Former New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen died New Year’s Day 2020 in Hayden, Idaho at the age of 90 as a result of esophageal cancer.
Larsen had been diagnosed with cancer last August and had recently completed a round of radiation treatment prior to his death.
Considered a journeyman pitcher, Larsen holds the record as the only pitcher in Major League Baseball to ever throw a perfect game in a World Series game; only come close when Ron Halladay threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in a National League Division Series in 2010.
In 1956, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers played in a World Series that took seven games. After being taken out of the game in the second inning of game two, Larsen was given the start in game five. The Series was tied two game to two; Larsen threw 97 pitches, had seven strike outs and went to ball three only once on a player – Pee Wee Reese in the first inning. Larsen did not use the big windup when he pitched..he didn’t use a windup of any kind. The Yankees went on to win the game 2-0 on just five hits.
Much like Giants catcher Buster Posey did over 50 years later, Yogi Berra came charging out from behind home plate to jump into Don Larsen’s arms. Larsen was later named MVP of Series.
Larsen would go on to pitch in three more World Series but despite winning two more games, he would never repeat his former glory.
In 1999, David Cone threw a perfect game for the Yankees; Don Larson had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch and was in the stands watching the game.
Speaking on Larsen’s accomplishment, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “on a team of many stars, Don illustrated that anyone can make history — even perfection — on our sport’s biggest stage.”
His lifetime record was 81-91, never winning more than eleven games in a season.
Don James Larsen was born on August 7, 1929 in Michigan City, Indiana, but the family later moved to San Diego, California where he played baseball and basketball in high school. Today players are signed for multi million dollar contracts, but Don Larsen was signed to the St. Louis Browns for $150 per month and a $500 bonus.
Life many players of the era, Larsen spent time in the U.S. military. After two years in the Army, he returned to the Browns and was promoted to “the bigs” in Baltimore where he won only three games in 1954 before being traded to the Yankees in 1955.
During his career; Larsen would pitch for the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox and Cubs, the Houston Astros, and the New York Yankees.
Larsen is survived by his wife of over 60 years Corine and son Scott and grandsons Justin and Cody.
feature photo credit: By Bowman – http://www.vintagecardprices.com/card-profile/67306/1955-Bowman-Don-Larsen-67-Baseball-Card-Value-Prices.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18267384