Don Larsen was a journeyman pitcher.
I always had the notion that he was an ace - probably among the best of his era. As a kid breathing baseball facts, I didn't dig deep enough.
Of course, he pitched a gem of a ball game just about 55 years ago. It was Game 5 of the World Series, Oct. 8, 1956. Larsen's New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen didn't allow a hit or a walk. It's the only time in World Series - wait, post-season history that a pitcher has accomplished this.
"Sometimes a week might go by when I don't think about that game, but I don't remember when it happened last." - Don Larsen, who turned 82 on August. 7.
Larsen was born in Michigan City, Ind., roughly 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. Michigan City is best known as a place for bargains on clothes and shoes courtesy of their swell outlet mall.
|This is my only Don Larsen card, acquired this Spring at a card show for $4.|
Larsen started in the majors in April 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. I had assumed he pitched most of his years with the Yankees. Not so.
His career arch:
- New York Yankees (1955-59)
- Kansas City Athletics (1960-61)
- Chicago White Sox (1961)
- San Francisco Giants (1962-64)
- Houston Colt .45s/Astros (1964-65)
- Baltimore Orioles (1965)
- Chicago Cubs (1967)
Described as gangly righthander, Larsen was called "Gooney Bird" by his teammates.
And he had a reputation for partying. Stengel: "The only thing he fears is sleep."
When Larsen crashed his car into a light pole in the middle of the night during spring training, after curfew, Stengel said, "He must have gone out to mail a letter."
Here's what he did after his history-making game, according to his words in a New York magazine piece earlier this year:
"The first stop was a place called Fifeto Squeri's, it was on 50th and Second Avenue; it was a little Italian place that I frequented. I knew the family. We had Champagne. It was a ball.
"Then, we went to a place called McAvoy's. I stopped in there with a bunch of my friends. We were just goofing around, having fun. That was on Lexington Avenue, downtown, or maybe just in town. You never know. New York's a big place.
And then we went to the Latin Quarter, I was with [sportswriter] Arthur Richman. Joe E. Lewis was performing - the comedian. We were there until late. I had to be on Dave Garroway's show the next morning. Early. Like six o'clock."
Don Larsen: A native Hoosier, journeyman pitcher and baseball legend.