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 postseason no-hitter and perfect game in Major League Baseball history. It was done in Game 5 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. It's 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 14-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 2, 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 5, 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 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 the 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, Larsen 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 postseason, or 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.