Don Larsen's Miraculous World Series Game and the Men Who Made It Happen
The improbable story of Baseball's only World Series no-hitter
Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers remains the only no-hit game in World Series history and was described by The New York Times as “the greatest moment” in World Series history.
Drawing upon oral histories, contemporaneous articles, and dozens of interviews with commentators and players (including all of the surviving players for the Dodgers and Yankees), Lew Paper brings that extraordinary event to life with a pitch-by-pitch narrative that incorporates profiles of the 19 players who were on the field that day, including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella. You will understand their backgrounds, their hopes, and their heartaches – and, most important, share the incredible tension they experienced on that unforgettable day in Yankee Stadium.
More than just a story about a single game, Perfect is a window into baseball’s glorious past.
Yankee Stadium – Don Larsen’s first pitch in the 5th game of the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Pee Wee Reese batting in his rookie year of 1940 (Baseball Hall of Fame). “We didn’t have too many guys who were afraid,” Reese later said of his Dodger teammates in those early years. “If you were afraid, you didn’t stay on the club.”
Enos Slaughter sliding across home plate after the “mad dash” to score the winning run for the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Yankee manager Casey Stengel hugs Billy Martin after the Yankee second baseman hit a single to drive in two runs in the 11th inning of a game against the Philadelphia Athletics on September 27, 1952 to enable the Yankees to win their fourth straight American League pennant (Corbis). “That fresh punk,” Stengel told reporters when Martin first joined the New York club in 1950, “how I love him.”
Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese in the locker room on 10/1/52 after each hit a home run to enable Brooklyn to win the first game of the '52 World Series against the Yankees (Baseball Hall of Fame). The Kentucky-born Reese made a point of putting his arm around Robinson on the field in a show of friendship when Robinson encountered vile racial epithets during his rookie year in '47. “After Pee Wee came over like that,” Robinson said many years later, “I never felt alone on a baseball field again.
Yogi Berra in the Yankee locker room (with pitcher Bob Turley in the background) (Baseball Hall of Fame). “We truly felt like a family, always pulling for each other,” Berra later said of his days with the Yankees.
Joe Collins in the locker room on September 8, 1955 after his two home runs accounted for all the Yankee runs in a 5-4 triumph over the Chicago White Sox (Corbis). “He was a terrific influence inside the clubhouse,” Tony Kubek later said of Collins because his good humor and even disposition.
Jackie Robinson stealing home in the first game of the 1955 World Series with Yogi Berra trying to apply the tag (Getty Images). Whenever he signed the photo in later years, Yogi would invariably add, “He was out!”
Sandy Amoros catching Yogi Berra’s fly ball in the seventh inning of the seventh game of the 1955 World Series at Yankee Stadium (Baseball Hall of Fame). “Lucky, lucky, I’m so lucky,” the Cuban-born Amoros later said in his broken English.
Gil McDougald with his unorthodox batting stance (Baseball Hall of Fame). The Yankee management winced when they saw it, but the great Rogers Hornsby, McDougald’s minor league manager, had no qualms. “If you feel comfortable batting the way you do,” he told his young protégé, “go ahead.”
Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer hold Bauer’s bat before a game on May 10, 1956 (Corbis). Mantle had been using Bauer’s bat and already had 10 home runs by that point in his march toward the triple crown (with 52 home runs).
Mickey Mantle hitting in a game at Yankee Stadium in 1956 (Corbis). He had to go through a ritual before every game of wrapping his right leg in tape because of prior injuries. “I watched him bandage that knee—that whole leg,” Cleveland pitcher Early Wynn later said when he and Mantle shared a locker room in an All-Star game, “and I saw what he had to go through every day to play. And now I’ll never be able to praise him enough.”
Sandy Amoros (Baseball Hall of Fame). Amoros hoped to enjoy retirement in his native Cuba, but his refusal to accept Fidel Castro’s request to manage a local team required him to migrate to the United States, where he lived in virtual poverty.
