- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

The Gillette people put Don Larsen on the horn for assorted media types the other day, and their timing was pretty nearly perfect. It was 45 years, plus a few days, since Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, and he conceded that he doesn't much like to watch film of the game.
"I'm always afraid each time I see it that Dale Mitchell might get a hit," Larsen said, referring to the Brooklyn Dodgers' 27th batter on the notable afternoon of Oct. 8, 1956, at Yankee Stadium.
As most fans know, Mitchell obligingly took a called third strike, and Larsen had baseball's first perfecto of any kind since 1922. His feat has made him a finalist in Gillette's poll to pick the greatest individual U.S. sporting performance of the 20th century, the winner of which will be announced today.
Over the years, doubt has arisen whether Larsen's final pitch was a strike. It appeared high and outside to many, and some observers have speculated that plate umpire Babe Pinelli, working his last game, was a little too eager to start his retirement.
"No, sir," said Larsen, now 72 and chasing fish in Idaho, of all places. "That pitch was a strike, and besides, Dale swung at it. I was glad, too."
Immediately after, Yankees catcher Yogi Berra leaped into Larsen's arms between the mound and the foul line and made contact with a knee in an unfortunate place. Larsen does not like to recall this painful moment. "It was a bad angle," he said. "I knew something was going to happen."
Of course, Larsen is asked about the game everywhere he goes possibly even by inquisitive trout now and then. "No problem," he said. "That game made everybody forget all the bad ones."
Bad ones? Well, let's see. Over 14 years in the bigs, right-hander Larsen compiled an 81-91 record, including 3-21 with the first-year Baltimore Orioles in 1954.
Look at it this way: Nobody's perfect. Not very often anyway.

Classic radio days
Just in time for this month's 50th anniversary of Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" comes a myth-mashing story involving Russ Hodges' famous (or infamous) home run call ("The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant"… etc.)
According to the Cox News Service, the ending was not taped, after all, by the mother of a Dodgers fan who hoped to hear Hodges grovel when Brooklyn entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead. Instead, the hero (or culprit) was a diehard New York Giants fan who just happened to live in Brooklyn.
"I guess it just made a better story the other way," said Larry Goldberg, 76. "It's taken this long to get it straight."
Goldberg had to work on Oct. 3, 1951. Before leaving for his job in Manhattan, the 26-year-old showed his mom how to use his Webcor reel-to-reel wire recorder and asked her to record the ninth inning. When Goldberg got home to Brooklyn, he found a tear-stained borough and Hodges' classic call on his recorder.
What was Goldberg's reward for giving Hodges his tape a short time later? Giants sponsor Chesterfield, which put out a promotional record, sent Goldberg $100 and gave him access to its box at the Polo Grounds for the 1952 season. And fans around the nation got to share a sports radio moment perhaps unmatched since.

Eminently quotable
Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno, on this season's 0-4 record: "It's tough to take. There isn't anything in my life anymore except my family and my football. I think about it all the time." …
Reston miler Alan Webb, whose 3:53.43 in May broke Jim Ryun's 36-year-old U.S. record for a high school runner, on his relative anonymity as a freshman at Michigan: "I'm not Michael Jordan. In a big class or on campus, nobody notices me. But in smaller classes, when I've had to introduce myself, people have said, 'Are you that guy that broke some record?' " …
Hockey all-timer Wayne Gretzky, who is overseeing Canada's team for February's Salt Lake City Games on why the Canadians shouldn't withdraw because of the terrorist attacks: "You can't stop living your life. I know that the U.S. government and the U.S. Olympic Committee are going to do the best job they can to put a tremendous amount of security there."
Kevin McHale, the Minnesota Timberwolves' VP of basketball operations, on Terrell Brandon's comments that he wouldn't mind giving up his job as the team's starting point guard: "I didn't know he was running the team. He's going to play as much and the way we want him to play. That's the way it works around here." …
Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, on last week's upset loss to Arizona (Philly had a bye yesterday): "You have to learn from it, and you have to come out a better team. If you don't do that, then you're not deserving to be a championship quality football team."

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