#Shortstops: Wise placement

Written by: Craig Muder

Rick Wise seemed to be built for baseball’s biggest moments.

But one of his greatest accomplishments is now largely forgotten – a mark that may never again be approached.

On Sept. 18, 1971, Wise – pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies – retired 32 straight Chicago Cubs during a 12-inning game. It remains the second-most consecutive batters retired during one MLB contest, trailing only the 36 straight set down by Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959.

But while Haddix took his perfect game into the 13th inning, he lost it – and the game – thanks to an error, an intentional walk and a double by Milwaukee’s Joe Adcock (Adcock homered but passed Hank Aaron on the bases) that gave the Braves a 1-0 win.

Wise, however, won his game 4-3 when he took matters into his own hands and singled home teammate Willie Montañez in the bottom of the 12th.

“I’d have to rank that as one of my all-time wins,” Wise told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Even at that point in his career – and with a victory in one of the most famous games in baseball history still on the horizon – that was no small statement from Wise. Earlier during the 1971 season, Wise no-hit the Reds in a game where he hit two home runs. No pitcher has ever matched the feat of tossing a no-hitter while hitting two balls out of the park.

But while the universal designated hitter makes a duplication of that performance highly unlikely, his 32 straight batters retired may be even more difficult to replicate.

With mere complete games becoming almost extinct, a pitcher throwing more than nine innings is hard to fathom.

Wise began his history-making game by allowing two runs in the top of the first, then surrendered a home run to Frank Fernandez to lead off the second – after Fernandez had seen three pitches the previous inning when Paul Popovich was caught stealing to end the frame.

But after Fernandez’s homer, Wise found a groove that few other pitchers ever would. Against a lineup that featured future Hall of Famer Ron Santo at third base and fellow Cooperstown teammate Billy Williams as a pinch-hitter, Wise methodically retired the Cubs in order inning after inning.

Montañez’s eighth-inning sacrifice fly scored Tim McCarver to tie the game at 3, and Wise continued his perfect string through the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th as the Phillies kept threatening but were unable to score.

But Montañez singled to start the bottom of the 12th and advanced to second on an error, then moved to third on a Greg Luzinski sacrifice bunt.

Cubs reliever Phil Regan intentionally walked Don Money and Ron Stone to load the bases, but Wise spoiled the plan with a single to right field to end the game.

Wise’s 32 straight retired batters nearly mirrored his June 23 no-hitter, when only a sixth-inning walk to Dave Concepción prevented a perfect game.

Entering the 1972 season, Wise held out for more money. When the Cardinals’ Steve Carlton did the same, the teams agreed to a one-for-one trade on Feb. 25, 1972. Wise pitched for the Cardinals for two seasons before being traded to Boston, where he led the Red Sox in wins with 19 during their pennant-winning season of 1975.

After starting Game 3 of the World Series against the Reds, Wise came on in relief in Game 6 and held Cincinnati scoreless in the top of the 12th. While toweling off in the dugout, he looked up to see Carlton Fisk homer off the Fenway Park left field foul pole, giving him the victory and sending the World Series to Game 7.

“Everyone remembers Fisk waving the ball fair,” Wise told Gannett News Service, “but I was doing it too.”

Over 18 big league seasons, Wise won 188 games and posted a 3.69 ERA. The cap, glove and bat he used from his no-hitter are preserved in Cooperstown – as is his legacy from pitching in some of the most unique games of his era.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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