With the death of Don Larsen on Wednesday, there are plenty of stories out there about his perfect game in the World Series. So, here is something a little bit different for Tigers fans. Here is the story of Larsen’s times pitching – and hitting – against the Detroit Tigers.
To start, Larsen was 7-13 against the Tigers with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.481 WHIP. He struck out 81 batters and walked 92 in 181 innings. He made 23 starts and 17 relief appearances with seven complete games, two shutouts and two saves.
Here are some of his highlights – and lowlights – in his time against the Tigers.
Major-league debut: Larsen made his major-league debut in Briggs Stadium on April 18, 1953, in the first game of a doubleheader. He started for the St. Louis Browns and lasted five and one-third innings, giving up three runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and one walk. The first batter he faced was Harvey Kuenn, who beat out an infield single, and his first strikeout was his pitching opponent, Billy Hoeft. Larsen did not get the decision in the Browns’ 8-7 victory in 11 innings. However, Larsen was 2-for-2 at the plate and singled in his first major-league at-bat.
At Briggs Stadium: Although Larsen was just 3-7 with a 4.44 ERA against the Tigers in Detroit. He threw his only shutout in Detroit on June 22, 1958, when he tossed a two-hitter for the Yankees in a 15-0 victory. He struck out three and walked three. Billy Martin singled in the second inning, and Gail Harris had a single in the seventh for the Tigers’ lone hits off Larsen, who broke a personal four-game losing streak against Detroit. He kept the Tigers scoreless with off-speed pitches and retired 16 batters in a row before Harris singled in the seventh.
Opening Day: Larsen was the opposing starting pitcher one time on Opening Day in Detroit. It came on April 13, 1954, and it was the first game for the Baltimore Orioles after the St. Louis Browns relocated the franchise to Baltimore. Steve Gromek started for Detroit, and Gromek got the best of Larsen in a 3-0 victory in front of 46,994 fans at Briggs Stadium. Larsen pitched an eight-inning complete game, and all three runs came on solo home runs by Ray Boone, Walt Dropo and Frank Bolling. The home run by Bolling in the seventh inning marked the first time in Tigers history that a player making his major-league debut hit a home run on Opening Day.
Home runs: Larsen allowed more home runs to Detroit (18) than any other team except the Boston Red Sox (22). Charlie Maxwell hit three to lead all Tigers hitters in home runs off Larsen, with Frank Bolling, Ray Boone, Al Kaline and Don Lund each hitting two. Those who finished with one home run off Larsen were Lou Berberet, Walt Dropo, Paul Foytack, Frank House, Harvey Kuenn, Jay Porter and Eddie Yost.
As a batter: Larsen hit three home runs off Tigers pitching, but none of them came in Detroit. He hit the first two home runs of his major-league career off Detroit pitchers Dick Weik and Al Aber in 1953, and he hit the 13th of his career 14 home runs off Phil Regan in 1961.
Against Al Kaline: Mr, Tiger did not fare too well against Larsen. Kaline hit just ,213 against Larsen with 13 hits in 61 at-bats, including two home runs and seven RBIs. He walked nine times with six strikeouts.
Toughest pitcher to hit against: Larsen had more at-bats without a hit against Jim Bunning than any other pitcher. Larsen was 0-for-14 against Bunning with six strikeouts.
Worst beating: On August 11, 1953, Larsen started against the Tigers for the St. Louis Browns in Busch Stadium. The Tigers battered him for seven earned runs in four innings en route to a 9-3 victory. Don Lund did the most damage with a home run and a double and four RBIs, while Jim Delsing, Bud Souchock and Johnny Bucha each added two hits.
Last game against Detroit: Larsen’s final game against the Tigers came for the Baltimore Orioles on June 28, 1965, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Larsen pitched two scoreless innings – the eighth and ninth – and allowed one hit with three strikeouts in the Tigers’ 4-3 victory. Detroit led 4-0 when Larsen took over, but the Orioles scored one in the eighth and two in the ninth. Larsen’s final game in Detroit came as a member of the Chicago White Sox on June 27, 1961. He was the second of five pitchers used and tossed one and one-third innings and gave up a home run to pitcher Paul Foytack. The White Sox won the game 6-5, and Larsen did not get a decision.