The Imperfect Man Pitched the Perfect Game

Kevin RozellSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2009

(Zell's Pinstripe Blog)

Don Larsen’s perfect game is a moment in sports history that will never be forgotten. Larsen was far from a great pitcher, but on that day he put on one of the best pitching performances in history. I watched the game on the MLB Network last night and I was fascinated. It was interesting to see these players that my dad watched as a little kid. My dad was only one year-old when that game was played. It just puts in perspective how long ago that game was.

Watching Mantle, Robinson, Berra, Snider, Hodges, and all those other greats was really cool. We all see clips of them play, but it was different this time because I saw the whole game played out. Except for the first inning of course, (it was left out) because nobody knows where the footage went.

Hearing Mel Allen and Vin Scully call the game was awesome. The original Gillete commercials played in between innings were really funny, but it seemed like that was the only commercial they had. They wouldn’t shut up about that Baseball Encyclopedia!

This one game defined Don Larsen’s whole career. It really made him famous, and without it..he would probably be just another name out there. The amazing part about it is that 52 years later no other player has pitched a perfect game in the World Series. Don Larsen didn’t even know what a “Perfect Game” was. He thought it was just a great no-hitter. He was ready to walk into the dugout until Yogi jumped into his arms.

Quotes from Don Larsen on his perfect game:

“No, why should I?” - asked if he is tired of speaking about his perfect game

“Sometimes a week might go by when I don’t think about that game, but I don’t remember when it happened last.”

“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.” - locker room after perfect game

Interesting facts about the game: (from Wikipedia..)

  • Don Larsen’s license plate number is DL000, representing his initials and the no-run, no-hit, no-error line score from his perfect game.
  • The headline in the New York Daily News for Larsen’s game read, “ZERO HERO.”
  • Joe Torre was a 16-year-old spectator at the game. He sat in the left field upper deck. Torre, as manager of the New York Yankees, was present in the Yankee dugout during perfect games thrown by David Wells (1998) and David Cone (1999), and thus a witness to all three of the perfect games pitched in Yankee Stadium. Torre is also the current manager of the Dodgers, who left Brooklyn and relocated to Los Angeles, California before the 1958 season.
  • Umpire Pinelli later commented, “What a spot to be in…if I were to call a base on balls, it would go down as the Crime of the Century.”
  • On the day of the perfect game, Larsen’s wife Vivian filed for divorce.
  • Larsen was in Yankee Stadium for two of baseball’s 15 modern perfect games: his own in 1956, and David Cone’s in 1999. Cone’s game occurred on Yogi Berra Day; Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Berra before the game. Larsen would later claim that Cone’s perfect game was the first game he had seen in person from start to finish since his retirement.

    When David Wells threw a perfect game in 1998, it was noted that, coincidentally, Larsen and Wells had both attended San Diego’s Point Loma High School. Larsen phoned Wells to congratulate him, and later told a reporter, “He won’t forget it. He’ll think about it every day, like I do.”

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