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Don Larsen

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Full Name: Don James Larsen Primary Position: P
Height/Weight: 6' 4"/215 First Game: April 18, 1953
Birthdate: August 7, 1929 Final Game: July 7, 1967
Birthplace: Michigan City, Indiana MLB Experience: 14 years
Bat/Throw: Right/Right


Biography

Don James Larsen (born August 7, 1929 in Michigan City, Indiana) was a pitcher for seven different Major League Baseball franchises over a 14-year span from 1953-1967. His career won-loss record was 81-91. In 1954, he went 3-21 with the Baltimore Orioles.

Larsen had some solid years with the New York Yankees from 1955-1959 as what we now refer in the contemporary game as a fifth starter. He went 45-24 during his five seasons in New York. His 1956 season was his best, going 11-6, a career best 107 strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA.

His major accomplishment was pitching the only perfect game ever in the World Series, and one of only 17 perfect games since 1880. It occurred in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, on October 8, 1956. His perfect game is not only the only perfect game in the World Series, but also the only no-hitter of any type ever pitched in postseason play.

Larsen went up against Brooklyn's Sal Maglie. No one ever imagined Yankees manager Casey Stengel would have given Don Larsen another start after giving up four walks and six runs in less than two innings of work in Game 2. Larsen did not even know he was going to start the game until he arrived in Yankee Stadium that morning. He found a ball in his shoe, which was the customary way Yankees’ pitchers found out they were to start games.

The combination of Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra calling a masterful game and Larsen literally throwing the ball anywhere he wanted (Larsen only had one three ball count) was devastating. The vaunted Dodgers lineup was going three-up three-down in rapid fashion. There were two close calls. The first was a bang-bang play in the second inning, where shortstop Gil McDougald threw out Jackie Robinson off a line drive that caromed off third baseman Andy Carey’s glove. The other was Mickey Mantle’s running one-handed snare of a deep drive by Gil Hodges in the 5th inning. Other than that, no one really came close to getting a hit. Sal "The Barber" Maglie also pitched an outstanding game as well, giving up only five hits. Mickey Mantle’s fourth inning home run plus an insurance run in the sixth was all Larsen needed. By the seventh inning, fans and players alike were thinking the unthinkable. Of course, Larsen’s teammates remained silent; custom dictates that players never discuss the possibility of a no-hitter as it unfolds. Besides, the game was still close. Larsen even took a cigarette break in the clubhouse during the seventh inning stretch.

With two outs in the ninth inning, Larsen faced pinch hitter Dale Mitchell. Throwing fastballs, Larsen got ahead of the count 1-ball and 2-strikes. On his 97th pitch, Larsen caught Mitchell looking for the 27th and last out of his perfect game. The less-than-perfect Don Larsen became synonymous with athletic perfection. Yogi Berra leaping into his arms after the last out is an indelible scene in American sports history. The game was the last as a home plate umpire for Babe Pinelli, who was retiring after the season. Don Larsen's magnificent effort earned him World Series MVP.

Larsen would win additional World Series games, one each in the two classic tilts with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and 1958. However, both the New York Yankees and Don Larsen’s fortunes would dip in 1959. The Yankees dropped to third place (going 79 - 75) and Don Larsen went below .500 for the first time in his Yankee career, going 6 - 7. He was part of the trade to the Kansas City Athletics that sent Roger Maris to the Yankees. His 1960 record plummeted to 1-10.

He made a comeback of sorts in 1961, going 8-2 while playing for both Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox. Going to the San Francisco in 1962, Larsen became a full-time relief pitcher, anchoring a stellar bullpen that included Bob Bolin and Stu Miller. He had a 5-4 record with 11 saves for the Pennant-winning Giants. In fact, he won the deciding game of the playoff series against the L.A. Dodgers, relieving Juan Marichal in the eighth inning. In the 1962 World Series, Larsen won Game 4 in relief, giving him a career World Series record of 4-2 with an ERA of 2.90. In 1964, the pitching poor Houston Colt 45s pressed Don Larsen back into a starting role. He responded well at age 35, going 4-8 with a fine 2.27 ERA.

In an interesting historic aside, Larsen attended the same San Diego high school as David Wells, who pitched a perfect game in 1998 and was in attendance (and threw out the first pitch) for David Cone's perfect game in 1999.

