The Incredible Story of the Greatest Miracle in Baseball History
by Don Larsen
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I tried to do what Vin Scully had suggested to his viewers once I reached the pitching mound. I fiddled around with the rosin bag. It suddenly felt like it weighed 50 pounds. Then I walked around the back of the mound trying to calm myself. My stomach was jumpin’ and my head felt like it was going to burst wide open.
I watched Joe Collins throw ground balls to Billy, Gil, and Andy. They seemed pretty nonchalant, but I knew they were nervous as hell. Martin bobbled an easy chance. I’ll bet he hoped that wouldn’t happen if a grounder was hit to him.
I glanced up near the press boxes. I was sure the sportscasters were trying to figure out what type of ending they would write for this day. Writing about a near-no-hitter was one thing. If I could get through the ninth, their story would be one to tell about for years to come.
As I mentioned, I later had to tell reporters that while I knew I had a no-hitter going, I never thought about what was called a “perfect game.” I didn’t really even know what that was. And I had just a two-run lead. I just hoped to finish the game, get the victory, and get the hell out of Dodge.
It was great to learn later on that in addition to the pressure on me, my defensive fielders, the managers, and the Dodgers’ hitters, Vin Scully was nervous as hell. In a recent interview, he said:
In the early days of television . . . this was the fourth year for the Series . . . the press always said the television announcers talked too much. During the Series, I therefore tried to talk sparingly.Scully, who first debuted as a Dodger announcer in 1950, as a protégé of Red Barber, also remembered that he was restricted with what he could say about the potential for a no-hitter that memorable day.
“We talk about no-hitters all the time now, but not back then,” says Scully, who is head and shoulders above all of his colleagues in that he has broadcast the astounding number of 15 no-hitters and three perfect games. He added:
In 1956, we were afraid of garnering the wrath of the players and audience alike by talking about a no-hitter or perfect game. Therefore, I kept saying “That’s the 22nd consecutive batter Larsen’s retired” or something like that, but I never mentioned the no-hitter possibility.Scully also recalled that the first few innings of the fifth game were rather dull. “Mel [Allen] didn’t have much to say early on . . . since there were only the good defensive plays and Mantle’s home run.”
The veteran broadcaster added:
New York Daily Mirror writer Harold Rosenthal used to say he wanted to write a lead headline for a story. “It was a dull game . . . everybody struck out,” Scully recalls, “until the last couple of innings that’s what we had, because not much happened offensively.”Scully also said he was afraid he’d make the mistake of mentioning the possibility of a no-hitter or perfect game and then be blamed if someone broke it up.
In the 1947 Series, Red Barber was given a lot of flak when he mentioned that New York Yankee pitcher Bill Bevens had a no-hitter and then it was broken up. I remembered that game and kept saying to myself, “Please God, don’t let me make a mistake,” especially when we reached the ninth inning.After Game Five, Jesse Katz, a Philadelphia mathematician at the Remington Rand Univac Division of Sperry Rand compounded the probability of establishing the odds on my throwing a perfect game on October 8, 1956.
According to Katz, he used the Who’s Who in Baseball record book to figure out how frequently men got on base against me. Apparently he found that 34% reached first base.
Using this statistic and others, Katz figured that before I threw the first pitch of the game, the odds were against me, 76,000 to one. After six perfect innings, those odds dropped to 41-1, and after seven, 11-1.
Katz told reporters that at the end of eight perfect innings the odds had dropped to 2 to 1 against me pitching the perfect game. After one out, those odds switched to 13-10 against, and after two, the odds were finally 19-10 in favor of me retiring the final batter and pitching the no-hit/perfect game.
From The Perfect Yankee: The Incredible Story of the Greatest Miracle in Baseball History by Don Larsen with Mark Shaw.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Shaw. Excerpted with permission.