The 1956 World Series pitted the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers won the first two games and the Yankees won the next two. Game 5 was played at Yankee Stadium and was to prove to be one of the most historic in baseball. Don Larsen was the starting pitcher for the Bronx Bombers and Sal Maglie for the Dodgers.
Both pitchers authored perfect games through the first three innings. Larsen then pitched a perfect fourth. Maglie retired the first two Yankees in the bottom of the frame when Mickey Mantle stepped to the plate. The Dodgers employed a modified “Ted Williams Shift” when Mantle batted lefty. Three infielders and two outfielders played on the right side of the field and left only one infielder and one outfielder to cover the left side of the field. With a count of two balls and two strikes, Mickey lashed the next pitch just inside the right field foul pole for a home run that broke up Maglie’s perfect game and put the Yankees ahead 1-0.
Mantle later recalled, “Maglie threw me a curveball that got up a little more than he wanted, and I hit it good. You always know when you’ve hit one. There’s a special feeling when the bat makes contact with the ball. I knew I hit that one good and I knew I hit it far enough. It was just a question of staying fair.”
Gil Hodges led off the top of the fifth inning for the Dodgers. On a 2-2 count, Hodges hit a scorching line drive to deep left center field. Mickey took off at top speed running back and to is right toward left center field. In the middle of his gait, just as the ball was about to sail past him, he reached up across his body and speared the ball backhanded for a tremendous running catch, which robbed Hodges of an extra-base hit and preserved Larsen’s perfect game.
After Larsen completed his historic perfect game, he was quoted as saying, “That catch Mickey Mantle made on Gil Hodges’ long liner in the fifth saved my bacon.”
The Yankees won the game and went on to win the series but this game went down in history as the only World Series perfect game ever pitched. Without Mickey’s homer and his great catch, it would have just been another World Series game.