Thursday, June 3

A Perfect Game Ruined: Take Pandora's Box and Shove It

Pandora's box must be trending well on Google or at least amongst baseball fans and sports talk radio hosts. After last night's near perfect game, people are coming out of the woodwork to demand the call be overturned by the Commish or insisting the call stand. Despite the fact that football, basketball and hockey all have successfully implemented better instant replay systems there's been no large scale public outcry to overturn the immaculate reception, to remove Brett Hull's skate in the crease goal, or to nullify Trent Tucker's buzzer beater. So why in the name of the ghost of Joe Nuxhall are people acting like reversing the blown call at first base to properly award a perfect game would cause anarchy? Perhaps because they don't know as much baseball history as they think they do.

On May 26 1959, Harvey Haddix took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Milwaukee Braves. After throwing what is regarded by many as the greatest game, an error in the 13th inning broke up Haddix's bid for perfect game. 12 straight perfect innings, 36 up 36 down, all for naught. Perhaps the most famous non-perfect game in baseball history until now, Haddix's name barely rings a bell for most baseball fans.

Quite a few will learn about him for the first time today, but not for the reasons discussed here as this isn't about Haddix's performance. It's about Major League Officials. The game ended after Milwaukee's Joe Adcock hit a ball over the fence with two men on. Hank Aaron was on first and mistakenly thought the ball had bounced over the fence for a ground rule double. Aaron touched second and headed to the dugout assuming that the game had ended. Once he realized his error and tried to return to rounding the bases Adcock had already touched third. The umpires conferred and determined Adcock was out, but Aaron's run would count.

Today people are asking for Jim Joyce's blown call at first to be overturned and they are meeting resistance from people arguing that Pandora's box will be opened, the human element is a part of the game and shouldn't be tampered with, the fear of a bad precedent and countless references to the 1985 World Series. If Bud Selig were to overrule the call he would not be changing the outcome of the game, but what he would be overruling the umpire on the field and taking a hit away from a batter.

So what does Harvey Haddix's game have to do with this? Well, the day after the game MLB officials decided that Adcock's hit was a double because of the baserunning error and took Hank Aaron's run off the board. The new final: 1-0. Here it is on Baseball Reference. That's Pandora's box. Oh, but it was 50 years ago and somehow baseball has managed to not turn into anarchy - outside of the NL East. So 51 years ago MLB officials decided to overrule the umpires on the field, take away a run, but not impact the ultimate outcome of the game. It also cost Joe Adcock a home run and a RBI. Yet, if Jason Donald's hit is taken away to correctly restore a perfect game that will be the bad precedent and the opening of Pandora's box? No, the bad precedent was set in 1991 when the Committee for Statistical Accuracy in Baseball led by then-Commish Fay Vincent decided not to award Haddix a perfect game.

The irony of the slippery slope, Pandora's Box crowd is that they claim to come at the discussion from the angle of being true baseball fans and historians. Not knowing about Henry Haddix is one thing, but regardless of what Bud Selig does here, it will be no pine tar incident, an incident that every baseball fan is familiar with and actually involved the Commissioner overruling the umpires and disregarding a rule. That's a serious precedent. Bud wouldn't be setting any precedent, he'd be setting the record books straight. 50 years ago Harvey Haddix...
(very good read)


Cleet said...

*Glass breaks*

Anonymous said...

The "Pandora's Box" of which most intelligent baseball fans speak is not one of changing statistics, or overruling an umpires call about a rule interpretation. It is about overruling an umpires judgement call, whether a runner was safe or out. Cut and dried. No controversy.

We all know the runner last night was out, but the problem is that who knows what impact on the integrity of official calls may be if we allow a the new precedent of overruling judgement calls.

Judgement calls are never overruled after the fact;
they are only overruled by on the field conference, or instant replay.

Overruling umpire judgement calls is where the real Pandora's Box lies...

Catfish said...

I'm not sure if the "intelligent baseball fans" comment is intended to imply something, but perhaps that reveals more about myself.

If baseball can retroactively remove no-hitters from the record books years after the fact as Commissioner Fay Vincent did, why can't Bud Selig do the opposite one day later? Even allowing the box score to stand as is, but award a perfect game would be a hat tip to both the historic accomplishment and to the reluctance to overturn a judgment call.

I fail to see how this "Pandora's Box" approaches the level of the one opened by the Pine Tar incident where a rule was completely ignored. That incident has not caused tremendous fallout, so why would the assumption be that this one will? Selig could acknowledge that the call had no bearing on the outcome of the game other than a historic personal accomplishment that baseball wants to recognize and whatever other caveats would prevent the Commissioner from getting pulled into an 85 World Series scenario.

I firmly believe that were it not for the ongoing debate about instant replay that Bud Selig would have awarded a perfect game. To do so at this time, however, would give credence to the advocates of instant replay.

If this case was "cut and dried" then why did the commissioner review the play and consider overturning it?

the EPA said...

There is still baseball? I thought the only thing in the summer was the WNBA. LAY UPS!!!!!

Cleet said...

Basketball is basketball Walt...or at least that is what the commercials tell me.