Andy Carey (Baseball Hall of Fame). Carey repeatedly rebuffed the requests of Casey Stengel – who generally wanted his players to be proficient at more than one position – to play shortstop as well as third base. “I’d rather be a good third baseman,” he told the Yankee manager, “than a mediocre shortstop.”
Roy Campanella (Baseball Hall of Fame). The rotund catcher had a way of relaxing Dodger pitchers with a short conference at the mound—which shortstop Pee Wee Reese invariably attended. “I don’t want to miss a word he says,” Reese once explained to a sportswriter. “He’s funnier than Bob Hope.”
Carl Furillo (Baseball Hall of Fame). Although respected by his teammates for his talents on the field—especially his rifle arm—Carl often felt hurt because the other Dodgers did not socialize much with him and his wife Fern. “We never suspected,” said Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine, “that he felt like an outsider.”
Jim Gilliam (Baseball Hall of Fame). In addition to his skills on the diamond, Gilliam was reputed to be one of baseball’s best pool players and would often throw a twenty dollar bill on the table and say, “Who wants part of the devil’s action?”
Gil Hodges (Baseball Hall of Fame). Hodges later said that his “biggest baseball thrill” was “the way the Brooklyn fans backed me when I couldn’t buy a base hit” during his hitting slump in the spring of 1953.
Sal Maglie (Baseball Hall of Fame). Maglie later complained that Mickey Mantle’s home run in the bottom of the fourth inning of the perfect game was “the shortest home run in baseball” and that, “in any other field, it would have been an out.”
Dale Mitchell (Baseball Hall of Fame). Mitchell loved the camaraderie on the Cleveland Indians but resented the pressure that General Manager Hank Greenberg put on him to hit more home runs.
Duke Snider (Baseball Hall of Fame). Home plate umpire Babe Pinelli (who retired after the 1956 World Series) told Snider years after Larsen’s perfect game “that he wanted to go out on a no-hitter in a World Series” and that “anything close was a strike.”
Yogi Berra hitting the 250th home run of his career on July 3, 1957 (Baseball Hall of Fame). Ted Williams would later say that, with his unorthodox batting style, Berra “gave hitting a bad name” but added that Yogi was also one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters because “he could move the runner, and move him late in the game, like no one else I ever saw play the game.”
Enos Slaughter—right before the start of the perfect game on October 8, 1956—posing with seven bats to reflect his seven hits as the leading Yankee hitter of the series in the first four games (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Jackie Robinson’s line drive is deflected off of Andy Carey’s glove to Gil McDougald, who fires to Joe Collins at first base just in time to beat Robinson to the bag in the top of the second inning of the perfect game (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Billy Martin back-pedals to catch Sandy Amoros’ pop fly in the top of the second inning as Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer watch (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Mickey Mantle catches Gil Hodges’ blast in the top of the fifth inning (Baseball Hall of Fame). Mantle later called it the “greatest” catch in his 18-year career.
Don Larsen throws the first pitch of the perfect game to Jim Gilliam with Yogi Berra catching and Babe Pinelli umpiring (Corbis).
The last pitch of the perfect game to Dale Mitchell, with Billy Martin watching from second base (Baseball Hall of Fame)er said of his Dodger teammates in those early years. “If you were afraid, you didn’t stay on the club.”
Dale Mitchell celebrates in the locker room at Fenway Park with Bob Lemon and Jim Hegan after driving in the run to win a game against the Boston Red Sox on May 4, 1950 (Courtesy of Dale Mitchell, Jr.). Mitchell always maintained that Larsen’s last pitch to him was out of the strike zone – and every Yankee on the field who could see the pitch (other than Larsen and Berra) agreed.
Yogi Berra leaps into Don Larsen’s arms after Dale Mitchell is called out on strikes (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Don Larsen in the locker room after the perfect game (Baseball Hall of Fame).
Praise for PERFECT
October 28, 2009 – Lisa Marie Latino, "The Yankee Princess", spoke with author Lew Paper at Mikey Mantle's Restaurant & Sports Bar in New York City.