640 hits or 36 Hitless, Sort Of The Same Thing…
The 26th of May was a sunny start to the Memorial Day Weekend and I was wielding my power washer while adhering to, depending on your literary bent, either Voltaire or Ben Parker, Spider Man’s uncle, who it is said once remarked that with great power comes great responsibility which is why I had set the machine for 1500 PSI and carefully attached a 15º nozzle to the washer’s wand. I wanted my siding cleaned, not sliced up like a side of bacon.
My home is surrounded by a stand of oaks and the acidity of the leaves and the shade means that I have a poor excuse for a lawn and the yearly task of ridding my siding of a haze of gray mildew. To both entertain myself and protect my hearing from the electric hum of the power washer I had donned a headset fitted with speakers attached to a portable radio. Tuned to WEEI, the local sports station, I was listening to Joe Castiglione and Tim Neverett bringing me all the action of a Red Sox/Atlanta Braves game. I am not a fan of interleague play, but this game was sort of nostalgic.
From 1915 to 1952 the Braves were the Boston Braves. They decamped to Milwaukee for the 1953 season, selling their ballpark to Boston University, where my brother slaved in the groves of academe. BU eventually named it after MIT alumni and BU Trustee, William Emery Nickerson, the designer of the machinery used by King Gillette to manufacture the euphoniously named razor and blades. After 13 years of imbibing the produce of Milwaukee’s many famous breweries the Braves again moved, this time south to Atlanta, where they could now get their fill of another ballpark staple, peanuts.
Baseball announcers and color men have a lot of time to fill during the three to four hours it takes to play a ballgame. Any one worth his salt can come up with an unending litany of esoteric statistics, recollections, and trivia to fill the time between pitches. This being a Braves game, and the 26th of May, Castiglione found the time to discuss no hitters and perfect games and the fate that befell Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Harvey Haddix in a game against the Braves on the same date in 1959.
A shut out in baseball is a game where a team does not score and is like a 1600 in prone shooting. A no-hitter, of which there have been 299, is a game in which a team does not record a hit, but a batsman reaches base. It is a 3200 in shooting. A perfect game is recorded when no opposing player reaches base, “27 up and 27 down,” there have been 23 ‘Perfectos” in baseball history, the equivalent of a 6400 prone.
Haddix threw a perfect game through 12 innings, retiring the first 36 batters he faced. It is a feat almost inconceivable in modern baseball where pitch counts rule and most starters going seven innings are praised for endurance.
In the top of the 13th inning Pirates third-baseman Don Hoak committed an error which allowed Felix Mantilla reach first. Eddie Mathews advanced Mantilla with a sacrifice bunt and Hank Aaron was intentionally walked. Haddix lost the game, When Joe Adcock hit a walk off home run. Despite the loss Haddix’s 12 2/3-inning, one-hit complete game is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in major league history.
As a result, Haddix had a no hitter on his resume, that is until 1991 when Major League Baseball changed the definition to “a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit.” Despite his having thrown more perfect innings than anyone in a single game, Haddix’s game was erased from the list of no hitters, Haddix’s response was “It’s O.K. I know what I did.”
A sort of similar situation nearly occurred to Steve Angeli. Over four days on the Palmyra Pennsylvania Sportsman’s Association firing line during the 2015 Mid Atlantic 6400. Angeli reached a level of perfection that only two other riflemen have achieved when he shot 640 tens and Xs for a perfect 6400X6400.
California dentist Tom Whitaker was the first to accomplish the near impossible with a 6400-574X, at the Western Wildcats in 1975. Lones Wigger, not to be outdone, upped the X count to 588 at Fort Benning in 1977.
Angeli, however, did something that neither Whitaker or Wigger did. Traditionally half of the double Critchfield Course is fired with metallic sights and the other with any sights, meaning a telescopic sight. While the rest of the field opted for telescopic sights during the any sight phase Angeli was comfortable and confident with irons and stayed with them.
His confidence paid off and he shot a 6400. However, his remarkable accomplishment seemed doomed to anonymity. His score equaled Whittaker and Wigger but his X count did not top Wigger’s open or Whitaker’s civilian record X counts. His 6400-561X seemed doomed to obscurity, like Haddix, until saved by NRA Smallbore Rule 2.2.1. Angeli turned 60 in 2015 making him a senior and so his name now fills that line in the record book. Had it not been for his age, Angeli’s remarkable performance, arguably the best in smallbore prone history, would have suffered the same fate of Haddix’s perfect 12 innings: obscurity.
It says something about their sports where both Haddix and Angeli were lauded, one for 36 misses and the other for 640 hits.