LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (AP)-- Fifty-six years to the day Monday, Don Larsen walked into Yankee Stadium for Game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, having no idea he was about to create one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.
On a brisk, fall afternoon in 2012, in the heart of the Garden State, he reminisced about the effort.
"It was a beautiful day and I felt great," Larsen said. "I didn’t know whether or not I was going to pitch. I came to the stadium early and as usual, Moose Skowron and Hank Bauer were there early ahead of me. I got to my locker and saw a ball in my shoe. I guess (third base coach) Frankie Crosetti was told to put it there."
At that point, Larsen knew he was tabbed by manager Casey Stengel to start Game 5 with the series tied.
"I looked at the ball and took a big swallow," Larsen said. "I said to myself, ‘Don’t screw this one up.’ I’m just glad Casey had the faith in me to give me the ball."
Larsen, who spoke at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University, certainly did nothing wrong that fateful day, throwing the only perfect game in World Series history, helping the Yankees capture the 1956 World Series title. After the seven-game win, he earned the series MVP.
On the 56th anniversary of Larsen’s perfect game, Steiner Sports Memorabilia announced it will auction off the uniform that Larsen wore while pitching the game.
Larsen, 82, figured it was time to part with the jersey that he kept for several years in a closet in Idaho.
"I’ve been thinking about it for a bit," Larsen said. "I’m not getting any younger and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around. I have two grandchildren, one in college and the other is a freshman in high school. I want to be able to take care of them and make sure they can both go to college, which isn’t cheap these days.
"So, I figured it was the right time."
Larsen was asked if he could fathom that his uniform could draw more in an auction than he made in his career as a Major Leaguer.
"It wouldn’t take much," Larsen said. "Because I didn’t make much."
A Babe Ruth jersey went for $4.4 million last year, so Steiner anticipates such a historic relic to draw at least seven figures.
"I had only worn it three times, but we were entitled to keep it," Larsen said. "I kept in my closet and it was in great condition."
There was only one downside. The hat Larsen wore fell off when Berra jumped into his arms. It was never recovered.
"I was told it was picked up by some guy in New Jersey, then supposedly donated to the (Baseball) Hall of Fame," Larsen said. "Every picture I have of the day, my hat is gone."
Berra said that Larsen’s command was impeccable that day, as one would expect.
"He didn’t shake me off once," Berra said. "He was throwing pretty hard and had a good breaking ball that day. Everything was working for him."
Both pitcher and catcher remember it vividly, of course. Such an unforgettable moment on such an unforgettable day. The sentimentality, for sure, remains today.
"Yogi and I are the only ones left from that game," Larsen said. "I’ll never forget the day when I came to the Yankees. One of the things I knew, was that I was going to pitch to one of the greatest catchers ever. Yogi means as much to me today as he did then. As time goes on, it hasn’t been forgotten and it will never be forgotten even after we’re gone."
Berra said that he never dreamed that memorabilia from his playing days would become so valuable.
"If I knew then what I know now," he said, "I would have saved all my uniforms instead of giving them back. And I had a lot of them."