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Don Larsen’s Perfect Game: My Uncle’s Tall Tale 3

Posted on October 08, 2010 by Andrew Jeromski

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen arrived in the clubhouse, and much to his alleged surprise, found a baseball tucked into one of his shined cleats. Placed there by pitching coach Jim Turner, the ball was the signal that Larsen would be the starting pitcher that afternoon–game five of the World Series.

Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history

What happened next was one of those magical moments in sports when the near-impossible, the utterly implausible is dragged into reality through little more than sheer force of will. Larsen set down 27 Brooklyn Dodgers in a row, and recorded the first perfect game and the first no-hitter in postseason history. His was the only such feat ever accomplished until 53 years and 363 days later, when Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy “Doc” Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in game one of the National League Divisional Series with an epic one-walk performance during a 4-0 win.

In the spirit of remembrance, I thought I would share with you a piece of family lore that concerns Larsen’s perfecto; but first, a little more background.

Charlie Manuel played for Billy Martin

Interestingly enough, when Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was a player, the only two managers he ever played for were Billy Martin (Min 69-72) and Walter Alston (LAD 74, 75), both of whom were present for Larsen’s perfect game. Alston, of course, as the Brooklyn Dodgers manager, and Martin as the Yankees starting second baseman that afternoon.

Larsen maintains to this day that he had no idea he was to start game five. The claim is a bit dubious simply because he was listed as the starter in most national newspapers that day, but former Yankee teammates like Bill “Moose” Skowron have backed his assertion.

“I still can’t believe the look he had on his face when he saw the ball,” said Skowron, “… shock or something.”

Larsen had performed poorly in game 2, lasting less than two innings and surrendering four runs on four walks, but his control didn’t desert him that way in game five. Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete his perfect game, a supremely economical performance.

“I had great control,” recalls Larsen, “I never had that kind of control in my life.”

“His stuff was good, good, good,” agreed hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra. “Anything I put down he put over.”

There were several close plays in the contest, and Larsen surely benefitted from luck to some extent, as must any pitcher who throws a perfect game.

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