Few of us have the chance to achieve perfection.
Don Larsen did, 56 years ago, earlier this month, in sports.
A unremarkable pitcher for the N.Y. Yankees, Larsen pitched a perfect game – no hits, no walks, no men on base at all – in the 5th game of the 1956 World Series, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Sal Maglie, an outstanding player who pitched an outstanding two-run five–hitter that day.
Larsen’s performance – the only perfect game or no-hitter in World Series history, and one of two dozen perfect games ever pitched in major league history – gained him baseball immortality. During his 15-year career for seven teams, he compiled a 81-91 won-loss record.
After retiring from the sport, he worked as a liquor salesman and as an executive of a paper company. Unlike today’s sports stars, he never became wealthy.
Known during his playing days for his love of New York City’s nightlife, Larsen demonstrated recently that he has matured.
On the anniversary of his greatest achievement in uniform, Larsen, 83, made headlines for an altruistic reason. Steiner Sports Memorabilia announced that it will auction off the uniform – No. 18 – that Larsen wore on Oct. 8, 1956.
The sale is expected to bring at least $1 million, and Larsen said he will use the proceeds to pay for his two grandchildren’s college education.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” he said. “I’m not getting any younger. I figured it was the right time.”
Besides the ball that in his right hand made history 56 years ago, Larsen’s uniform is probably his most-prized baseball possession. “I kept it in my closet and it was in great condition.”
In Judaism, one of the most-prized possessions is a Torah scroll, but it can be sold, according to Jewish tradition, to redeem a captive from slavery or to pay for an indigent bride’s wedding. Or to pay for someone’s Jewish education. In other words, for a noble purpose.
Larsen understands that.
In the autumn of a life that earned a place in baseball’s record book in the Fall Classic, he showed that his judgment, like his performance on the diamond 56 years ago, was perfect.