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Is This the Most Famous World Series Game Ever Played?,
This review is from: Perfect: Don Larsen's Miraculous World Series Game and the Men Who Made It Happen (Hardcover)
Would it be possible to write a fairly lengthy (360 pages) non-fiction book about a single baseball game? Some would probably be skeptical. Others would say a definite "no". Author Lew Paper would not agree, and to prove them wrong, he has done just that. His book, PERFECT: DON LARSEN'S MIRACULOUS WORLD SERIES GAME AND THE MEN WHO MADE IT HAPPEN, recounts a most unique game in major league baseball history: the only perfect game in World Series play (1903 to the present).
The day (afternoon games in those days) was Monday, October 8, 1956. The place: fabled Yankee Stadium in the Bronx section of New York City with 64,519 paying customers on hand. The teams who geared up for combat (baseball style) were the best in the US: New York's American League Yankees with their glitzy record of 16 World Series triumphs against the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers, the loveable but considerably less successful "Bums" (only one World Series triumph). The best of seven series was tied at two games each, and Game 5 would feature a pitching match between Brooklyn's Sal ("the barber") Maglie (he wasn't reluctant to throw close to the batter's whiskers) and the Yankees' Don ("the gooney bird") Larsen.
At this point some readers may still be wondering how or if one could write a 350 page book on a bseball game that lasted about two hours. I'll begin by revealing that there is rather little in the book about the game itself. Oh, all 27 outs are accounted for and described. But Mr. Paper apparently decided that a book going from out number one through 27 might not quite be what the reader wanted. So what he has done, essentially, is to write a collective biography of the 19 players who took part in the game, devoting a chapter to each of them. This makes for a somewhat different yet, at times, tedious book. (Lots of repetition; it seems their lives were rather similar.) I suppose the book bears some resemblance to Roger Kahn's THE BOYS OF SUMMER, though I admit it has been several decades since I read Kahn. A final chapter of this book (#19 "Aftermath") tells what happened to the 19 players later in life. A number remained in the game, several ending up as managers, in typical baseball fashion. Quite a few died young. None ended up in jail or prison, with Billy Martin and Duke Snider perhaps coming closest.
Oh, yes, the game itself! The Yankees won 2 to 0, with Yankee pitcher Larsen retiring all 27 of the Brooklyn batters he faced. (In baseball terminology, "retiring" means getting them out or preventing them from reaching first base.) So, to put this in perspective, in the over 100 years of baseball's grand climax ("World Series"), no other pitcher has ever accomplished what Larsen did that day. Now if you're interested in reading an analysis of what happened to enable Larsen to have achieved this, you won't find it here. There is very little analysis, interpretation, or even conjecture. The author is content to tell readers what happened and to describe the lives of those who participated. But we don't even learn that much about the hero, Larsen. We find out he smoked cigarettes between innings and didn't know what a "perfect game" was!
Tim Koerner October 18, 2010