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On This Date in Sports October 8, 1956: Perfection in the World Series

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitches the first Perfect Game in postseason history, giving the Yankees a 2-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Larsen had started Game 2 and was shelled. He did not know he was selected to start until he arrived at the stadium and saw the ball in his locker. The win gave the Yankees a 3-2 series lead as they beat the Dodgers in seven games, with Don Larsen earning MVP honors. 

The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had become the Legends of Fall by 1955. It was the seventh meeting the two teams had since 1941, and this included four times in five years from 1952-1956. The Yankees won the first five of the World Series matchups, with the Dodgers finally breaking through in 1955. The Yankees cruised to the World Series for the seventh time in eight years by posting a record of 97-57 for Casey Stengel, as Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown and MVP. Meanwhile Brooklyn, led by Walter Alston, held off the rising Milwaukee Braves and Cincinnati Redlegs to win the National League pennant with a record of 93-61. 


The Dodgers were the first team to lose the first two games of the World Series and win in 1955, taking Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. They looked to continue that momentum as the 1956 World Series began at Ebbets Field. Sal Maglie made the start for Brooklyn, while Whitey Ford was on the mound for the Yankees. The Yankees got off to a great start with a two-run home run by Mickey Mantle in the first inning. The Dodgers answered back in the second inning as Jackie Robinson, nearing retirement, hit a home run, and Carl Furillo had an RBI double. Brooklyn took a 5-2 lead in the third inning on a three-run homer by Gil Hodges. Billy Martin homered in the fourth, but the Dodgers would win the opener 6-3. 

In Game 2, the Yankees had Don Larsen on the mound. The Yankees picked up Larsen following the 1954 season, in which he struggled severely, posting a record of 3-21 for the Baltimore Orioles. Larsen went 9-2 for the Yankees in 1955 and 11-5 in 1956. He was opposed by Don Newcombe, who had won the MVP and the first Cy Young Award in 1956. The Yankees jumped all over Newcombe, taking a 6-0 in the second inning as Yogi Berra hit a grand slam. Larsen, meanwhile, had trouble finding the plate as he walked four. The Dodgers took advantage, scoring six runs to tie the game, with Duke Snider providing the big blast with a three-run homer. With the bullpens taking over, Don Bessent helped his own cause with a go-ahead single in the third. After the Yankees tied the game on an Enos Slaughter sac-fly in the fourth, the Dodgers took a 9-7 lead on a two-run double by Gil Hodges. Hodges added another two-run double in the fifth as Brooklyn went on to win the game 13-8.


Down 2-0, the Yankees faced a must-win Game 3 as the series shifted to the Bronx. Whitey Ford pitching on two days rest made the start for the Yankees, while Roger Craig started for the Dodgers. After the Dodgers got a run in the second, the Yankees answered with a home run by Billy Martin. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but Enos Slaughter hit a three-run bomb to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the inning. The Yankees would go on to win the game 5-3. In Game 4, the Dodgers had Carl Erskine on the mound against Tom Sturdivant. This game was all Yankees, as they won 6-2 to even the series behind home runs from Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle. 

With the series tied 2-2, the Yankees needed to continue the momentum, but Casey Stengel was undecided on a starting pitcher. He decided to call upon Don Larsen, letting him know by placing a baseball inside his spikes at his locker just before the game. The Dodgers had Sal Maglie on the mound. Larsen showed early dominance striking out Jim Gilliam and Pee Wee Reese to start the game. He struck out four batters as he set down the first nine. Sal Maglie also retired the first nine batters. In the fourth inning, Mickey Mantle gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with a home run; he was the first baserunner of the game. In the fifth inning, Mantle made the defensive play of the game, running down a ball struck by Gil Hodges in deep centerfield. In the sixth, the Yankees added a second run on a Hank Bauer single, as Don Larsen closed in on history. Larsen had six strikeouts as he set down the first 24 batters. Furillo flew out to left as Roy Campanella grounded out. Dal Mitchell was Brooklyn's last hope pinch-hitting for Maglie. On a ball that appeared to be outside, Mitchell was called out looking to end the Perfect Game, as Yogi Berra leaped into the arms of Don Larsen. Babe Pinelli, a top-rated umpire, was behind home plate and was set to retire after the series and likely got caught up in the moment.

Following the first World Series Perfect Game, the series returned to Brooklyn for Game 6. It was an old-fashioned pitchers' duel as Clem Labine, and Bob Turley both went nine innings without allowing a run. Both pitchers went into the tenth inning, with the Dodgers winning 1-0 on a single by Jackie Robinson. It was the final hit of Jackie's career. 

Don Newcombe got the start for Brooklyn in Game 7, as Johnny Kucks started for the Yankees. Yogi Berra gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead in the first inning with a home run. Berra had a second home run in the third inning to make it 4-0 as he played to an MVP level but was overshadowed by the Don Larsen Perfect Game. Elston Howard chased Newcombe with a solo home run in the fourth, while Moose Skowron blew the game open with a Grand Slam in the seventh. The Yankees won 9-0 as Kucks pitched a three-hitter.


It would be the final World Series played in Brooklyn, as the Dodgers announced a move to Los Angeles the following season. There would not be another Subway World Series until 2000. However, the Yankees and Dodgers have met four times since, with Los Angeles winning in 1963 and 1981, while the Yankees won in 1977 and 1978. Since the Perfect Game, there has been just one other postseason No-Hitter by Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 NLDS.