Statistics

Pitching Stats

Year Team G GS W L ERA K R ER CG SHO SV IP H HR BB IB WP HBP
1953 STL A 38 22 7 12 4.16 96 99 89 7 2 2 192.2 201 11 64 0 3 4
1954 BAL A 29 28 3 21 4.37 80 106 98 12 1 0 201.2 213 18 89 0 2 1
1955 NY A 19 13 9 2 3.06 44 38 33 5 1 2 97 81 8 51 3 1 2
1956 NY A 38 20 11 5 3.26 107 72 65 6 1 1 179.2 133 19 96 0 3 7
1957 NY A 27 20 10 4 3.74 81 68 58 4 1 0 139.2 113 12 87 0 6 0
1958 NY A 19 19 9 6 3.07 55 43 39 5 3 0 114.1 100 4 52 3 0 4
1959 NY A 25 18 6 7 4.33 69 65 60 3 1 0 124.2 122 14 76 2 7 2
1960 KC A 22 15 1 10 5.38 43 55 50 0 0 0 83.2 97 11 42 1 2 0
1961 KC A 8 1 1 0 4.20 13 9 7 0 0 0 15 21 2 11 0 2 1
1961 CHI A 25 3 7 2 4.12 53 36 34 0 0 2 74.1 64 5 29 2 2 1
1961 TOT A 33 4 8 2 4.13 66 45 41 0 0 2 89.1 85 7 40 2 4 2
1962 SF N 49 0 5 4 4.38 58 44 42 0 0 11 86.1 83 9 47 7 6 2
1963 SF N 46 0 7 7 3.05 44 23 21 0 0 3 62 46 8 30 9 4 0
1964 SF N 6 0 0 1 4.35 6 5 5 0 0 0 10.1 10 0 6 1 0 0
1964 HOU N 30 10 4 8 2.26 58 36 26 2 1 1 103.1 92 4 20 4 1 1
1964 TOT N 36 10 4 9 2.45 64 41 31 2 1 1 113.2 102 4 26 5 1 1
1965 HOU N 1 1 0 0 5.06 1 3 3 0 0 0 5.1 8 0 3 1 0 0
1965 BAL A 27 1 1 2 2.67 40 22 16 0 0 1 54 53 4 20 2 0 1
1965 Total 28 2 1 2 2.88 41 25 19 0 0 1 59.1 61 4 23 3 0 1
1967 CHI N 3 0 0 0 9.00 1 4 4 0 0 0 4 5 1 2 0 0 0
Total NL 135 11 16 20 3.35 168 115 101 2 1 15 271.1 244 22 108 22 11 3
Total AL 277 160 65 71 3.87 681 613 549 42 10 8 1276.2 1198 108 617 13 28 23
Total 412 171 81 91 3.78 849 728 650 44 11 23 1548 1442 130 725 35 39 26

Fielding Stats

Year Team POS G GS INN PO A ERR DP TP PB SB CS PkO AVG
1953 STL A P 38 0 0 8 29 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .949
1953 STL A OF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
1954 BAL A P 29 0 0 14 34 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 .980
1955 NY A P 19 0 0 5 13 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 .947
1956 NY A P 38 0 0 13 23 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 .923
1957 NY A P 27 20 139.2 10 20 2 2 0 3 5 8 2 .938
1958 NY A P 19 19 114.1 5 14 2 2 0 0 2 1 0 .905
1959 NY A P 25 18 124.2 5 22 2 1 0 2 4 2 0 .931
1960 KC A P 22 15 83.2 4 8 1 1 0 1 6 4 0 .923
1961 KC A P 8 1 15 1 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000
1961 KC A LF 1 1 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1961 KC A OF 1 1 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1961 CHI A P 25 3 74.1 4 13 0 0 0 0 4 1 0 1.000
1961 TOT A P 33 4 89.1 5 17 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 1.000
1962 SF N P 49 0 86.1 4 15 0 3 0 1 7 1 0 1.000
1963 SF N P 46 0 62 4 12 1 0 0 1 5 1 0 .941
1964 SF N P 6 0 10.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 1.000
1964 HOU N P 30 10 103.1 7 19 1 1 0 1 7 0 0 .963
1964 TOT N P 36 10 113.2 9 19 1 1 0 1 10 0 0 .966
1965 HOU N P 1 1 5.1 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
1965 BAL A P 27 1 54 5 13 1 1 0 0 5 1 0 .947
1965 Total P 28 2 59.1 6 16 1 1 0 0 5 1 0 .957
1967 CHI N P 3 0 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
Total LF 1 1 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
Total OF 2 1 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000
Total P 412 88 877 92 244 17 22 0 9 49 19 2 .952

