LEW BURDETTE, who died last week at age 80, will be best remembered for beating the Yankees three times in the 1957 World Series for the Milwaukee Braves. But the righty's proudest moment came a year and a half later, on a more modest stage. In Milwaukee on May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pirates threw 12 perfect innings before giving up a walk and a hit in the 13th and losing—to Burdette, who scattered 12 hits but didn't allow a run. Joked Burdette, "I told Harvey, 'I thought you were an experienced pitcher. You should know better than to bunch your hits.'"
Burdette knew a thing or two about being crafty. The Nitro, W.Va., native—who practiced as a boy by throwing rocks at church windows—relied on a sinker that many insisted was a spitball. ( Red Smith said his three pitching stats were "wins, losses and relative humidity.") His prepitch routine did little to alleviate suspicion. He incessantly tugged on his hat and licked his fingers, earning the nickname Fidgety Lew. Off the field he enjoyed a good time. After he and Warren Spahn argued over whether their hotel's courtyard was big enough to land a helicopter in, they rented one to find out. (It was.) But on the field Burdette, who won 203 games, was all business. "He was a very hard-nosed, tough pitcher when he crossed that white line," former Braves shortstop Johnny Logan said. "He was a battler."