As one-of-a-kind item goes up for sale, Larsen, Wolff share the moment
Fifty-six years later, Don Larsen pulls at the jersey one last time. Bob Wolff joins him. Neither has forgotten what it means to be perfect, and with each tug at the off-white pinstripes, neither seems to want to let go anytime soon.
It is a perfectly normal summer morning in New York City, except for these two passengers of history, who, standing side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, have been reunited once more to celebrate their shared, everlasting, once-in-a-lifetime moment.
The day they’re celebrating – October 8, 1956 – seemed normal enough, too. Don Larsen arrived at the ballpark for Game Five of the 1956 World Series that morning unsure of what lay ahead, or if he would even have any part in it. The then-27 year old was coming off a rough performance in Game Two, when he had been removed from the game after walking four of the ten batters he faced.
“I didn’t know if I was going to start until I came to the park,” remembers Larsen, 82. “If you were starting, [Third Base Coach Frankie] Crosetti would put the ball in your shoe, in your locker.”
The ball was there. Two hours and six minutes later – a New York Minute by today’s standards – Don Larsen was one strike away from the first perfect game in World Series history. Then, Dale Mitchell tried to check his swing, umpire Babe Pinelli punched him out, Yogi Berra leapt, the Dodgers wept – and all of a sudden, October 8, 1956 was the last normal day of Don Larsen’s life.
He’s still celebrating.
“I think about it everyday,” he says. “I can’t help it. I shouldn’t. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Bob Wolff might say the same.
“It was a big break for me,” Wolff says, “To get my first World Series, and then after that, the Larsen no-hitter. That was a big point in my career right there. Still is.”
Shortly after the 1956 World Series, NBC hired Wolff to be their Game of the Week announcer. At 91 years old, Wolff hasn’t stopped announcing since.
“I’ve broadcasted thousands of games, in other sports as well. But you go through life, and you’re only remembered for one or two.”
“The others are on the resume, but they don’t really count.”
Over a legendary career spanning 73 years, Wolff has covered each of the four major sports, been honored by both the Baseball and Basketball Halls-of-Fame, and has called more professional sporting events than anyone else. But Wolff is forever remembered for calling Larsen’s perfect game, and for his own, perfectly simple call at its conclusion.
“A no-hitter!” An excited Wolff yelped. “A perfect game for Don Larsen!”
“Every year at this time is like Christmas to me,” Wolff says. “Every year at this time, Don makes me famous again.”
Wolff and Larsen meet about once a year, usually the week of Old-Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, so today should have also been a perfectly normal reunion; that is, if not for the one-of-a-kind uniform dangling from a mannequin just a few feet away, lending tangible figure to Larsen’s unfathomable achievement.
When Yogi jumped on me…I probably still haven’t woken up,” says Larsen with a pause. “The world left my shoulders then.”
Now, the jersey that sat atop Larsen’s shoulders that day is leaving too.
Larsen’s game-worn uniform from the perfect game – which was only used in a game once and includes the perfect pants as well – will make this October 8th particularly special. In conjunction with Steiner Sports Memorabilia, Larsen has decided to sell the piece – which is in excellent condition (Larsen: “It’s pretty clean. Not many spots.”) – in order to finance college tuition for his two grandchildren.
On the 56th anniversary of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Steiner will begin a 56-day auction of Larsen’s uniform on their website.
When asked how much he hopes the uniform will sell for, Larsen didn’t hesitate.
“A million,” he said. “Why go cheap?”
For their part, Steiner (who is celebrating their own 25-year anniversary this year) expects to sell the jersey for at least that much.
But just because Larsen’s ready to let go of his finest souvenir doesn’t mean he won’t miss it.
“Oh, yes, ” he says. “But it’s still mine. I’m still inside it.”
Now, someone else will get a chance to try on history.
Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto.com, as well as a contributing writer for SteinerSports, AthlonSports and Digital Refrain. Follow him on Twitter @TheFanManifesto.