In this week’s issue of the magazine, Will moderated a roundtable in which Al Leiter, Steve Wulf, and Joe Sheehan discussed the following question: Who is the greatest New York athlete of all time? During that roundtable, Wulf told a story about how Don Larsen, on the night of his World Series perfect game, stopped in at his usual Lexington Avenue hangout, much to the surprise of the other regulars. Eric Benson caught up with Larsen to discuss what it was like to toast the achievement of a lifetime long before athletes sequestered themselves in private rooms at night clubs with movie stars, half-hookers, and bottles of Ace of Spades.
So what’d you do the night before the perfect game?
We stopped in at Bill Taylor’s and had a very low-key evening. I mean, I didn’t want to mess around. We had all winter to relax. I knew Bill Taylor because he was a pretty good ballplayer for the Giants. In fact, I met [longtime Giants owner] Horace Stoneham there. He liked to have a little tiddly.
And what about the night after the game?
The first stop was a place called Fifeto Squeri’s, it was on 50th and Second Avenue; it was a little Italian place that I frequented. I knew the family. We had Champagne. It was a ball.
Then, we went to a place called McAvoy’s. I stopped in there with a bunch of my friends. We were just goofing around, having fun. That was on Lexington Avenue, downtown, or maybe just in town. You never know. New York’s a big place.
And then we went to the Latin Quarter, I was with [sportswriter] Arthur Richman. Joe E. Lewis was performing — the comedian. We were there until late. I had to be on Dave Garroway’s show the next morning. Early. Like six o’clock.
Sounds like a good time …
Well, that was my routine. I didn’t want to go highfalutin! Why do that? Hell, that was a great thing that happened. I didn’t even know what’d gone on yet.