Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched the only perfect game and only no-hitter in World Series history, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers in game five at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees went on to win another Major League Baseball championship that year.

Summary of Event

New York Yankee pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series at Yankee Stadium dazzled 64,519 spectators in the stands and millions on radio. A “perfect game” is one in which no opposing players reach first base under any circumstances, including hits, walks, errors, and so forth, and the game must be a complete nine-inning game, pitched by the same pitcher who started. A “no-hitter” is a game in which the pitcher and the defense do not allow a base runner to reach base after getting an official hit. By definition, a perfect game must also be a no-hitter, but a no-hitter need not be a perfect game. [kw]Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series (Oct. 8, 1956) [kw]Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series, Larsen Pitches a (Oct. 8, 1956) [kw]Baseball’s World Series, Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in (Oct. 8, 1956)[Baseballs World Series, Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in] [kw]World Series, Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s (Oct. 8, 1956) World Series (baseball) Baseball;perfect games New York Yankees World Series (baseball) Baseball;perfect games New York Yankees [g]North America;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] [g]United States;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] [c]Sports;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] [c]Entertainment;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] [c]Popular culture;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] [c]Organizations and institutions;Oct. 8, 1956: Larsen Pitches a Perfect Game in Baseball’s World Series[05280] Larsen, Don Berra, Yogi Maglie, Sal Mantle, Mickey McDougald, Gil Mitchell, Dale Stengel, Casey Alston, Walter Pinelli, Babe

Larsen, who had joined the Yankees in an eighteen-player deal with the Baltimore Orioles in December, 1954, had finished with records of nine wins and two losses in 1955 and eleven wins and five losses in 1956. New York had won the American League title in 1956 by nine games over the Chicago White Sox, while Brooklyn had edged the Milwaukee Braves by one game for the National League pennant. The Dodgers won the first two World Series games at Ebbets Field, but the Yankees took the next two games at Yankee Stadium.

The game-five winner needed only one more victory to capture the best-of-seven World Series. On a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the sixties, Yankee manager Casey Stengel selected Larsen to start the game, while Dodger manager Walter Alston chose veteran pitcher Sal Maglie. The 6-foot 4-inch, right-handed Larsen had been knocked out in the second inning of game two, while Maglie had outlasted Yankee ace pitcher Whitey Ford Ford, Whitey in game one.

For the first three innings, neither pitcher surrendered a hit. Larsen resorted to fast balls, curves, and sliders and pitched without a windup, giving him a smoother delivery and better control. Dodger Jim Gilliam Gilliam, Jim struck out to start the game. Larsen only once threw as many as three balls to one batter: Pee Wee Reese Reese, Pee Wee took the count to three balls and two strikes in the first inning before umpire Babe Pinelli called a third strike on him. Duke Snider Snider, Duke then hit a single to right field.

Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald’s great second inning play preserved Larsen’s no-hitter. Dodger Jackie Robinson Robinson, Jackie hit a hard line drive that caromed off third baseman Andy Carey’s Carey, Andy glove and deflected to McDougald. McDougald rifled the ball to first base, barely nabbing the speedy Robinson. Gil Hodges Hodges, Gil then struck out and Sandy Amoros Amoros, Sandy popped a fly ball to second baseman Billy Martin Martin, Billy .

In the fourth inning, Gilliam and Reese both hit to second base and were thrown out. Snider lined a 2-0 pitch foul into the lower-right-field deck before striking out. The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Mickey Mantle hit a curveball into the right field stands for his third home run of the 1956 series. Mantle’s homer, the first hit off Maglie, cleared the foul pole by a foot. Mantle had captured the American League “triple crown” that year with a .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 runs batted in.

Larsen survived several close calls in the fifth inning. Robinson hit a ball hard to left field that was just foul then hit a deep fly ball to right fielder Hank Bauer Bauer, Hank . Hodges then hit a ball more than 400 feet to left center field that seemed like an extra-base hit. Mantle, a speedy center fielder, made a spectacular backhanded catch, robbing Hodges of a double. Mantle described it as “the best catch I ever made” and “the most important catch I ever made.” Catcher Yogi Berra called Larsen’s hanging slider his only bad pitch of the entire game. Amoros then hit a drive down the right field line that had home run distance but barely sliced foul. Amoros grounded to second base and was thrown out.

Larsen’s teammates would remain silent during the rest of the game to keep from jinxing him. Larsen had told teammates from the fifth inning on that he had a no-hitter. He even cornered Mantle that inning and remarked “Wouldn’t it be funny if I pitched a no-hitter?” Mantle ignored him.

By the sixth inning, fans sensed they were witnessing baseball history and began cheering every strike against the Dodgers and every out against the Dodgers. Larsen’s teammates became excited as well. Carl Furillo Furillo, Carl , Roy Campanella Campanella, Roy , and Maglie were retired that inning. The Yankees collected their second run, getting three of their five hits off Maglie. Gilliam opened the seventh inning by hitting a sharp grounder to shortstop. Reese hit a deep drive to center field, and Snider flied to left fielder Enos Slaughter. Even this late in the game, Larsen was still exhibiting magnificent control of his fastball, curve, and slider. “My control was the thing,” he remembered. Larsen quickly got three outs in the eighth inning.

