The legendary big league pitcher, Don Larsen, died on New Year’s Day at the age of ninety years old. When you look at his baseball card, nothing great truly stands out except the 91 losses he compiled and 21 came in 1954 as a Baltimore Oriole. His stat line was nothing to brag about as he was an average major league pitcher and finished ten games below .500 with a career 81-91 win-loss record. He never won fifteen games and only won more than ten games one—11 in 1956—but there were different seasons in which he posted a solid ERA (earned run average).
Although nothing major stands out in terms of his career statistics, Larsen will forever be known as the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the World Series and is still the only pitcher to throw both a no-hitter and a perfect game in the Fall Classic. Perhaps one could say this was the most unlikely of all no-hitters especially in a game as big as Game 5 of the World Series and in case you’re in need of a history lesson, baseball was the biggest game in 1956 America and the World Series was the biggest spectacle in the country. There were no teams out west during this particular point in history and New York still had three teams so when two of them faced off as they did in the 1956 World Series, the lights shined just a bit brighter.
Larsen had been ran early in Game 2 of the World Series by the Brooklyn Dodgers but he would take the mound again in Game 5 for his New York Yankees and he would literally lace himself into the history books. In a game in front of 64.519 spectators, Larsen would hold the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers to 0 everything as his Yankees won a nail biter, 2-0, in a game that lasted just two hours and six minutes. Perhaps the moment that sports fans remember most, particularly Yankee fans, is Yogi Berra jumping into Larsen’s arms after the game was over to congratulate his teammate and friend. While it was a special moment, Larsen would later admit that he did not know he had thrown a perfect game. He was aware of the no hitter but he did not know what a perfect game was.
After the game, Larsen told reports in the locker room: “When it was over, I was so happy, I felt like crying. I wanted to win this one for Casey (Stengel). After what I did in Brooklyn, he could have forgotten about me and who would blame him? But he gave me another chance and I’m grateful.” Larsen was humble and grateful for what had transpired and it’s been said of his character that he was not only gracious for everything but he was humble and proud which were the words that filled many newspapers and internet headlines across the country earlier today in tribute of the only man to claim perfection in a World Series game and while Larsen’s story is one primarily of baseball, the lessons that we can take away from it are many.
One lesson that I take away from a story like Don Larsen’s is God does not look for the biggest or the best. Again, his World Series Perfect Game is one of the most unlikely in the history of the game but sometimes, everything breaks just right. On this night in the Big Apple, that’s what happened for Larsen as he was facing a very tough Brooklyn lineup including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, and Gil Hodges. Scripture reads “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).
God equips the called regardless of what we do. It does not matter if we are playing baseball, performing, writing books, speaking/preaching, driving an eighteen wheeler, and on and on as God can use each and every one of us for His will: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Too many people claim that they are not yet ready for a walk with God because their lives are not in order or they have to fix something first and this is similar to what happened with Larsen in Game 2 of the World Series as he had a very bad outing but he was given another opportunity and made the most of it.
After the game, he was not boastful in his attitude but he was humbled and gracious for all that had transpired. Rather than making it about himself, he gave thanks to his manager for believing in him despite feeling unworthy of it and this is how God is with us. Moses did not feel as though he was worthy of facing the Pharaoh and tried to get out of it which infuriated God because He was trying to teach Moses a bigger lesson: trust in me. Often times, the circumstance and the situations that we find ourselves in—the ones in which we are unable to control—are there for us to learn to trust God rather than relying on ourselves: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
Last but certainly not least is the fact that we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13) regardless of how big the obstacles may seem. That mountain in front of us may seem impossible to move but with God, that mountain can be moved. A perfect game in baseball is a real rarity as there have only been twenty three thrown in the game’s more than one hundred fifty year history and according to bleacher nation, a perfect game in the MLB is one of the toughest feats to accomplish in all of sports but Larsen’s feat should serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible especially to those with God: “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).