Each Sunday, in remembrance of my friend and J.G Spink Award winner Nick Cafardo, I post “the Bill Chuck Files” (named by Nick in his Sunday Baseball Notes column)
Don Larsen‘s Perfect Game was the greatest single athletic event in sports history
Well, hopefully, that headline got your attention. Don Larson died New Year’s day of esophageal cancer on Wednesday in Hayden, Idaho at the age of 90. I believe that not only was Don Larsen’s feat unprecedented in baseball history but the most significant feat in all of sports history.
Some of you may mistakingly claim that Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game against the lowly Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania was a greater feat. There was no pressure for the great Chamberlain in that high school gym and his teammates were feeding him the ball. USA over Russia in Olympic hockey and Argentina over the USA in Olympic basketball are worthy competitors for greatest upsets, but not the greatest athletic feat. Bob Beamon’s thin air 1968 Olympic long jump is also an unworthy candidate for the magnitude by which he broke the prior record, but Mike Wells broke Beamon’s record in 1991.
Larson’s feat can only be equaled, never bettered and it has never even been equaled. Take the perfection aspect away and since the start of the Series play, no other pitcher has thrown a no-hitter.
And Larsen’s no-hitter was not against hitless wonders. The Dodgers lineup was comprised of Hall of Famers and all-time greats:
|Jim Gilliam 2B||3|
|Pee Wee Reese SS||3|
|Duke Snider CF||3|
|Jackie Robinson 3B||3|
|Gil Hodges 1B||3|
|Sandy Amoros LF||3|
|Carl Furillo RF||3|
|Roy Campanella C||3|
|Sal Maglie P||2|
|Dale Mitchell PH||1|
He no-hit the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers in a must-win Game Five with the Series tied two games apiece. And it was a close game throughout. Sal Maglie was perfect against the Yankees through three innings, until the bottom of the 4th with two outs, Mickey Mantle homered. Then in the top of the 6th, Andy Carey led off with a single, Larsen sacrificed him to second, and Hank Bauer singled him home to give New York a 2-0 lead. That completed the scoring.
The date was October 8, 1956, in front of 64,519 fans at Yankee Stadium, and Larsen threw 97 pitches. Only 23 pitchers in MLB history have thrown perfect games, Larsen’s was number sixth and the only one in the World Series.
- Larsen allowed no baserunners, the closest any other complete game pitcher in the World Series were Jim Lonberg and Claude Passeau, who each allowed a walk and a hit.
- There have only been 91 complete-game shutouts in World Series history, none since 2014.
- There have only been 12 complete-game shutouts in World Series history, in which two hits or fewer were allowed; none since 1971.
- There have only been 14 complete-game shutouts in World Series history, in which no walks were allowed; only one since 1985 (Madison Bumgarner in 2014).
- Larsen’s masterpiece is the only complete-game in Series history in which the opponent was shutout and held to three hits or fewer without a walk allowed.
- In World Series history, there have been one no-hitter (Larsen), three one-hitters (Claude Passeau in 1945, Bill Bevens in 1947 – a game he lost, and Jim Lonborg in 1967), and 14 two-hitters.
- There have been 52 complete-game wins (including Larsen’s in 1956) in the pivotal Game 5 of the World Series. Of the 52 CG, 14 were shutouts. In 1971, Nelson Briles threw a two-hit shutout (walking 2) which is the second-fewest hit-total allowed. Bumgarner’s Game 5 in 2014 was the only other walkless CG in Game 5 shutouts.
- In 1957, Lew Burdette won Game 5, 1-0, throwing a CG over the defending World champion Yankees. There have been ten complete games in Game 5 in which the winning pitcher had the support of two runs, seven were shutouts including Larsen’s 2-0 win.
The Improving White Sox and Reds
It’s so good to see the White Sox and Reds making efforts to end their years of decline and work to make the postseason. The last time the Reds and White Sox reached the postseason in the same year was 101 years ago in 1919 when the Reds won the best of nine Series, five games to three. It may have been the most memorable of all Series as the Black Sox scandal arose from it and changed baseball forever.
The Reds add Shogo Akiyama
Cincinnati may have found the answer to both their centerfield and leadoff concerns by adding Shogo Akiyama from the Seibu Lions. The Reds had been the only major league club that never had a Japanese player on its active roster. Shogo was the Lions team captain and clearly led by example playing in each of the Lions 143 games the past five seasons.
Most wins in NCAA baseball in the Ten-Teens
The honor goes to the Louisville Cardinals with 470 wins edging out the Vanderbilt University Commodores who had 464 wins.
Maybe home runs don’t put fannies in the seats.
Your team’s choice of Pepsi-Colas, Coca-Colas, or Oscar Colas
Outfielder/pitcher Oscar Colás, one of the best prospects to emerge from Cuba in years, has defected and will seek a deal with a major league team, sources familiar with his plans tell ESPN. Colás, 21, played in Japan last year and hit .302/.350/.516. He’s a LHP up to 95, too.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 3, 2020
Jake Lamb, Addison Russell, Scott Kingery, and Don Larsen all have career .242 batting averages. Larsen hit 14 homers and drove home 72. “One thing I remember is that he was a really good hitter,” said former Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson who played with Larsen. “I remember on a couple of occasions that he actually batted above a couple of the infielders, and hit seventh or eighth (in the batting order as opposed to the customary ninth for pitchers).”That happened to me one time too, and I didn’t like it, but I also knew Don was a better hitter than I was so I couldn’t say much about it,” joked Richardson.