Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Kitten; More than a One Trick Pony
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TRIVIA QUESTION:  Harvey Haddix actually had two World Series rings. With what team did he get his second?
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In 1964 when the Cubs Larry Jackson finished second in the Cy Young Award voting with 24 wins on the year, the man who beat him out was Dean Chance of the Angels. At the time the award was given to the best pitcher in baseball, not in each league. Sandy Koufax finished third behind Jackson. 

Few fans of the sport would ever dispute Harvey Haddix' name is synonymous with hard luck in giving probably the greatest effort ever made by a pitcher. He tossed a perfect game into the 12th inning and eventually lost as the Braves beat the Pirates 1-0, in 1959. However, Haddix was no one-trick pony. In his last appearance in 1964 as an outstanding relief pitcher, Haddix showed off some old brilliance.
Haddix was long past his prime, or most baseball historians would have you believe, when he was pitching for the Orioles at age 38. In actuality it was his best year ever as a reliever. A few years past his starter status (he had a 20 win season in the 1950's), he had bounced around to a number of teams. Most folks remember him as a Pirate (and a member of the 1960 World Series Championship team) but he'd also played for the Cardinals, the Reds, the Phillies and his only AL team; the Orioles. 

On October 2nd with the O's firmly entrenched in third place in the AL, 37 year old Robin Roberts took the mound against the Tigers Joe Sparma and 4,359 fans at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Tigers were in fourth, 10 games behind Baltimore. Both teams were playing out the string on the next to the last day of the season. No one could blame them if they were thinking of the off season and where they were going to be next, let alone the fall and winter months of vacation.

This was 1964 though and a time we like to think players had more pride than that. Harvey Haddix certainly did. With the Orioles leading 9-4 manager Hank Bauer had seen enough of his aging starter. Roberts had given up four earned runs in five innings and despite Roberts coming off a three-hit shutout against Cleveland just days before, Haddix was called in. Haddix had pitched well two days previous, going two scoreless innings against Washington.

To say Harvey Haddix flashed "days of old" would be an understatement.  He opened the sixth inning by striking out Gates Brown looking at a called third strike. He put down the side in order. He opened the seventh by striking out both Bill Freehan and Dick McAuliffe also looking at called third strikes. A single by Al Kaline was followed by a ground out for Willie Horton to end the inning.

The O's picked up a run in the bottom of the inning to make it 10-4 and Haddix was settled in. He mowed the Tigers down in order in the eighth getting the dangerous Jim Northrup to look at a third strike. In the ninth, after a two out single to Freehan, McAuliffe came to the plate again. Again he couldn't do anything with the 38 year old pitchers tosses. Handcuffed again, he looked at number three and Haddix walked off with an amazing four inning save, where he struck out five, didn't walk a batter and gave up but two hits.

The beautiful thing about this outing was he had five strikeouts against five tough hitters and each one was bedazzled, striking out looking. Nary a swing put them down. This was the mastery of the little lefty they called "The Kitten." 

Haddix finished the season with 90 strike outs in 89 innings over 49 games. A record of 5-5 with nine saves, he registered a 2.31 ERA. The last save of the season handed Roberts his 13th win of the year.  
Haddix pitched one more season and was limited to 33 innings after injuring his arm, but still managed to run his record to 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA. He finished with 136-113 record, and was 2-0 against the Yankees in the 1960 Series. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 when Bill Mazeroski homered to win it. Haddix died in 1994.

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