Lew Paper may be the only person in the world happier about yesterday’s no hitter than Roy Halladay himself.
Talk about striking while the iron is hot. Paper’s new book, Perfect, (which came out this week) is about the only other post season no hitter in baseball history, Don Larsen’s perfecto during the 1956 World Series.
He took a few minutes to speak to us about Larsen’s’ accomplishment, the other players on the field that day and the future of 3D TV.
Don’t worry, it makes more sense than it seems.
SCP: Was Don Larsen’s perfect game the greatest pitching performance in history?
LP: Indeed it was. It was and remains the only no-hitter in a World Series and, after Roy Halladay’s performance last night, one of two no-hitters and still the only perfect game in post-season play since 1903. The circumstances of Larsen’s feat also distinguish his achievement. It was the pivotal fifth game of the 1956 World Series between arch rivals — the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers — who had each won 2 games up to that point. So — without taking anything away from Halladay’s achievement — there was far more pressure on Larsen to succeed than there was on Halladay.
SCP: Don Larsen was an above average pitcher who had one great day. And while he’s most remembered for the perfect game, can’t it be argued that his greatest contribution to the Yankees actually came 4 years later, when he was part of the trade that brought back Roger Maris?
LP: I would not agree with that. The Yankees and the Kansas City Athletics had a symbiotic relationship between 1955 and 1960 because Arnold Johnson, the A’s owner, was a good friend of Yankee co-owner Del Webb. I think the Yankees would have gotten Maris even if Larsen — who was faltering by then — was not included in the trade.
SCP: Instead of just writing about the game, you’ve chosen to use it as a chance to profile all 19 players who took part in the game and to paint a picture of the sport as it sat on the cusp of great change. Where did that idea come from?
LP: I had been to Yankee fantasy camps and had occasion to listen to Don talk about the game. But, as I thought about, it dawned on me that most people — including baseball fans — knew really very little, if anything, about Dale Mitchell other than that he made the last out in the perfect game. And so I thought it might be interesting to profile all the players — some famous and many others not-so-famous — to give readers some insight into where they came from and what they thought about this unique event in baseball history. And I was fortunate to be able to provide some new insight into the players’ thinking as the events of the game unfolded — including what the Yankee fielders thought of that last pitch to Dale Mitchell.
SCP: You took 6 years to write the book and spoke to a number of the people who took part in the game. What was the highlight of that process for you? What was the most difficult part?
LP: The highlight of course was the opportunity to speak with the surviving players, family members of those who have passed on, and commentators (like Bob Wolff). Some of the more memorable conversations were with Yogi Berra, Gil McDougald, and the wife and daughters of Enos Slaughter. The most difficult moment was in trying to arrange an interview with Duke Snider — the only surviving Dodger. Duke is beseiged with requests for interviews, and I was able to reach him only through the intercession of his wife.
SCP: You’ve been a Senatorial aid, general consul to the FCC and held a post at Georgetown Law School. You’ve also written profiles of John Kennedy, Louis Brandeis and William S Paley. Why now turn to baseball and this game in particular?
LP: I have always had a passion for baseball, and it seemed to be a perfect arrangement if I could marry that passion with my passion for writing. I thought it would be great fun to delve into a time in baseball history that meant so much to me — and it was all that I expected
SCP: As evidenced by the fact that you’re currently being interviewed by a blogger, the media landscape is obviously in the middle of one of the largest shifts in history. You’ve spent a large part of your career focused on these sorts of things. What’s the biggest issue facing the major media companies right now? What about the FCC? Are we approaching a moment in time when 3D won’t require a pair of ridiculous glasses?
LP: The world is indeed changing rapidly from a technological perspective. Ten years ago, for example, there were no such things as iPods, iPhones, Kindles, or blue tooth. The major hurdle facing all media companies today is to stay abreast of these technological developments — radio will have to adapt to the internet/satellite world, and television will likewise have to adapt to the internet world. You can see other developments — like automated check-out counters at grocery stores — that indicate the breadth of the changes that are coming in almost every aspect of our lives. The challenge may be to preserve our humanity amidst these technological changes.