Today marks the 57th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in baseball history — New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Check out the box score over at Baseball Reference. It’s spectacular.
It’s a feat that has yet to be replicated and likely never will be in postseason play (Phillies’ pitcher Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter but allowed a walk against the Reds in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS). Larsen’s performance on October 8, 1956 — which came against a very good Dodgers team that had future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider in the lineup — propelled the Yankees to its 17th World Series title and cemented his place in baseball lore.
The game was remarkable for another reason away from the action on the field at Yankee Stadium. Then 28-year old Vin Scully — now 84 and in his 64th season broadcasting games for the Dodgers (he’s been with the team since 1950, when they were still in Brooklyn) was on the call. I confess I’m a bit of a Vin addict, and I try and listen to Scully’s broadcasts of most Dodgers home games during the regular season. During this year’s postseason, I’ve synced my TiVo with my MLB At Bat app so I could listen to Scully’s radio call of the NLDS during innings 1-3 and 7-9 against the Braves. The same drill will be in effect for the NLCS which starts Friday night in either Los Angeles or St. Louis.
If you listened to Scully calls of Game Four, you would have been rewarded with some classics, including “Isn’t it amazing what somebody will do when he can’t bunt?” after Juan Uribe’s go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the 8th inning and “To my knowledge, there is no swimming pool handy tonight” after the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS.
MLB Productions unearthed some fantastic archival footage of Scully’s call at the end of the top of the 6th inning which ended with a strikeout by Dodgers pitcher Sal Maglie (remember there was no DH in 1956!).
“Down he goes. Mr. Don Larsen has been brilliant. He has struck out six men. He has retired 18 men in a row.”
Love the use of “Mr.” in the call. Vin was on point in just his sixth season of broadcasting. Right after the strikeout, the camera shows Scully on the air promoting the “vest pocket” edition of the “Encyclopedia of Baseball.”
“Friends you talk to any sportswriter and you’ll find that the Encyclopedia of Baseball is the number one authority and the cream of all the official statistics etcetera will be found right here in Gillette’s Vest Pocket edition.”
After seeing this clip, I had to find out more about the Encyclopedia of Baseball. To the internet! In short, the Official Encyclopedia of Baseball was created by Hy Turkin, a reporter for the New York Daily News and S.C Thompson, an Elias statistician. They started working together in 1944 and released the first hardcover version of the book in 1951. The book provided an all-inclusive compendium of baseball-related information, including statistics as well as biographical information of players.
It proved to be so popular that it was updated again in 1956. The version for which Scully is shilling during the broadcast was a condensed, “vest pocket” edition of the book — small enough to fit in a gentlemen’s vest pocket, which was the style at the time — and sponsored by Gillette. You can purchase one on eBay for $2.99! The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball is no more (the final edition was published in 1979) and of course now we have B-Ref for all our baseball-related statistical needs.
The archived clip brings us back to a time before the internet and before Twitter. Yet there’s Vin Scully, doing what he does best — a man in the booth, calling the game beautifully. Some things never change.