Milt Wilcox of the Detroit Tigers pitched a perfect game for 8 2/3 innings tonight, but lost his no-hitter when pinch hitter Jerry Hairston singled with two out in the ninth. The Tigers went on to defeat the Chicago White Sox, 6-0.
"If you pitch a perfect game, you go into the Hall of Fame. That's the only way I'll get there," said Wilcox, whose career record is 91-85.
Wilcox seemed to be on his way to the first no-hitter as well as the first perfect game in the American League since May 5, 1981; on that date, Cleveland's Len Barker stopped the Toronto Blue Jays. The last no-hitter in the majors was on Sept. 26, 1981; it was pitched by Houston's Nolan Ryan (his fifth) in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But tonight, Hairston, batting for Jerry Dybzinski, singled cleanly up the middle on the first pitch from Wilcox after he had retired the first two batters in the ninth.
Last April 20, Wilcox pitched a one-hitter. "I had a one-hitter on my (32nd) birthday last year so I knew if I pitched around it this year I'd have a chance at a perfect game," he said. "They fined me in the (clubhouse) kangaroo court $1 for giving up that one hit."
The crowd of 19,483 gave Wilcox a standing ovation as he walked out for the ninth inning. Wilcox got Carlton Fisk to fly out to left for the first out and then induced pinch hitter Mike Squires to ground out to first. Hairston then ended the perfect game and the pro-White Sox fans booed their own player.
"Our pride was at stake, especially because we're considered the best-hitting team in the league," said Hairston, whose pinch hit was the first by a Chicago player this year. "I was looking for the strike and it tailed over the plate and I went after it."
Wilcox said Hairston hit an inside fast ball. "It was just a bad pitch and he hit it," Wilcox said. "If I had to throw it over, the only thing different would be I would throw it lower.
"Too bad I got this close and didn't get it."
Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson said he thought Wilcox would complete the perfect game. "I've never seen one," said Anderson. "Our pitching coach (Roger Craig) was so nervous he was shaking in the ninth inning."