Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Look at the scoreboard, Mick. Wouldn't it be something?"

I've always loved this photo. 

Fifty six years ago Monday—in the fifth game of the 1956 World Series—Don Larsen threw a perfect game. Yesterday he announced he'd be auctioning off the jersey he wore that afternoon.

"I've been thinking about it for a bit,'' Larsen told the Associated Press. "I'm not getting any younger and I don't know how much longer I'll be around. I want to make sure they can both go to college, which isn't cheap these days. So, I figured it was the right time."

There's probably a joke here about the cost of higher education rising like a mid-90s fastball but having met and photographed Larsen a few years ago, I couldn't help but feel for the 86-year-old.

Put aside the perfection, and the rest of Larsen's 14-year-career "consisted of unbroken mediocrity punctuated with flashes of competence." He threw for eight different teams, lost more than he won and finished his career in the minor leagues.

These days, Larsen lives comfortably with his wife in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. When he isn't fishing, he's signing autographs at Old Timers' Day. Or, like when I photographed him in 2005, answering tired questions over banquet chicken with well-rehearsed responses.

Oh, the lives our retired heroes live.

I get it, he wants to help his family and unlike today's athletes, Larsen didn't make a "set-for-life" salary: just $17,000 that season. But it still makes me sad to see an icon like Larsen part with his piece of pinstripe past.