Don Larsen, forever famous for pitching the only perfect game in World Series history, died Wednesday at age 90.
Larsen's agent, Andrew Levy, announced his passing on Twitter. According to the Associated Press, Levy said the former pitcher died of esophageal cancer in Hayden, Idaho.
“Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game Five of the 1956 World Series at Yankee Stadium is one of the most memorable achievements in the history of our National Pastime," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news release. "His unexpected performance on that Monday afternoon has remained unique for 63 years and counting. On a team of many stars, Don illustrated that anyone can make history -- even perfection -- on our sport’s biggest stage. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and the fans he touched during his life in our great game.”
The Yankees organization released the following statement regarding Larsen's passing:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Don Larsen, who remained a welcome and familiar face at our annual Old-Timers’ Day celebrations in the decades following his playing career.
“Don’s perfect game is a defining moment for our franchise, encapsulating a storied era of Yankees success and ranking among the greatest single-game performances in Major League Baseball history. The unmitigated joy reflected in his embrace with Yogi Berra after the game’s final out will forever hold a secure place in Yankees lore. It was the pinnacle of baseball success and a reminder of the incredible, unforgettable things that can take place on a baseball field.”
“The Yankees organization extends its deepest condolences to Don’s family and friends during this difficult time. He will be missed.”
Larsen, a right-hander who by the end of his playing career had pitched for seven teams in 14 seasons and compiled a record of 81-91, was defined by that one game, played on Oct. 8, 1956, at Yankee Stadium. It was Game 5 against the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Series was even at 2-2. The Dodgers had four Hall of Famers in the lineup that day -- the most any pitcher has ever faced while tossing a perfect game.
Larsen, knocked out in the second inning of a 13-8 loss in Game 2, came back on two days' rest and threw just 97 pitches in retiring all 27 batters he faced. The final Dodgers batter, pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell, was called out on strikes, prompting catcher Yogi Berra to leap into Larsen's arms, an image that stands frozen in time.
"I had great control," Larsen said. "I never had that kind of control in my life."
At the time, it was only the sixth perfect game in Major League history, and only the fourth one in the 20th century. And it remained the only postseason no-hitter until Roy Halladay of the Phillies no-hit the Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series.
Born Aug. 7, 1929, in Michigan City, Ind., Larsen grew up near San Diego and attended Point Loma High School -- the same school later attended by David Wells, the next Yankees pitcher to throw a perfect game, doing it in a regular-season game in '98. Originally signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1947, Larsen debuted for them in '53, the year before the team moved to Baltimore, and lost 21 games in '54. The Yankees acquired him from the Orioles in a trade involving a record 17 players, including right-hander Bob Turley, who would win 21 games and the American League Cy Young Award for the Yankees in 1957.
Larsen spent five seasons with the Yankees, longer than he did with any of the other teams he played for. He went 45-24 in a variety of roles for New York, starting 90 games and making 32 relief appearances, recording 23 complete games, seven shutouts and three saves. He was traded to the Kansas City A's after the 1959 season in the deal that brought Roger Maris to the Yankees. He later pitched for the White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Houston Colt .45s/Astros, the Orioles again, and then finished up with three appearances for the Cubs in 1967. He had a 3.78 career ERA, appearing in 412 games -- starting 171 and finishing 132 as a reliever. His record away from the Yankees was 36-67.
Former players and those close to Larsen shared their remembrances via social media:
Yogi Berra Museum: