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by Harold Friend
"The biggest game I ever played in was probably Don Larsen's perfect game."
Those were the words of Mickey Mantle, who played in many big games. On Oct. 8, 1956, Mickey Mantle had one of the best games of his great career.
Don Larsen and Sal Maglie
The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees each had beaten the other twice in the World Series. Don Larsen, whom Brooklyn had roughed up in Game 2, would face former Brooklyn Dodgers' nemesis Sal Maglie, who was now Brooklyn's most reliable pitcher.
Larsen retired Brooklyn in order in the first, and Maglie returned the compliment.
Jackie Robinson led off the second with a vicious ground ball to the left side of the infield that bounced off third baseman Andy Carey's glove. It looked like a sure base hit, but the ball ricocheted to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw out Robinson.
Larsen retired the next six Dodgers. Maglie matched him by retiring the next six Yankees. Larsen retired the Dodgers in order in the fourth to make it 12 straight.
Jerry Lumpe's Bat
Maglie retired Hank Bauer and Joe Collins in the Yankees' fourth to make it 11 in a row when Mickey Mantle strode to the plate. Mickey hit a home run into the lower right field stands for the game's first hit and first run.
It was later revealed that Mickey had used utility infielder Jerry Lumpe's bat. For most of the Series, Mickey had used Hank Bauer's bat, but before the game at the batting cage, Hank told reporters "He quit on me. Now he's using Joe Collins' bat, ain'tcha Mick?"
Mickey's response was "Nope. I'm using Jerry Lumpe's bat today."
"You're nuts," Hank told him. "All a guy on this team has to say is 'Hey Mickey, I got a good bat,' and Mickey will say, 'Hey let me try it.'"
The Duke's Great Play
Yogi Berra followed Mickey's home run with a hard. low line drive into left center field that appeared to be a double, but Duke Snider made a headlong, diving catch. It was one of the best plays of the Series, but unlike Mickey's great catch in the top of the sixth, it is rarely mentioned.
With one out, Gil Hodges hit a blast into deep left center field. Mantle raced to his right, lunged, and made a spectacular grab of Hodges' bid for extra bases. Years later, Don Larsen expressed his gratitude.
"Mantle made such a beautiful catch. That ball probably would have been a home run in most parks, but Yankee Stadium at that time was pretty big in left-center. Mantle could run like a deer, caught that ball and I had another sigh of relief."
Mickey Mantle was an outstanding defensive outfielder because he was one of the fastest men to play the game. He didn't have the instincts of Willie Mays or Jimmy Piersall, but Mickey sometimes would make a catch neither of the other two outfielders could make by outrunning the ball.
Mickey's great catch saved the only perfect game in World Series history. It was not as great as Willie's catch off Vic Wertz in 1954, and it was a notch below Al Gionfriddo's catch of a Joe DiMaggio bid for a game-tying three-run home run in the 1947 World Series, but it was a catch that only Wilie, Piersall, Ken Griffey Jr., and some of the other truly great defensive center fielders could have made.
Mickey is a member of that group.
By JOHN DREBINGER. The New York Times. (1956, October 9). Mantle's Home Run and Bauer's Single Send Maglie to 2-0 Loss :Larsen Beats Dodgers in Perfect Game; Yanks Lead, 3-2, on First Series No-Hitter LARSEN WINS, 2-0, ON PERFECT GAME. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved March 6, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006).(Document ID: 87302149).
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1956, October 9). Sports of The Times :While Baseball History Was Being Made Mounting Tension Unbearable Suspense Scorers Feel Pressure. New York Times (1923-Current file),56. Retrieved March 6, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 87302832).