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Ex-Yankee Don Larsen, only pitcher to throw a perfect World Series game, dies at 90

Former pitcher Don Larsen led Major League Baseball with 21 losses during the 1954 season, before being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Yankees the following season. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Former pitcher Don Larsen led Major League Baseball with 21 losses during the 1954 season, before being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Yankees the following season. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- New York Yankees legend Don Larsen -- the only player to throw a perfect game in a World Series -- has died. He was 90.

Sources told the New York Daily News and New York Times Larsen died of esophageal cancer Wednesday in Hayden, Idaho. Larsen's agent, Andrew Levy, confirmed the death.

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"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Don Larsen, who remained a welcome and familiar face at our annual Old-Timers' Day celebrations in the decades following his playing career," the Yankees said in a statement.

Larsen posted a 3.78 ERA and 81-91 record in 412 appearances during his Major League Baseball career. He made his MLB debut in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. He also pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Athletics, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, in addition to his time with the Yankees.

"Don's perfect game is a defining moment for our franchise, encapsulating a storied era of Yankees success and ranking among the greatest single-game performances in Major League Baseball history," the Yankees said.

"The unmitigated joy reflected in his embrace with Yogi Berra after the game's final out will forever hold a secure place in Yankees lore. It was the pinnacle of baseball success and a reminder of the incredible, unforgettable things that can take place on a baseball field."

Larsen's career highlight came Oct. 8, 1956, at Yankee Stadium. The right-handed pitcher returned to the mound for Game 5 of the World Series after being knocked out during the second inning of the Yankees' Game 2 loss.

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He used 97 pitches to retire 27 consecutive hitters, recording the only perfect game -- or no-hitter -- in World Series history. Larsen ended the game by striking out Brooklyn Dodgers hitter Dale Mitchell.

Berra, the Yankees catcher, then ran toward Larsen, before jumping into his arms to celebrate the performance. The photo remains one of the most iconic in league history. Larsen won the 1956 World Series MVP award for his Game 5 effort.

"I never had control like that before or since," Larsen told Sports Illustrated in 2006. "It just seemed that everything I threw was on the black."

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The Yankees legend had a $12,000 salary in 1956 and received a $4,000 raise after that season. He was traded to Kansas City in 1959, as part of the deal that sent Roger Maris to the Yankees.

Larsen went on to win another World Series with the Yankees in 1958. He threw seven shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 3 of that series.

His 1956 gem remained the only postseason no-hitter in MLB history until Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series.

Larsen was born Aug. 7, 1929, in Michigan City, Ind. He grew up near San Diego and went to Point Loma High School, the same school attended by David Wells, who also threw a perfect game for the Yankees.

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