On Oct. 8, 1956, Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series and MLB playoff history. Sixty years later, that milestone still stands strong. It’s a mark that may last forever, and one that most baseball fans will remember Larsen for. The 87-year-old himself actually remembers it every single day.
“I probably think about it at least 10, 20 times a day,” Larsen told me on “The Jake Brown Show” on CBS Radio’s Play.it. “You know I get into wondering things or read the paper or this and that or watch the other sports when I read or watch it on TV. It automatically comes to me.”
That 1956 New York Yankees team beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Fall Classic that year. That Yankees team was stacked with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and, of course, the late Yogi Berra. The Hall of Fame catcher was instrumental to that perfect game.
“Well, Yogi knew those guys well before I did, and the secret that day was control,” Larsen said. “I never had such good control. And where he wanted it, I threw it pretty close, and we had good luck — except for a few bloopers, and the defense took care of that. And the game went pretty quick and fast. Nobody had too much time to think about what was going on or I didn’t get wild or have everybody a little impatient. So it went pretty smooth, and I was very pleased about that fact and I’m glad that I’m a part of it.”
What was amazing is the fact that Larsen averaged more than four walks per nine innings. For that day, in a critical game in the World Series, his control was flawless. It’s even more impressive that he didn’t know he was starting that day until he got to his locker, hours prior to the game.
“Well, I didn’t do anything different. I just felt … good as always — you know in the Fall Classic, you got no time to feel bad,” Larsen told me. “You just try and go out and do your best and hope you come out on top. It’s just one of those days that I had very good control, and I never had control like that before or after.”
Players today gets hundreds of thousands of dollars after winning a World Series. In 1956, Larsen got just over $8,000.
“Yeah, $8,700 or something like that. The most we ever got,” said Larsen. “Look at today. They get two or three hundred thousand dollars each. I used it on Christmas and stuff like that, so I treated the family a little bit. You know, I enjoyed myself. I didn’t go goofy. Save a little bit of it.”
Larsen also commented on PED use in baseball, and to go along with most old-timers, he isn’t a fan of it.
“I’m not fond of that. I’m not familiar with that stuff. That ruins your life,” Larsen said. “I think they’re very nuts and goofy to do something like that. They’re destroying themselves and family and everything. You never come back from that stuff. Too many bad things happen from it. And then you’re drinking with it and stuff like that. It’s no good. It’s a bad thing.”
Larsen also believes players today aren’t in the same shape that they were in when he played.
“Well, I don’t think the guys are in great shape. I don’t know what they do,” he said. “And they come out of spring training, and they’re on the disabled list. You know, we worked pretty hard in the spring training. I loved spring training … to see everybody again. … You don’t see guys ever doing extra activity anymore today, period. I don’t know what the hell they do.”
Larsen is currently auctioning out a ton of memorabilia with Steiner Sports from his perfect game and his entire career. The online auction continues through Oct. 23. You can go HERE to bid.
Jake Brown is the digital program manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports and CBS Local. You can catch him on “The Jake Brown Show” on CBS Radio’s Play.it, iTunes and Spotify. It’s a weekly sports show mixed in with a bit of entertainment and multiple interviews. Jake lives in Queens, and being a Mets fan is finally paying off.