Yankees legend Don Larsen, only pitcher with perfect game in World Series history, dies at age 90

Former New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen, the only player to ever throw a perfect game in the World Series, died on Wednesday after a battle with esophageal cancer, according to the Yankees, among other sources. He was 90 years old.

The Yankees issued a statement concerning Larsen's death. Here it is in whole:

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Don Larsen, who remained a welcome and familiar face at our annual Old-Timers' Day celebrations in the decades following his playing career.

"Don's perfect game is a defining moment for our franchise, encapsulating a storied era of Yankees success and ranking among the greatest single-game performances in Major League Baseball history. The unmitigated joy reflected in his embrace with Yogi Berra after the game's final out will forever hold a secure place in Yankees lore. It was the pinnacle of baseball success and a reminder of the incredible, unforgettable things that can take place on a baseball field."

"The Yankees organization extends its deepest condolences to Don's family and friends during this difficult time. He will be missed."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also issued a statement:

"Don Larsen's perfect game in Game Five of the 1956 World Series at Yankee Stadium is one of the most memorable achievements in the history of our National Pastime.  His unexpected performance on that Monday afternoon has remained unique for 63 years and counting.  On a team of many stars, Don illustrated that anyone can make history – even perfection – on our sport's biggest stage.  On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and the fans he touched during his life in our great game."

Larsen pitched in parts of 14 big-league seasons during his career, compiling 1,548 innings and an 81-91 record. For his career, he had a 99 ERA+ and a 1.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and accumulated 12.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference's calculation.

Here are four things to know about Larsen's career.

1. Only perfect game in World Series history

As noted above, Larsen's perfect performance in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series remains the only of its kind in World Series history. Indeed, there hasn't even been another no-hitter in the Fall Classic, though Roy Halladay did throw a no-no in the divisional round in 2010.

Larsen threw his perfect game as a member of the Yankees, and did so against a Brooklyn Dodgers team that featured Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges, among others. Larsen struck out seven batters that day, a notable number for someone who -- for his career -- finished with 4.9 strikeouts per nine.

Amusingly, Larsen's perfect game was his second start of the series. He received the ball to begin Game 2, and was staked to an early 6-0 lead. Nonetheless, he was chased before completing two innings, as he struggled to find the plate and walked four of the 10 batters he faced. He allowed four runs in that game, though all of them were considered unearned.

Larsen would win the World Series MVP Award in 1956 based on his perfecto.

2. Most of career spent in relief

Although Larsen recorded arguably the most significant start in World Series history, the rest of his career wasn't honeycombed with grand accomplishments.

Rather, Larsen spent most of his career in the bullpen, making nearly 60 percent of his appearances in relief. He was done as a full-time starter by the time he turned 31, and he appeared in just three more postseason contests after the perfect game -- none as a starter.

In a sense, Larsen's career exposed one of the beautiful parts about baseball, and professional sports as a whole: anyone can have one shining moment that cements their place in history.

3. Pitched for seven teams

Larsen is best remembered for that perfect game and his time with the Yankees. And, while he spent five seasons with New York and recorded more appearances with them than any other franchise, he would pitch for six other organizations.

In fact, Larsen began his career in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns, who then moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles the following season. He was traded to the Yankees in November 1954 as part of a massive 17-player trade that also netted New York Bob Turley.

Larsen would eventually be traded to the Kansas City Athletics in the deal that brought Roger Maris to New York. From there, he'd also pitch for the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros (slash Colt .45s) and Chicago Cubs.

Larsen appeared just three times for the Cubs, with his final career outing coming on July 7, 1967 -- a month shy of his 38th birthday.

4. Attended Cone's perfecto 

One neat tidbit about Larsen's post-playing career is that he was in attendance when David Cone threw his perfect game against the Montreal Expos on July 18, 1999. 

The Yankees celebrated the career of Yogi Berra that day, and Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Berra prior to Cone taking the mound.

Although more than 20 years have passed, Cone's perfect game remains the most recent no-hitter in Yankees history.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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