Piece of Baseball History for Sale

By Cowen, Richard | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), October 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Piece of Baseball History for Sale


Cowen, Richard, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


Fifty-six years later, Don Larsen is still the tall, enigmatic right-hander with the wild streak: "the imperfect man who pitched the perfect game," in the words of sportswriter Dick Young. And Yogi Berra is still his catcher, the stocky man with the big ears, and the receiver of all baseball wisdom.

The picture of Berra leaping into the arms of Larsen at the end of the perfect game is one of the great images in American sports. Through the years, the two have been inseparable, appearing at baseball card shows to sign autographs together.

"I sign for him, he signs for me," Berra said.

On Monday, 56 years to the day since Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, pitcher and catcher were together at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University. The reunion marked the start of a 56-day online auction of the Yankees pinstripe uniform that Larsen wore on the afternoon of Oct. 8, 1956, the day he faced 27 Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series and retired every one of them.

Larsen, now 83, said he wants to auction off the uniform and give the money to his two grandchildren for college. Larsen's uniform will be on display at the museum alongside the one that Berra wore that day until the auction is over.

"I'm not getting any younger, and I want to see them graduate from college," Larsen said of his two grandchildren, Justin, 20, and Cody, 14. "It's a fun family and I'd like to take care of them."

Standing next to him was his old battery mate, Berra, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame whose No. 8 was long ago retired by the Yankees.

Berra, now 87, could still recall that warm October day when Larsen took the mound.

"He had a good fastball and a good curve that day," Berra said in an understatement that bordered on a Yogism.

Larsen didn't want to venture a guess as to what his uniform would be worth on the auction block; estimates are that it could fetch as much as $1 million. The uniform that Berra wore catching Larsen sold at auction a few years ago for $565,000.

The auction, which is being conducted by Steiner Sports Memorabilia, begins at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday and runs through Dec. 5. Fans can follow the bidding on a minute-by-minute basis at steinersports.com.

Larsen wasn't a great pitcher. He was a journeyman who played 14 seasons with the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Yankees, Kansas City Athletics, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, compiling a lifetime record of 81 wins and 91 losses. He pitched until 1967 and never earned more than $20,000 in a season.

But no pitcher in baseball history had ever been "perfect" in the World Series.

Larsen, who was living at the Grand Concourse Hotel a few blocks from Yankee Stadium, didn't even know he was going to pitch that day. He had been roughed up in Game 2 of the series, giving up four runs and four walks in less than two innings before being relieved. …

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