Don Larsen knew during Game 5 of the 1956 World Series that something was different, that he had something special going.
The New York Yankees hurler had been rocked in Game 2 against the Brooklyn Dodgers, surrendering four unearned runs in just 1.2 innings before manager Casey Stengel pulled him.
Now, he knew he had a no-hitter going. Pitchers often know this. But Larsen wouldn’t find out until someone told him afterward in the locker room that he’d pitched a perfect game.
Sixty years to the day of his accomplishment, the now 87-year-old Larsen spoke by phone with Dugout Legends.
“Secret of my game that day was my control. I never had such good control in my whole life,” Larsen said. “Everything that Yogi put down, I came pretty close to it.”
Future Hall of Fame catcher Berra called mostly sliders and fastballs, framing the game masterfully.
“I never shook him off, we never talked much,” Larsen said. “Why mess up a good thing?”
Stengel never visited the mound either, or said anything to Larsen. As noted in Marty Appel’s team history, Pinstripe Empire, Frankie Crosetti had let Larsen know he’d be pitching that day by placing a baseball in his shoe in the locker room.
It was a fast game by today’s standards, just two hours and six minutes according to Baseball-Reference.com, with opposing pitcher Sal Maglie also throwing a beauty and the Yankees winning 2-0.
“The game went pretty quickly, which I liked,” Larsen said. “Everybody likes a nice game going fast and comfortable, and the results were good.”
There were a few close calls. A line drive by Jackie Robinson in the second inning deflected off the glove of third basemen Andy Carey, with shortstop Gil McDougald fielding it and retiring him. Later, Mickey Mantle chased down a Gil Hodges’ flyball in the vast left-center of old Yankee Stadium.
“That probably would have been a home run in any park today.”
As the game wore on, the other Yankees observed time-honored traditions for teammates in the midst of throwing a no-hitter.
“Nobody would talk to me,” Larsen said. “It was very quiet in later innings.”
Finally, it ended with Larsen striking out Dale Mitchell looking.
“I was very glad when it was over, when Yogi jumped on me,” Larsen said. “We were all happy. My mind probably went blank. Maybe my mind still is blank. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it ever happened.”
An endless array of questions from media awaited Larsen in the clubhouse, which would be followed by a night on the town with friend and New York Daily Mirror sportswriter Arthur Richman.
He said he doesn’t remember who told him he’d pitched a perfect game.
When he was getting ready to leave Yankee Stadium, he knew he had one phone call to make.
“I couldn’t wait to get out of there,” Larsen said. “I finally got out of there and went back to the hotel, called my mom, said, ‘You know, a good thing happened.’ She didn’t watch the game but everyone told her about it.”