Don Larsen, Yankee Stadium, September 21, 2008

Even if he was not recognizable in an instant
(As who is he was—no, is—and what he has done
Has only deepened in impact and import over time)
There is still the bearing, the certain set of the jaw,
Clearly marking him as someone
Who has achieved something, has been something,
His ease in this space, seemingly unperturbed
By the setting, the crowd, the donning of the pinstripes
(Though consciously wearing them a bit loose,
The modern fabrics not as becoming to one of a certain age)
Is betrayed, just slightly, by the manner in which
He scoops some dirt from the mound;
There is just the touch of a frantic archaeology in his movements,
As if he is seeking to unearth some relic,
Some talisman providing protection and preservation ,
Or perhaps it is simply the recognition of how inextricable the bond is
Between this small patch of ground and his very being,
Its utter annihilation unthinkable, unspeakable to him,
Though this bit of earth is, on its face,
No different from some ball field off the Fordham Road,
Or the small circles of dirt surrounding the trees
Hard by the new stadium (their existence a conditional thing,
Dependent on the haggling between green space and parking spots),
Clinging to their green leaves for a few more days
Before their brief explosion of brilliance
Which are the harbingers of cold November.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece, such as it is, was inspired by this post at Archived Innings , which is required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the Great American Game.


19 thoughts on “Don Larsen, Yankee Stadium, September 21, 2008

  1. Great job, man.
    It’s sometimes forgotten that Larsen faced 4 Hall of Famers (Snider, Campanella, Robinson, Reese) in the game. That’s half the non-pitchers, which makes it even more special.

    1. I would never pick on another writer, and the Philippe poem is a very nice travelogue of the event–but to my way of thinking, it skirts the nub of the whole thing, that a guy like Don Larsen is the guy who throws a World Series perfecto, and how it changes him and our perception of him.

  2. Well, I like this poem for its language but also because I understand it.
    Your best line is “frantic archaeology,” a phrase that stopped me.
    To pitch a perfect game must be like throwing the brass ring through the clown’s mouth and having the entire arcade light up and having the master announce to the revelers that a small girl has done the impossible: once in a lifetime.

    Well, all exaggeration aside, I wonder how often pitchers throw perfect games in a career.

    1. It’s only been done a handful of times in all of the games history, and only once in the World Series–and not by Koufax, or Bob Gibson, or Clayton Kershaw, or Walter Johnson, or any other pitcher in the game’s Valhalla, but by Don Larsen, who was ordinary as ordinary gets (if you can call anyone who made it to the show ordinary).

  3. Kind of reminds me how there have been many ordinary players who’ve done extraordinary things. The first one after this that comes to mind is the night that second baseman Jim Mason of the Yankees hit three triples in one game. (I was listening to this game on WMCA in New York City. I think it was 1974.) Also, when utility second baseman Mike Phillips of the Mets hit for the cycle at Wrigley Field. (I was watching that one in the Color TV department of some department store.)


  4. The prior one, the one with Mike Phillips of the Mets hitting for the cycle, was in either the summer of 1975 or 1976. I was glad because Mike Phillips was one of my favorite Met players at the time.


    1. Jim Mason and Mike Phillips…man, does that take me back. Phillips was one of those guys who wasn’t great at anything, the type of guy you don’t think you need until he’s not around–kinda like Joe Orsulak.

  5. You capture brilliantly the echoes of past sporting triumph.

    At the Oval in 1956 Surrey played against the Australian touring cricket team. Jim Laker, a renowned spin bowler, dismissed the Australians for a record-breaking 10 wickets for 88 runs. He followed this a few days later with further records that still stand.

    At the time, I wrote a “poem” for school homework and was justifiably reprimanded for rhyming “Laker” with “10 for 88er did he a-taker”.

    His achievement and his memory still live fresh in my mind.

          1. At last! Someone who does not snigger at my typical level of achievement.

            Mediocre means “better than some”. Well, I must be some.

  6. your words…the details like a face chiseled into a mountains side, the right face, not some forgettable and murderous president, but a pitcher who as you say “not recognizable in an instant.” Reminds me that Larson was in attendance ( I think?) when David ice cream Cone tossed his perfect game at the Yankee Stadium. Time to go back and watch that Cone game on youtube…in search of Larson’s reaction.

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