June 1, 2009, 6:05 p.m. No, he's not dead. You can celebrate a man's accomplishments with the word "remembering" without the guy being dead. And that we shall.
Bunch of anniversaries in the news lately. Just noted last week, the golden anniversary of Harvey Haddix's "near perfect game," May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee. More on Haddix in a minute. Across the globe in China, a far more serious occurrence, twenty years ago to the day Thursday, Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.
For me, each year around this time, when Tiananmen rears its ugly head, and the anniversary talk begins, I think of Jeff Hamilton pitching his heart out in a 22-inning loss in Houston. Same exact day, June 4, 1989. At least, that's when the seven-hour affair ended.
This wasn't Jose Canseco taking one for his Texas Rangers club, and it wasn't Mark Grace doing his best Mike Fetters impersonation and serving up career home run numero uno to David Ross. This was the Dodgers trying every way possible to eke out a gut-wrencher of a baseball game. And serious hardball by a third baseman.
The Dodgers started Tim Leary, and followed with seven actual pitchers, before finally turning to Hamilton. Orel Hershiser pitched seven shutout innings in relief, Fernando Valenzuela played first base and John Shelby went 0-10 in center field. The game also featured a home run by Kirk Gibson, three hits and two RBIs from Hamilton, and an appearance at third base for Eddie Murray.
The Astros went with Bob Knepper for six innings before turning to a mild-by-comparison six relievers, with Jim Clancy getting the win.
Vin Scully called the entire game on television, with Ross Porter flying solo on radio. Jerry Crowe summed it up well for the Los Angeles Times.
Hamilton took the ball for the 21st, and there's no other way to describe it, mowed down the Astros, one-two-three, with a strikeout. He was throwing hard, he threw strikes, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a Dodger game. Houston didn't come close to touching him.
There had been years of talk about how Hamilton lacked a certain something the Dodgers thought would help him develop into the third baseman they hoped he could be. Call it balls, grit, fire, or whatever you like; he showed it all on the mound that night in Houston.
Hamilton got two more outs, adding another strikeout, before succumbing to the inevitable, and taking the 5-4 loss in 22. His line for the game, and for a career: 1 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, a walk, one earned run, two Ks and an ERA of 5.40. Absolutely the thing he should be remembered for. And celebrated for. Here's the box score...
Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…
Now, back to poor old Harvey Haddix, he of the non-no-hitter half a century ago. I've never been one of those guys to argue that Haddix should be credited with a perfect game, and there's no point trying to sway me now.
There were baserunners, plural, in the game, a ball landed safely in the game, and runs were charged to the guy. An incredible performance, obviously, historic yes; but perfect, no.
On the other hand, David Palmer pitched a five-inning, rain-shortened perfect game, which he completed and won, but has an asterisk next to his name in the record book. I've harped on it before, and this seems like an apt opportunity to do so again.
Andy Hawkins once pitched a losing no-hitter for the New York Yankees, but didn't face batters in the bottom of the ninth because he was on the road (and for those of you keeping score, home teams bat eight times while winning). It's a complete game, which he got credit for, there were no hits by the opposing team, and because his team erred on one play, which led to the game-decider, it's not an official no-hitter. It was actually, but it isn't. Same deal for Palmer.
Let's recall that then-commission Fay Vincent led a group which voted to change the no-hitter rule in 1991. Vincent was the last independent commish, and deserves universal praise for his work in baseball, with the notable exception of this one thing.
Before 1991, a performance like the one turned in by Angels Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo last year at Dodger Stadium, in which the Dodgers, leading 1-0 on an unearned run after 8 1/2, therefore not needing to hit in the ninth, was tabbed a no-hitter. But really, that was a no-hitter. Plain and simple. It was a no-hitter.
Rain-shortened no-no's which are complete games should be too. Vincent and baseball went out of their way to diminish the accomplishments of men, who in some cases, had made history over a hundred years earlier. Hawkins and Palmer are two of the guys who stand out for me. Haddix fans, on the other hand, should get over it.
On the plus side, in the very same Vincent-chaired meeting which produced the revised no-hitter designation, a decision was made to remove the official asterisk next to Roger Maris' name. So let's give them that. One thumb up, one down…
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