At the start of the ninth and final inning, the scoreboard showed that Larsen had not surrendered any hits. Furillo started the inning by hitting a fly ball to right field. Campanella grounded to second base. Dale Mitchell came up to the plate to pinch hit for Maglie, and a strange quiet filled Yankee Stadium. The crowd was standing. Larsen’s first pitch was low and outside for ball one. His next pitch caught the outside corner for strike one. The crowd roared as Mitchell swung and missed the next pitch. Larsen’s next pitch looked like it would be low and outside and a ball, but Mitchell fouled it off, keeping the count at one ball and two strikes. Mitchell “half swung” at Larsen’s next pitch, which was high and outside, and home plate umpire Pinelli, who was working his last game after twenty-two major league seasons, signaled strike three. Larsen had pitched his perfect game.

An estimated sixty million radio listeners heard Bob Wolff Wolff, Bob , who announced the game on Mutual Radio, yell into the microphone “Strike three called, a no-hitter! A perfect game for Don Larsen!” Batter Mitchell was arguing that he held up on his swing. Later, umpire Pinelli recalled, “In that kind of game, it would have had to be a lot closer for me to go the other way on that pitch.” Berra dashed toward the mound and jumped into Larsen’s arms.

After the game, Larsen rushed to the Yankee clubhouse, only to be mobbed by a horde of photographers and reporters. Dodger starter Robinson congratulated Larsen, telling him that his game was the “finest performance I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in baseball.” Larsen answered many media questions, revealing that his knees were shaking. He did not leave the clubhouse for quite awhile, but it had taken much longer for the pitcher to throw a perfect game in the World Series.

For the game, Larsen threw ninety-seven pitches, including just twenty-seven balls, in the greatest pitching performance in World Series history. Berra later said that Larsen “hit every spot” he called from behind the plate. Larsen struck out seven Dodgers. Seven outs came on ground balls, nine on outfield flies, three on infield flies, and one on an infield line drive. The game took just two hours and six minutes, but those final minutes in the Yankee Stadium shadows seemed like an eternity.

Significance

In an official U.S. Bicentennial poll conducted by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s office in 1976, Larsen’s performance was ranked the third most memorable in major league baseball history. Ahead of it were Hank Aaron’s home run number 715 in 1974 and Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run for the New York Giants in the 1951 playoffs. Larsen’s game outranked Babe Ruth’s “called” homer in the 1932 World Series and Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak in 1941. Joe Tremble of the New York Daily News wrote in a report of Larsen’s perfect game that “the Imperfect Man pitched the Perfect Game yesterday.”

Nothing in Larsen’s career indicated that he would have been history’s perfect pitcher for one day. He had experienced a mediocre major league career from 1953 through 1965 with Baltimore, New York, Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco, Houston, and the Chicago Cubs. His career record was eighty-one wins and ninety-one losses, and he had a 3.78 earned run average. He never won more than eleven games in any single season and won four and lost two games in five World Series events.

Larsen’s perfect game added another chapter to the storied history of the New York Yankees. His performance gave them a three games to two advantage in the 1956 World Series. New York won the series in seven games and continued its dynastic run. between 1949 and 1960 under manager Casey Stengel, the Yankees captured ten American League pennants and eight World Series titles.

Larsen pitched the finest game in major league baseball history, hurling the first no-hitter and perfect game in World Series annals. Neither feat has been duplicated in more than one hundred World Series events since 1901. In game four of the 1947 series, Bill Bevens Bevens, Bill of the New York Yankees came close to the perfect game when he pitched against the Brooklyn Dodgers. With only two outs left in the ninth inning, however, pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto doubled home two runs for the Dodgers to defeat New York.

Larsen’s feat marked the first perfect major league game in thirty-four years. The last one had been pitched by Charlie Robertson of the Chicago White Sox on April 30, 1922. Perfect games have remained extremely rare in major league baseball, with an average of two or three in each decade. There have been more than two hundred no-hitters, including seven by Nolan Ryan and four by Sandy Koufax, in major league history.

Larsen never capitalized on his feat and did not understand why people expressed such reverence for his accomplishment. People often tell him “where they were” during that game. Such memories normally are reserved for major historic events, not baseball games. World Series (baseball) Baseball;perfect games New York Yankees

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Dave, Murray Chass, Robert Creamer, and Harold Rosenthal. The Yankees: The Four Fabulous Eras of Baseball’s Most Famous Team. New York: Random House, 1979. Rosenthal describes Larsen’s historic game in the context of the Mantle-Stengel era of Yankee history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berra, Yogi, and Tom Horton. Yogi: It Ain’t Over. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989. In this autobiography, Berra reflects on Larsen’s perfect game.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brady, Erik. “Perfect Larsen Unrivaled.” USA Today, October 8, 1996, p. 3-C. Brady places Larsen’s feat in its historical context on its fortieth anniversary in 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Buckley, James, Jr. Perfect: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Seventeen Perfect Games. Chicago: Triumph Books, 2005. Buckley provides a “you-are-there” account of Larsen’s perfect game, one of only seventeen such games in the history of professional baseball in the United States.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Durso, Joseph. Yankee Stadium: Fifty Years of Drama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. Durso provides pictorial highlights of Larsen’s perfect game in a book on the history of Yankee Stadium.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Larsen, Don, and Mark Shaw. The Perfect Yankee. Champaign, Ill.: Sagamore, 1996. Larsen and Shaw discuss with readers the ins and outs of Larsen’s perfect game no-hitter.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mantle, Mickey, and Phil Pepe. My Favorite Summer, 1956. New York: Doubleday, 1991. In his autobiography, Mantle reflects on Larsen’s perfect game.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolff, Bob. Its Not Who Won or Lost—It’s How You Sold the Beer. South Bend, Ind.: Diamond, 1992. Radio announcer Wolff reminisces about Larsen’s perfect game and its impact on Mutual Radio listeners who heard the game.

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