Wish We Were There: Don Larsen’s Perfect Game

One of the greatest moments in Yankee history occurred on October 8, 1956.  In fact, it is the only such accomplishment of its kind.  Don Larsen threw the only post season no hitter and perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  It was done in game five of the World Series.

To throw a perfect game is a monumental task itself.  No batter can reach base, no walks, no hits, no errors, no HBP.  27 up, 27 down.  In the 135 years of professional baseball, there have only been 20 perfect games.  That is, on average, one every 6.75 years.

Now, Larsen was never a great pitcher.  He never won more than 11 games in a season in his career, and he only reached double digit wins twice.  He also spent his fourteen year career with eight different teams, five of which with the Yankees.  He only won 81 games in his career, with a career record of 81-91.

To put it frankly, Larsen was a journeyman pitcher.  But, some of the greatest moments in baseball happen to those who are least likely.  This is the perfect example of one.

The Yankees were facing the Brooklyn Dodgers that year in the World Series, and Brooklyn combated Larsen with Sal Magile.  Larsen, who had no idea he was starting the game until he arrived at the stadium, was coming off of a horrible start in game two, lasting only two innings while giving up four runs, and four walks.  The culprit?  Larsen’s control.

But, Casey Stengel gave Larsen another shot in game five, and the last thing that Larsen wanted to do was let his manager down.  And in this game, his control was impeccable.

When it was over, I was so happy, I felt like crying. I wanted to win this one for Casey Stengel. After what I did in Brooklyn, he could have forgotten about me and who would blame him? But he gave me another chance and I’m grateful.” (Baseball Almanac)

It would be no use to do a play by play in this post, because it was simply 27 up and 27 down.  However, as it seems in all no hitters and perfect games, there was, what I would call, a “perfect play,” a play or defensive feat that in other words saves the perfect game.  It occurred in the fifth inning, with Gil Hodges at the plate.  He roped a line drive into the infamous left-center field “death valley,” and it is safe to say that Mickey Mantle made one of his best defensive plays of his career.  He saved the perfect game in typical Mantle fashion.  Mantle commented after the game by saying:

“The biggest game I ever played in was probably Don Laresn’s perfect game.” (Baseball Almanac)

In 97 pitches, Laresn went nine innings, allowing no runs, no hits and no walks while striking out nine men.  He accomplished one of the greatest feats in baseball history, and one feat that may never again be duplicated.  Throwing a perfect game is a rarity among itself, but throwing one in the post season, even in the world series for that matter is something else.

As Don Larsen thew the final pitch of the game past Loren Dale Mitchell into Yogi Berra’s glove, history was made, and Don Larsen’s name will be forever written in the Major League Baseball history and record books.


About Steve Henn

Yankee fan living in Rhode Island. Aspiring Yankee beat writer. Hockey player and coach.
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5 Responses to Wish We Were There: Don Larsen’s Perfect Game

  1. Mike S. says:

    My father WAS there. Along with a friend of his.

  2. Andrew says:

    My grandmother was there. I think my grandfather decided not to go and gave her the ticket. Bad choice.

  3. Eric Communiello says:

    Real great piece Steve.

    It's hard to imagine something like this ever happening again, but if and when it does I hope I'm watching.

  4. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Great piece Steve. It's a great addition to our Wish We Were There series.

  5. Steve Henn says:

    I can guarantee that nobody in my family was there, we are all in Rhode Island, but perhaps my Uncle's family was there. Anyway who cares. Thank you all for the kind words, and Rob I like these Wish We Were There's. I'm going to do them more often.