On October 8, 1956, in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Monday so Larsen deiced to rock the world and carved his name into the American sports by pitching the first perfect game in postseason history.
In the long-drawn, history of professional baseball, amidst tens of thousands of games, there have been fewer than 300 no-hitters (In baseball, a no-hitter is a game in which a team was not able to record a single hit. Major League Baseball (MLB) officially defines a no-hitter as a completed game in which a team that batted in at least nine innings recorded no hits.)
Don Larsen’s Perfect games, in which no hit even touches first base, are even rarer: fewer than two dozen in the past 100 years. Moreover, with the privilege of one man, the Yankees’ Don Larsen, no one has ever yielded a no-hitter in a World Series game. Here, on the anniversary of that victory—a feat made all the more remarkable in light of Larsen’s otherwise unspectacular career.
Remembering His Journey
It was a highly unexpected and a pitching performance was given by Larsen when he was allowed four runs and got only five outs in Game 2 of the series. The greatness of Larsen’s no-hitter is so hard to overstate in baseball terms for the following two reasons;
- The world has never encountered and had never seen this done before in a World Series which is surprising enough
- In a game where records fall and such career-defining moments happen with dizzying frequency
However, Larsen hurled an excellent game against a team as jam-packed with expertise and power as the ’56 Brooklyn Dodgers boggles the mind. Sinder, Campanella, Furillo, Reese, Hodges, Robinson – these are the names that baseball fans still worship – something close to reverence. Moreover, of all people, Don Larsen – not a superstar pitcher, but a professional hurler- shut them down.
(Original Caption) The 27-year-old right-hander threw only 97 pitches as he turned back 27 Dodgers in a row, seven of them on strikeouts. Larsen, who disdained any wind-up against the Dodgers, became the seventh man in all of baseball history to pitch a perfect game. (Photo Credit Getty Images)
The fans, the press, his peers and everyone who knew and loved baseball (including Larsen himself) was amazed.
Bob Sheppard – a long-time Yankees public address announcer also known as the ‘Voice of God‘ once nodded and said: “If Sandy Koufax had done it, if Nolan Ryan had done it, if Don Drysdale had done it, he would have believed that it could happen, but he remained speechless about Don Larsen.”
The heat of the competition amid the Yankees and the Dodgers—and, for years, the “other” New York team, the Giants—makes many of today’s over-hyped games rivalries feel monotonous.
BRONX, NY – JULY 18: Don Larsen attends a pre-game ceremony in honor of ‘Yogi Berra Day’ during the MLB game between the Montreal Expos and the New York Yankees on July 18, 1999, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by Vincent Laforet/Getty Images)
- In the year 1950s alone, the Yankees won six World Series (three versus Brooklyn, one upon the Giants)
- Brooklyn acquired one (against the Yankees); the Giants won entirety in 1954—one of the few years that neither the Yanks nor the Dodgers made it to the Fall Classic.
- Then, was the environment in which Don Larsen secured the heap on that fall heyday six decades past.
- Game 5 of the 1956 Series was bounteous than a baseball contest; which was another chapter in a long, storied struggle between two teams loaded with some of the best players the game has ever seen.
Larsen equalized 4.2 walks per nine innings for his career and 4.8 walks per nine in 1956. In every game that Larsen hurled that season in which he went more than two innings, he emanated at least one walk.
He had two starts that September where he delivered eight (in a shutout) and seven, yet permitted only one run. Moreover, in Larsen’s nine other World Series features, he walked 19 batters in 27 innings.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has several items from Larsen’s perfect game in its acquisition, including autographed baseballs practiced in the game, tickets, photos, and Berra’s catcher’s mitt.
(Original Caption) Yankee hurler Don Larsen is surrounded by newsmen in his dressing room at Yankee Stadium after the 27-year-old right-hander pitched the first perfect game in a World Series history to win a 2-0 victory for the Yankees and a 3-2 game lead in the 1956 classic. (Photo Credit Getty Images)
The Yanks scored two runs, one getting on Mantle’s home run. Mantle is the all-time World Series base run leader with 18. The other appeared on an RBI hit by Hank Bauer. Bauer’s call to fame is a 17-game World Series hitting streak, the greatest of all time.
Newspaper reports of the game note that Larsen’s mom did not attend the game because of family superstition.
“She made it a rule never to watch Don when he pitches; this is what she told a wire-service reporter as she believed that every time she watches him play, he loses. So, she doesn’t prefer watching it. Moreover, that day also when Don created the history, she didn’t watch!
Embracing the Bygone Times
Larsen, who hurled without a windup, required only 97 pitches to revoke 27 batters. At the bottom of the ninth, including the crowd of 64,519 going insane, he pitched Dodger pinch-hitter, Dale Mitchell, a dominant fastball.
In actuality, most of the players on the battlefield at the time felt that it might have been extremely high. However, home plate umpire Babe Pinelli, running the very last game of an exceptional 21-year career, declared it a strike. Mitchell debated the point—but it was all over. Don Larsen had delivered the first, and still one and the only, no-hitter in the World Series. The Yankees, however, went on to take the series by four games to 3.
10/8/1956-New York, NY-ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: This sequence shows the play which earned Yankee centerfielder Mickey Mantle a special hug from teammate Don (perfect game) Larsen after Larsen hurled the first perfect game in World Series history to lead the Yanks to a 2-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers here Oct. 8th. Mickey is shown hauling in the line drive (ball, circle) off the bat of Gil Hodges in the fifth inning. Mickey also got a hug for his fourth-inning homer, which proved enough to sew up the game.
After creating the history, Don Larsen was incredulously murmuring after his perfect game and said: “LAST NIGHT I WAS A BUM, AND TONIGHT EVERYBODY WANTS TO MEET ME.”
However, Larsen had a short, exhilarating brush with subsided fame. Larsen’s career gradually diminished following the 56 series. He also won another Series ring with the Yankees in the year 1958 yet another milestone achieved by Don Larsen.
He retired in the year 1967, and his career win-loss record was a ho-hum 81-91—although his strong World Series record of 4-2 with an ERA of 2.75 insinuates that the cool customer who prattled up his teammates in the dugout throughout his Game 5 perfect game truly savored the big platform. Larsen once claimed on his World Series perfect game that: “They can never break my record, the best they can do is to bind it.”
Moreover, until today, almost after 62 years, baseball is still waiting for someone, anyone, to do just the same. In the meantime, baseball and its real fans are still celebrating Larsen’s improbable masterpiece.