A Baseball Lesson

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I would like to tell you a baseball story.

But before we begin, I have to introduce some terms and concepts to you, esp. if you don’t understand anything about the game.

So here it goes…

The outer playing field is where three players are stationed. They are called outfielders and their main job is to stop, and hopefully return any ball that goes outside of the inner playing field. If a ball flies over them, or gets by them, or they cannot return the ball in time, it is said that the batter has hit a home run and has “scored” a run.

That completes our section on the outfield.

Each team haves a total of nine chances to score a run or more in intervals called innings. If there is a tied game after nine innings, then the game goes into extra innings until a team wins the game.

There are other ways to score a run. A batter sometimes just manages to reach first base. He, and his teammates, then try to move him to second base, third base, and hopefully home to score.

This is the origin of the question that teenage boys ask one of their own after a date, “Did you get to first base with her?”, meaning light touching, caressing, and possibly kissing. We are not going to define what a “homerun” means in this context. But does it give another meaning to the word “scoring”.

The infield consists of a pitcher and a catcher (collectively known as “the battery”. Don’t ask, we don’t know why either). There are also four other infielders whose job it is stop the ball from leaving the infield and to tag a runner (touching an opposing player with the ball or with the ball in the mitt) so the opposing player would be called out.

The pitcher is the most important player of the infield.

pitcher

His job is throw the ball (called a “pitch”) in such a way that a batter can conceivably hit it (called the “strike zone”), and yet still miss the ball. If the batter gets lucky enough to hit the ball, then the other infielders are supposed to stop the ball from traveling too far.

Note that a batter does not have to swing at every pitch. If the pitcher throws four balls outside the strike zone that the batter does not swing at, then the batter is allowed to walk to first base. This is called “walking”.

There have been over 1 million runs scored in Major League Baseball (MLB).

The most runs ever scored in an MLB game by a single team was 36 by Chicago Colts (later the Cubs) against the Louisville Colonels on June 29, 1897. The final score was 36-7.

The most ever runs scored in an MLB game by both teams is 49, when the Chicago Cubs defeated the Philadelphia Phillies , 26–23, on August 25, 1922.

Baseball_At_Bat_clip_art_hight_1 copy

Several batters have hit over 500 home runs in the MLB career and a few have even hit over 700 home runs.

Let’s get go to the other side of the scale.

When a team does not score any runs that game is called a “shutout”. It is estimated that fewer than ¼ of all MLB games have ended in a shutout.

Rarer than a shutout is the no-hitter, in which a pitcher did not allow an opposing batter a single hit . Batters can reach first though walks and errors. There have been fewer than 500 no-hitters in the MLB since 1876.

Even rarer is the perfect game, with no batters at all reaching first base. No hits, no walks, no errors. There are only 20 examples since 1876.

The very best pitchers will still allow a few hits and an occasional run during a game. It is hard to be perfect.

This is the story of Harvey Haddix.

Now Harvey Haddix was a Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher who started a game against the Braves on May 26 1959.

His first inning was perfect. He didn’t allow any runs, hits, or batters to reach first base.

His second inning was perfect as well. No runs, no hits, no runners.

His third and fourth innings were perfect. At this point fans began to take notice.

He was still pitching perfectly on his five, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. And no Braves player had yet reached first base.

By the end of the ninth inning, he still had a perfect game. Twenty-seven Braves batters had come to the plate, but none got any further.

Harvey Haddix had pitched a perfect nine innings. But he had not won the game. Since the Pirates didn’t score at all, the score was tied at 0-0. Baseball rules decreed that a team must win the game.

So Haddix pitched another inning. This inning, like the other nine innings, was perfect. A total of 10 innings were perfectly pitched. This was the first time, and so far the only time, a pitcher has pitched ten perfect innings in the MLB. But did he win the game?

No! No Pirate player had yet score a run.

So Haddix still had to pitch. Inning number 11 came and went. Harvey now had 11 perfect innings. But still the score was 0-0.

Harvey had pitched 11 perfect innings, by far the most of any MLB pitcher, and still had to go to out and pitch at least another inning. He did exactly that, a perfect 12th inning. But the Pirates team still failed to score any runs.

Finally, in the 13th inning Harvey allowed one legal run With his team failing to score in 13 innings, the final result was 1-0.

He holds the MLB record for most consecutive batters retired in one game (36), a record unlikely to be broken.

To end on a happy note, Harvey Haddix did win two games against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series and the Pirates won the World Series.

A tee-shirt I saw once proclaimed,

“Life is Baseball,

Everything Else is Details”.

If there is any lesson to be learned here, it is that if you believe in fate, know that it can be unpredictable, unpleasant, chaotic, and usually from one’s point of view, unfair.

The priestesses at Delphi had it right. Be vague and leave any predictions open to multiple interpretations. If nothing else works, blame a deity.

The well-known saying, “If you want to make god laugh, tell him (or her!) your plans”, seems especially applicable in this case.

Somewhere, up in the skies and heavens, a deity must still be laughing.

Rob

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