Don Larsen to auction off ’56 perfect-game uniform

Published 8:54 am Friday, June 29, 2012

NEW YORK — Being the kind of grandfather that he is, New York Yankees legend Don Larsen is taking one for the team.

The former pitcher announced Thursday that he’s paying for his grandchildren’s college education by auctioning off his most prized possession — the baseball uniform he wore when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

Steiner Sports Memorabilia will conduct the auction beginning Oct. 8, the 56th anniversary of Larsen’s masterful pitching performance against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.

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Baseball enthusiasts worldwide will have the opportunity to place bids online or via phone for 56 days afterward.

The off-white uniform with faded Yankee pinstripes is in excellent condition, Larsen said.

When asked how much he’d like to get for the uniform — which includes both the jersey and pants — Larsen, 82, didn’t miss a beat.

“A million,” he said. “Why go cheap?”

Larsen’s expectations aren’t out of line, either. In May, a jersey worn by Babe Ruth sold for more than $4.4 million.

Steiner Executive Vice President Brett Schissler estimated that Larsen’s uniform could sell for as high as $2 million and that the company had already received several seven-figure offers.

Larsen, who excelled in baseball and basketball while attending San Diego’s Point Loma High School, originally loaned the uniform to the San Diego Hall of Champions when he was inducted in 1964. This spring, Larsen decided to auction it off and drove from his home in Hayden Lake, Idaho, to the West Coast to retrieve it.

At a news conference about the auction, announcer Bob Wolff played a grainy audio recording of his broadcast from Larsen’s perfect game. Listening to the 56-year-old play-by-play of Wolff calling out after out, Larsen stared off into the distance as his wife, Corrine, held his hand under the table and smiled.

Larsen said that after he struck out Dodgers pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell on a called third strike, “it felt like the world left my shoulders then.”

“When Yogi jumped on me, I probably still haven’t woken up yet,” Larsen said, recalling the iconic moment after the game when Yankees catcher Yogi Berra leapt into his arms.

But Larsen told reporters he initially thought he had pitched a no-hitter. He didn’t even know he had tossed a perfect game — meaning no opposing player even reached first base — until someone told him later in the clubhouse.

Matt Burcaw, 66, who attended the game in 1956 with his father and brother, said he’ll never forget the silence among the 64,519 spectators packed into Yankee Stadium that day.

“The silence got louder and louder,” he said. “It was uncanny.”

Regardless of what happens at auction, Larsen said, he’ll always feel a sense of proud ownership over the uniform.

“It’s still mine,” he said. “I’m still inside it.”