Sunday, May 27, 2012


 ("Up for Bid, A Piece of Perfection)

56. Try as the memorabilia experts might to turn 27 straight outs into a million dollars,  56 will never belong to Don Larsen.

For all of us who grew up idolizing the Mick, 1956 is not even remembered only, or maybe even most importantly, for the World Series gem. It was in that year that the greatest Yankee of my youth emerged a triple crown winner.353, 52, 130.  It is harder to win this title as a hitter than to throw a perfect game. There have only been 16 winners of the triple crown since Abner Doubleday invented free agency. And only 2 Yankees in all their glorious history have stood at this pinnacle (the other being Lou Gehrig in 1934).

As to the 'other' 56, in 1941 Ted Williams hit 406. That was the last time the .400 barrier has been broken, over 70 years ago. And oh, by the way, that accomplishment did not garner the Splendid Splinter the MVP award. No, the greatness of that achievement paled next to the spring into summer of DiMaggio. While the statistics of Williams were staggering, as he hit 37 home runs, walked 147 times and had an on base percentage of over .550, he could not match the unfathomable hitting streak of the Yankee center fielder. From May 15 to July 16, come hell, high water, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor, nothing and no one stopped Joe D.

Maybe the Larsen jersey and pants will fetch a million dollars, as the 56 day auction starting on the 56th anniversary of the perfect game unfolds. And who wouldn't want to own perfection? But for me, and for countless other Yankee fans, Mantle's year of greatness, and DiMaggio's trip into waters uncharted before or since, resonate far deeper.

If we are to celebrate 56 this year, tell me when a bat that DiMaggio used during his streak, or the cleats that ran the bases underneath the magnificence that was the young Mantle in 1956 are going up for bid. Larsen may borrow 56 for a moment or two this year, but he has to promise to give it back to its rightful owners.

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