A half-century ago today (8/18/10)

On August 18, 1960, Milwaukee Braves starter Lew Burdette threw a game for the ages. On that day, Burdette’s second-place Braves desperately tried to stay in the race (7.5 games behind the front-runner and eventual World Series champion Pirates) faced the perpetually pathetic Philadelphia Phillies. Though a chronic cellar dweller, the Phillies rarely looked as bad as they did that day.

Burdette won the game 1-0, tossing a complete game in the process. That’s fitting, as he’s perhaps best known for his 1-0 wins. More impressively, he also allowed no hitters. And no walks.

Yeah, those are the two most common ways of allowing base runners, and Burdette avoided them entirely. Still, the game is not listed in the annals of perfect games. No, it wasn’t an error that did Burdette in. Instead, in the fifth inning he plunked CF Tony Gonzalez. That was Philly’s only base runner. (He wasn’t a base runner for long – a double play gobbled him up, allowing Burdette to face the minimum 27 batters on the day).

In the last 90 years, it’s one of only five games a pitcher tossed a complete game no-hitter with no walks and only one HBP. In the other four, three times the winning team made at least one error putting a runner on base. Only Kevin Brown, whose June 10, 1997 attempted at perfection was foiled by a HBP after 23 outs was in the same situation as Burdette. (Bill Singer was close though – a HBP and error by the pitcher provided the only base runners in his game.

So Burdette’s plunking of Taylor has to rank up there among the most unfortunate in baseball history.

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