On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base. Larsen’s performance anchored his team’s third-straight win against their cross-town rivals the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yanks ended up winning the championship, the last all-New York World Series until 2000, in seven games.
Larsen was an uneven pitcher, and before the 1956 championship he was mostly known for being a hard drinker and an enthusiastic carouser. Because of a bad start in the second game of the World Series, he wasn’t even sure he’d pitch another game. In fact, he found out he’d be heading to the mound in Game 5 when he got to the clubhouse on the morning of October 8 and found that manager Casey Stengel had left a ball in his locker, wedged inside his cleat.
But that night, in front of a crowd of 61,519 people at Yankee Stadium, Don Larsen found his muse. He retired 27 batters–among them future Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, along with the always-dangerous Gil Hodges–in 97 pitches. There were a few defensive close calls, though. In the second inning, Robinson socked a grounder right toward the third baseman; the ball bounced off his glove but, fortuitously, headed right for shortstop Gil McDougald, who managed to toss it to first just in time. In the fifth, minutes after Mickey Mantle homered to right field and put the Bombers up 1-0, Hodges sent a ball deep into left center–a sure homer in today’s Yankee Stadium–but Mantle bolted across the outfield for an impossible backhanded catch. In the very next play, Sandy Amoros hit a line drive that would have tied the game if it hadn’t swerved foul. And in the eighth, Hodges cracked another one–this one a low line drive that third baseman Andy Carey managed to snag just inches from the ground.
The last batter of the game was Dale Mitchell, the Dodgers’ pinch hitter. He fouled off the 1-2 pitch and then watched the third strike, a fastball, hurtle over the center of the plate. Ump Babe Pinelli called it. The game was over; the Yanks had won.
Larsen stayed in New York for three more years, until, in the deal that brought the Yankees Roger Maris, the team traded him to the Kansas City A’s. He pitched for eight teams in all and finished with a career 81-91 record (4-2 in the World Series) and a 3.78 ERA. After he retired, he worked for 24 years as a salesman for a San Jose paper company. His perfect game is still the only one in World Series history.