? And if we’re going through many more balls per game as part of the health guidelines, how soon do we tap into new batches? If we end up with a hodgepodge of batches and manufacture dates, that might cloud the signal.
Miller: As Rob Arthur, of Baseball Prospectus and other places, has explained it to me, we should have a pretty good idea of how the ball is playing within a couple of days. That isn’t to say that we’ll know from the first week how the balls in the final week of the season — or even the second week of the season — will play. The variations we’ve seen within and between batches are part of the mystery of this juiced ball era — and, perhaps, part of the cause.
Schoenfield: I think Brad nailed it. We could see widely varying differences from week to week based on whatever particular batches of baseballs are being used. Some teams were close to running out of their supply a year ago, and they will need new balls. But others might have stock leftover, so teams could be using batches manufactured at different times, leading to balls carrying differently in different parks. Which could certainly have a major impact on the individual home run leaderboards.
What should fans watch to see how the baseball is playing from the start?
Doolittle: We’re starting off in the warmest months, which is traditionally when the offense’s numbers edge up because of the warm air. We have to bear that in mind. Beyond that, we just have to see how the ball performs off the bat, and counting homers isn’t always the way to do that. Launch angles and exit velocities — and the expected metrics derived from those — are the best benchmarks we have, at least if we don’t have a background in physics. It’s fun — all the stuff traditional fans can’t get enough of.
Miller: Rob Arthur’s Twitter feed is what I’ll be watching. If a change in the ball is really obvious, though, the players’ reactions will tell you. They’ve hit and chased a ton of fly balls in their life, and they know what a home run is supposed to feel and look like off the bat.
Schoenfield: What they said.
How will home runs be different without fans in the stands?
Doolittle: They will make louder bangs when they hit empty seats. We need some kind of gauge to measure the volume and duration of home run echoes. Also, pitcher F-bombs will be much easier to discern.
Miller: Great question. I think the homers that land halfway up the stands might look like they went farther than they used to look with fans. Fans have a flattening effect on the bleachers. Outfielders who chase fly balls to the wall also will have to be more alert because it’s all but certain a home run is going to bounce off the edge of a seat or bleacher right back at them. Some outfielder is going to get clobbered by a ricochet.
Schoenfield: I remember being at a spring training night game a few years ago, when Javier Baez hit a mammoth home run. It came late in the game, after most of the fans had exited, so the loud crack of the bat echoed throughout the stadium — the loudest home run I’ve ever heard. We’re going to hear a lot of those cracks this year, so I’m with Brad: We definitely need a bat crack decibel meter installed in every ballpark.
We’re not getting a Home Run Derby this year, so let’s settle it right here: Who is baseball’s current king of the long ball?
Doolittle: What’s that old quotation? In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king? Everyone is a home run king in today’s game. Eugenio Suarez, a good player but no Hall of Famer, hit 49 home runs last season. Rather than crowning someone based on something everyone can do, I would anoint someone like Willians Astudillo and make Nick Madrigal the prince-in-waiting.
Miller: It’s probably the guy who has never led the league in homers — Mike Trout. But Trout could rule any number of kingdoms. I’d still rather see a Giancarlo Stanton home run than any other.
Schoenfield: Pete Alonso led the majors with 53 home runs in 2019. And he won the Home Run Derby. And he is fun to watch. And he gets that being a baseball player should be fun. If you like home runs, you have to love Alonso. He is the king until one of the serfs rises to take his crown.
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