Batting Stats

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B BB SO HBP SH SB IBB GDP
1953 STL A 50 81 11 23 3 10 .284 .318 .457 3 1 4 14 0 0 0 0 1
1954 BAL A 44 88 6 22 1 4 .250 .290 .409 5 3 5 15 0 2 0 0 2
1955 NY A 21 41 4 6 2 7 .146 .222 .317 1 0 4 13 0 0 0 0 1
1956 NY A 45 79 10 19 2 12 .241 .294 .380 5 0 6 17 0 1 0 0 2
1957 NY A 31 56 6 14 0 5 .250 .317 .339 5 0 6 11 0 0 0 0 3
1958 NY A 28 49 9 15 4 13 .306 .364 .571 1 0 5 9 0 2 0 0 2
1959 NY A 29 47 8 12 0 8 .255 .345 .298 2 0 7 15 0 1 0 0 2
1960 KC A 23 29 3 6 0 3 .207 .207 .241 1 0 0 11 0 0 0 0 2
1961 KC A 18 20 2 6 1 4 .300 .333 .450 0 0 1 5 0 1 0 0 0
1961 CHI A 25 25 2 8 1 4 .320 .320 .440 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 0
1961 TOT A 43 45 4 14 2 8 .311 .326 .444 0 0 1 10 0 2 0 0 0
1962 SF N 52 25 3 5 0 1 .200 .200 .280 0 1 0 7 0 1 0 0 0
1963 SF N 46 11 1 2 0 0 .182 .250 .182 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0
1964 SF N 6 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1964 HOU N 31 31 0 3 0 0 .097 .200 .129 1 0 4 10 0 1 0 0 0
1964 TOT N 37 32 0 3 0 0 .094 .194 .125 1 0 4 10 0 1 0 0 0
1965 HOU N 1 2 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
1965 BAL A 27 11 0 3 0 1 .273 .273 .364 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0
1965 Total 28 13 0 3 0 1 .231 .231 .308 1 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 0
1967 CHI N 3 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total NL 139 70 4 10 0 1 .143 .200 .186 1 1 5 19 0 3 0 0 0
Total AL 341 526 61 134 14 71 .255 .303 .395 24 4 38 119 0 8 0 0 15
Total 480 596 65 144 14 72 .242 .291 .371 25 5 43 138 0 11 0 0 15

Transactions

  • Signed as an amateur free agent by St. Louis Browns (1947).
  • Traded by Baltimore Orioles with Bob Turley, Billy Hunter and 4 players to be named later to New York Yankees in exchange for Gene Woodling, Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos, Willie Miranda and 4 players to be named later (November 17, 1954); Baltimore Orioles received Bill Miller, Kal Segrist, Don Leppert and Ted Del Guercio (December 1, 1954) and New York Yankees received Mike Blyzka, Darrell Johnson, Jim Fridley and Dick Kryhoski (December 1, 1954).
  • Traded by New York Yankees with Hank Bauer, Norm Siebern and Marv Throneberry to Kansas City Athletics in exchange for Roger Maris, Joe DeMaestri and Kent Hadley (December 11, 1959).
  • Traded by Kansas City Athletics with Ray Herbert, Andy Carey and Al Pilarcik to Chicago White Sox in exchange for Bob Shaw, Gerry Staley, Wes Covington and Stan Johnson (June 10, 1961).
  • Traded by Chicago White Sox with Billy Pierce to San Francisco Giants in exchange for Eddie Fisher, Dom Zanni, Bob Farley and a player to be named later (November 30, 1961); Chicago White Sox received Verle Tiefenthaler (August 17, 1962).
  • Sold by San Francisco Giants to Houston Colt .45s (May 20, 1964).
  • Traded by Houston Astros to Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Bob Saverine and cash (April 24, 1965).
  • Released by Baltimore Orioles (April 11, 1966).
  • Signed by Chicago Cubs (1967).

Trivia

See also

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