Don Larsen became an unlikely legend in 9 perfect innings



At the end of his career, Larsen had established himself as an older statesman. He logged time with the Athletics, the White Sox, the Giants, the Astros, the Orioles and the Cubs. He faced the Yankees as a Giants helper in the 1962 World Series and helped three years later to coach a young Jim Palmer with Baltimore.

"He was a huge guy, very quietly speaking, a really nice man," said Palmer, the pitcher of the Hall of Fame, over the phone on Thursday, recalling a time when manager Hank Bauer Larsen called Yankee Stadium to call for a game that he had called the wrong pitcher.

"Nine years ago he had played the biggest game in World Series history, and now he comes in and Hank says," No, I don't want you, you have to go back to the Bullpen. " Palmer said. "But he was the guy – it didn't bother him. He was a gentle giant."

Palmer played on the hill in the 1970s, a decade in which no pitcher delivered a perfect game. The feat was accomplished only 23 times and Larsen was the only one between 1922 (Charlie Robertson) and 1964 (Jim Bunning).

Two other Yankees – David Wells in 1998 and David Cone in 1999 – did it, and Larsen had a connection to both. Larsen and Wells both attended Point Loma High School in San Diego, and Larsen threw Berra ceremonial first place on Cone's Jewel Day.

"Coney set up his in July and Wells set up his in May," said Torre, "and if it had been the other way around, none of them would have done it because Coney needed the warm weather to stay relaxed , and Wells needed the cool weather to stay away from getting exhausted. I think the stars have to be aligned. "