On May 26, 1959, pitcher Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates made baseball history by becoming the first pitcher to throw more than 9 perfect innings in a game. The Pirates were playing the Milwaukee Braves, who featured the powerful Hank Aaron in their line-up. Haddix’s control was phenomenal, as he retired the first 27 batters he faced in the regulation 9 innings and then went on to retire 6 more in innings 10 and 11. In the 12th inning, the leadoff hitter reached on an error and the perfect game was over, but the no-hitter was still possible. The second batter sacrificed the runner to second and then Haddix issued an intentional walk to Aaron. The next hitter, Joe Adcock, hit a pitch out of the park and Haddix lost not only the no-hitter but the game as well. In their excitement over Adcock’s hit, the Braves’ baserunners became confused and Adcock actually passed Aaron on the base path between 2nd and 3rd base. After several minutes of consultation, the home plate umpire changed Adcock’s three-run homer to a two-run double, still sufficient to give the Braves the victory and ruin Haddix’s masterful pitching performance.
The opposing pitcher, Lew Burdette, had also pitched 12 scoreless innings, giving up 12 hits and 2 walks, but the Pirates had failed to take advantage of 14 men on base and lost the game. There are a couple of pretty obvious lessons to be learned from Haddix’s experience. He had pitched an incredible game, but failed to finish it well and he lost. The Bible speaks about running the race that is set before us with endurance so that we might finish the course well. The more apparent problem Haddix suffered was a lack of run support by his own teammates. They squandered many scoring opportunities that should have resulted in a win for their teammate who pitched a perfect game for 11 innings. There is a clear lesson for us here as well about the importance of mutual encouragement and the help that we can offer our brothers and sisters in Christ. All Christians, be they mature disciples or recent converts, need the strength that comes from fellow believers as we prayerfully support and encourage one another in our walk with Christ. Be on the lookout this week for the chance to help a fellow Christian with words that edify and encourage.