Former MLB Pitcher Don Larsen Dies at 90

The 'everlasting image' of catcher Yogi Berra leaping into Don Larsen's embrace after Larsen's perfect game in 1956.
Source: greensboro.com

The 'everlasting image' of catcher Yogi Berra leaping into Don Larsen's embrace after Larsen's perfect game in 1956. Source: greensboro.com

Jacob Chaimovitch

On New Years Day 2020, former MLB Pitcher Don Larsen was found dead after a battle with esophageal cancer; he was 90 years old. During a fruitful career that spanned across 15 years while on seven different teams, he finished with an 81-91 record, a 3.78 ERA, and 849 strikeouts. However, he is most famous for Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, where he pitched the first and only perfect game in World Series history.

Don James Larsen was born in Michigan City, Indiana on August 7th, 1929. He played for several of the St. Louis Browns’ minor league teams from 1947-51 before he was drafted to the United States Army in light of the Korean War. His MLB career didn’t start until 1953. At the end of the next season, Larsen was dealt to the New York Yankees as part of a massive 17-player trade. He struggled in 1955 with the Yankees but blossomed the next year. At the end of the 1956 campaign, his 11-5 record, 3.27 ERA, and 107 strikeouts were all personal bests. The Yankees would march into the playoffs and meet their cross-borough rivals: the Brooklyn Dodgers.

With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 was treated as a high-stakes game; it would break the tie and give one team the lead in the World Series with one game left to win to win it all. Don Larsen was slated to take the mound for the Yankees while Sal Maglie, who also had a phenomenal year, took the mound for the Dodgers. Mickey Mantle’s home run in the 4th inning and an added insurance run in the 6th inning was all the Yankees could manage. However, Larsen was firing on all cylinders that game as he went on to throw the only perfect game in World Series history and, at the time, the only no-hitter in postseason history (Roy Halladay would throw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in 2010). Larsen was named World Series MVP for the eventual World Series Champions.

Larsen’s career with the Yankees would end after the 1959 season when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics. He was traded to several other teams as his career went on, including to the Chicago White Sox, Houston Colt .45s, and the San Fransisco Giants. He retired in 1967 and became an executive at a paper company. Larsen’s death came as a little bit of a shock to the MLB community and he will be missed dearly by baseball fans across the country.