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Don Larsen Newsbeat

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Don Larsen, who pitched only perfect game in World Series history, dies at 90

By his own admission, Don Larsen was a most imperfect fellow and therefore about the unlikeliest man to ever pitch the only perfect game in World Series history. But pitch it he did, on October 8, 1956, a 97-pitch, 2-0 gem in Game 5 that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the Series against the Dodgers and set them up for winning their sixth world championship in eight years under manager Casey Stengel.

Larsen, 90, died Wednesday in hospice in Hayden, Idaho, of esophageal cancer, a party guy to the end who achieved baseball immortality that one sun-splashed autumn afternoon at Yankee Stadium despite an otherwise mediocre 81-91 pitching career with seven different major league teams from 1953-67. As it was, Larsen didn’t even think he was getting the ball that day after having been lifted by Stengel in the second inning of Game 2 of the Series because of control problems. He had given up only one hit in that game and was leading 6-1, but he’d walked four batters and the Yankees went on to lose, 13-8. Afterward, Larsen fumed to reporters: “I don’t give a damn if I ever pitch another game for the Yankees or Stengel again! I go out there and break my neck? For what? He had no business taking me out of there! That’s the last time I’ll get to bed early. I’m gonna start enjoying life again.”

Nevertheless, Stengel, who shrugged off Larsen’s diatribe, opted to give the big righthander — whose Yankee teammates dubbed “Gooney Bird” because of his flaky nature — a second chance three days later in Game 5, passing up 18-game winner Johnny Kucks (who went on to pitch the 9-0 Game 7 clincher). Whether it was just hunch on the part of Stengel — who secretly had a fondness for Larsen because of his own penchant for late-night imbibing — the prodigal pitcher vowed to make good for his manager. “I’ll show ‘em all,” he said when Stengel announced the day before Larsen would be starting Game 5. “Don’t be surprised if I pitch a no-hitter too.”

It was an oft-handed boast made jokingly to a handful of reporters, but one that Larsen more than made good on. Reverting to a “no-wind-up” delivery he had fashioned during the ’56 season (in which he’d been 11-5 as a starter and long reliever), he baffled the Dodgers all day and out-dueled veteran Sal Maglie, 2-0, striking out seven. About the only hard-hit ball the Dodgers had in the game was Gil Hodges’ one-out fly to deep left center in the fifth inning on which Mickey Mantle made a running, one-hand catch. Indeed, Larsen went to three balls on only one batter — Pee Wee Reese in the first — and when he got veteran pinch hitter Dale Mitchell on a half-swing third strike to end the game, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra rushed out from behind the plate and jumped into his arms in what became an iconic picture.

 

QLE Posted: January 01, 2020 at 11:00 PM | 76 comment(s)
  Beats: don larsen, obituaries, rip

 

 

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