Major League Baseball historians noted the passing of Don Larsen this week. But did you know he was married to a Benson High School graduate?
Larsen tossed a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, ensuring his historic status with the game’s only postseason perfect-game pitching performance.
The right-hander who pitched 14 seasons in the majors died Wednesday in Hayden, Idaho. He was 90. The cause of death was reported as esophageal cancer.
He was survived by his wife of 62 years, Corinne Bruess, a Benson High School graduate who was born in Sleepy Eye, according to Rand Middleton’s story on the couple in the June 20, 1987 edition of the West Central Tribune.
The two met in 1957 after Larsen’s performance in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, which included eventual Hall-of-Famers Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, not to mention a 20-year-old Sandy Koufax, who did not pitch that game. Among Larsen’s teammates were Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin.
Corinne was a flight attendant. Don was a baseball player originally from Michigan City, Indiana, and a graduate of Point Loma High School in San Diego, California. They met on a flight that she was working.
He was signed by the St. Louis Browns and played for the Aberdeen (S.D.) Pheasants of the Northern League in 1947 and ‘48, which at that time included teams in Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks, Eau Claire, Sioux Falls, St. Cloud and Superior.
His major league career spanned from 1953 to 1967 and included stops with the Browns, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City A’s, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs.
In 1959, he was traded by the Yankees to Kansas City in a trade that sent Roger Maris to New York.
Larsen was 81-91 with a 3.78 career earned-run average. The only category he led the league in was losses, when he went 3-21 with Baltimore in 1954.
In the 1987 West Central Tribune story, Larsen was asked how someone with his ordinary career statistics could achieve baseball immortality.
“Everybody’s entitled to one good day,” he said, shrugging.
Middleton, the retired West Central Tribune sports writer, said Friday that he interviewed the couple in Minneapolis after a sports card show in Bloomington. It happened a day after Willmar High School won the state baseball championship, the first in any boys sport in the school’s history. (The girls golf team won the state title in 1985).
The interview was set up through Corinne’s brother, Roger Breuss, who was a police officer in Willmar at the time, Middleton said.
The Larsens spent most of Don’s post-baseball career living in California before moving to Idaho. He worked as a salesman for a paper products company, according to the New York Times.
Besides Corrine, he’s also survived by their son, Scott, and grandsons Justin and Cody Larsen.
Former Bird Island-Lake Lillian star Barry Wohler has been inducted into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame’s third induction class.
He’s one of 15 Hall of Famers who will be inducted in formal ceremonies April 5.
Wohler, a former West Central Tribune Hengstler-Ranweiler Award winner, led Bird Island-Lake Lillian to the 1980 and ‘81 state Class A championships.
He also starred in football and baseball and was recruited by the University of Minnesota in all three sports. He played two years of basketball for the Gophers and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. A left-handed pitcher, he then transferred and played two years of basketball at St. Cloud State while playing minor-league ball, eventually reaching Triple-A.
At Bird Island-Lake Lillian, his dad Jerry was the head coach. Barry is now the head boys basketball coach at Orono, where he won a state title in 2011.
Other inductees include: Annie Adamczak (Moose Lake, 1982); Brian Cosgriff (Hopkins girls coach); Vicki Davis (St. Peter, 1967); Tayler Hill (Minneapolis South 2009); Sam Jacobson (Park of Cottage Grove, 1994); Ziggy Kauls (Mounds View boys coach); Terry Kunze (Duluth Central, 1961); Mark Landsberger (Mounds View, 1973); Kevin Lynch (Bloomington Jefferson, 1987); Larry McKenzie (boys coach at Minneapolis Patrick Henry and Minneapolis North); Tom Nordland (Minneapolis Roosevelt, 1957); Jimmy Robinson (official); Dave Tschimperle (Hopkins, 1953); and Frank Wachlarowicz (Little Falls, 1975).
The ceremony is 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 5, at the Marriott City Center Ballroom, 30 So. 7th St. in Minneapolis.
Cards honored by CLC
Two Willmar Cardinals received Central Lakes Conference Performers of the Week honors. In boys basketball, Samuel Fraser was the offensive player of the week after averaging 16 points and 2.5 assists in four games. Chase Dirksen was named the defensive player of the week by the conference for averaging 10.5 reobunds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals.
River Lakes girls hockey player Bree Griffin scored three goals in a win over Willmar to earn CLC honors.
Best game yet
Former New London-Spicer Wildcat Brandon Zylstra had his best game yet of his young NFL career. The 26-year-old Concordia-Moorhead graduate had six catches for 96 yards in the Carolina Panthers’ 42-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Those totals represent career-bests.
Zylstra, who also played for the Minnesota Vikings, finished the season with eight catches for 106 yards in 2019 for Carolina, which went 5-11.