Doc's no-no catches Larsen by surprise
Pitcher of 1956 perfect game sees similarities between feats
After 54 years, Don Larsen has some company. But he's not sure his peer group is big enough to hold meetings. Larsen, who threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, spoke Thursday in reaction to Roy Halladay's no-hitter Wednesday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Halladay joined Larsen as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter in the postseason.
"I don't think there's really a club there," said Larsen, joking as part of an interview with MLB Network. "I don't know the price of it."
Larsen, who pitched in five World Series during his 13-year career, might best be remembered for losing 21 games for the Orioles during the 1954 season if not for his perfect gem. The former Yankee finished his career with an 81-91 record, but he has been synonymous with perfection over the decades because of his star turn in Game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Indiana native had been knocked out in the second inning of his previous start, a Game 2 debacle that saw Larsen walk four batters and the Dodgers take a 2-0 lead in the series. Three days later, Larsen faced 27 hitters and retired them all en route to a 2-0 victory. The Yankees went on to win in seven games, and Larsen was named the World Series MVP.
So what does he remember about that day? Did he feel like he had no-hit stuff?
"Not really. I felt good," said Larsen, a two-time World Series champion. "It was a nice, beautiful day in the World Series. It worked out pretty nice. I never had a bit of control in all my life. And [having it] was probably the secret of my success that day."
Larsen said he didn't watch Halladay's victory, which gave Philadelphia a 1-0 edge over Cincinnati in the NLDS. He heard about it on the news when he got home, and he admitted to being caught by surprise. But when he began to turn it over in his mind, Larsen started to realize that he and Halladay might have had some similarities between their big events.
"I had a good slider, and I could throw hard," Larsen said. "But I think the most important thing for a pitcher to do is to have some nice control, to throw the ball approximately where the catcher would like to have it. In our day, we played a lot of series with the other clubs and we got to know them pretty well. ... And the catcher can really help you out. He knows the batters, and he faces them all the time, [he knows] the different stances they have. The catcher is probably the greatest asset a pitcher can have."
Larsen, of course, had a Hall of Famer behind the plate for his perfect game, Yogi Berra.
Larsen, 81, has gone five decades as the only member of a hallowed group, but he's more than happy to make room for Halladay. When asked what he would say to Halladay if they ever met, Larsen provided a hearty welcome.
"I would congratulate him on a nice day," Larsen said. "We work pretty hard to do something like this. These things come unexpected a lot of times, but they're welcome. I'll tell you that, and I'm glad I was a part of mine."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.