Don Larsen, who pitched perfect World Series game, dies at 90

Don Larsen, the journeyman pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory in 1956 for the Yankees when he threw a perfect game and only no-hitter in World Series history, died Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.Bill Kostroun / Associated Press / Files

Don Larsen, the only player to throw a perfect game in the World Series, died at the age of 90, his representative announced Wednesday night.

“The world is less ‘perfect’ today,” Andrew Levy’s tweet read. “Don Larsen, the only man to pitch a perfect game in World Series history, is gone. Goodbye, my friend. We will miss you!”

According to reports, Levy said Larsen died of esophageal cancer in Hayden, Iowa.

Born in Michigan City, Ind., on Aug. 7, 1929, Larsen posted a career 81-91 record with seven big-league clubs and won two World Series over 14 seasons with the Yankees. But he pitched his way into baseball lore on Oct. 8, 1956, when he retired all 27 Brooklyn Dodgers he faced as the New York Yankees won Game 5 by a 2-0 score before wrapping up the World Series in seven games.

The perfect game, which included seven strikeouts and ended with the iconic image of catcher Yogi Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms, came three days after Larsen lasted only 1 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, all unearned, as the Dodgers beat the Yankees 13-8 in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Don Larsen, who remained a welcome and familiar face at our annual Old-Timers’ Day celebrations in the decades following his playing career,” the Yankees said in a statement Wednesday night.

“Don’s perfect game is a defining moment for our franchise, encapsulating a storied era of Yankees success and ranking among the greatest single-game performances in Major League Baseball history. The unmitigated joy reflected in his embrace with Yogi Berra after the game’s final out will forever hold a secure place in Yankees lore. It was the pinnacle of baseball success and a reminder of the incredible, unforgettable things that can take place on a baseball field.

“The Yankees organization extends its deepest condolences to Don’s family and friends during this difficult time. He will be missed.”

Larsen was named Most Valuable Player of the 1956 World Series, then won another championship with the Yankees in 1958.

Larsen made his debut with the St. Louis Browns in 1953, then spent the next season with the Baltimore Orioles after the franchise relocated. After leading the majors with 21 losses in 1954, Larsen was traded to the Yankees in November of that year.

In five seasons with the Yankees, Larsen was 45-24 with a 3.50 ERA in 128 games with 90 starts. His best two seasons came in 1956 and ’57, when he won 11 and 10 games, respectively. Those were his only two seasons with double-digit victories.

Larsen pitched in 412 games in all in his career, starting 171. He struck out 849 and walked 725 in a career that saw him also play for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Houston Colt .45s, Kansas City Athletics and San Francisco Giants.

Larsen and Berra reunited to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999 — and Yankees starter David Cone proceeded to throw a perfect game against the Montreal Expos, the first perfect game ever thrown in interleague play.

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