When the greatest games ever played are mentioned, Harvey Haddix and his near perfect game are often mentioned. In 1959, Harvey tossed twelve perfect innings against the Braves (who had an amazing lineup with Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Joe Adcock) but lost the game in extra innings when Adcock blasted a homerun. Hard-luck losses were Harvey’s specialty since he rarely pitched for good teams.
Haddix spent some time in the service of Uncle Sam which interrupted his career at its early stages. His first full season at the Major League level didn’t come until he was in his upper 20s. In 1953, his first full season at the Major League level, Haddix won 20 games and led the NL in shutouts. He finished fourth in the senior circuit with 163 strikeouts. Throughout his career, Harvey’s trademark always was his exceptional strikeout-to-walk ratios. He racked up the Ks while rarely issuing walks.
He posted 18 wins in 1954 for a sixth place Cardinals team. His 184 strikeouts finished one shy of league leader Robin Roberts, but Haddix had plenty more put-it-by-’em than Roberts, fanning an average of 0.708 batters per inning while the Hall of Famer averaged just 0.549. Haddix sat down 150 batters on strikes in 1955 – third in the league but was traded early in the 1956 season to the Phillies for Murry Dickson. For the season, Haddix had a combined 170 strikeouts.
1957 was the first season in his Major League career in which he didn’t reach 150 strikeouts. The Phillies sent him to Cincinnati for slugger Wally Post – straight one-for-one deal – and he showed Cincy fans how a pitcher can paint the strike zone. Haddix averaged just 0.234 walks per inning. His Hall of Fame peers were more erratic with their accuracy – common for Haddix – as Don Drysdale issued an average of 0.340 walks per inning, Sandy Koufax (0.660), Whitey Ford (0.283), Early Wynn (0.433) and Warren Spahn (0.262) all were worse with their strike throwing abilities.
Unlike most finesse pitchers, Haddix missed a ton of bats. In his famous 1959 season, Harvey issued just 0.844 hits per inning while his Hall of Fame peers were worse in this department as well. Drysdale averaged 0.875, Spahn 0.966, Roberts 1.039 and Whitey Ford 0.951 were all more hittable than The Kitten – so nicknamed because Harvey bore a striking resemblance to his teacher Harry “The Cat” Brecheen.
Harvey’s only postseason action came in 1960 with the Pirates. In one of the most bizarre World Series ever played, Yankee batters owned Pirate pitchers – with the exception of Kitten. The most effective Pirate hurler against the Bronx Bombers, Haddix posted a 2.45 ERA during the Fall Classic and was the winning pitcher in Game 7.
The Pirates fell in 1961 – unable to regain their form from their World Series season – but Haddix was still effective, posting a .625 winning percentage. Although he was in his upper thirties in 1962, Haddix still had the stuff that made lumber flimsy. Kitten averaged 0.716 strikeouts per inning while Hall of Fame peers Juan Marichal (0.582), Spahn (0.439), Ford (0.620) and Jim Bunning (0.713) all struck out fewer batters on average than Kitten.
His career was redefined in 1963 when his aging arm was moved to the bullpen. The move allowed the veteran to post some amazing strikeout totals. Haddix averaged a strikeout per inning in 1963 – one of only two NL pitchers (with at least 70 innings) to achieve the feat. Haddix was then dealt to Baltimore and had another tremendous season putting out fires. Kitten saved ten games and was one of four AL pitchers to average a strikeout per inning. He spent one final year with Baltimore before announcing his retirement.
Haddix is one of baseball’s finest power-finesse pitchers. He could strikeout batters with the best of them but unlike most high-strikeout pitchers, Kitten had pinpoint control. He was also a threat in other areas as well. Considered one of the finest athletes of his time, Kitten was a superior defender – winning three Gold Glove Awards – and could help himself with the stick as well. In 1957 he hit .309 and had a handful of seasons where he had double digit RBI totals.
W 136/L 113/PCT .546/G 453/CG 99/IP 2,235/H 2,154/BB 601/SO 1,575/ERA 3.63