SEBRING — As we get older, our memories tend to fade. Things that were so crystal clear 10 or 20 years ago become a collection of hazy images and scattered thoughts.
But on occasion, something so profound will happen that we can remember it as though it were yesterday, no matter how many decades have passed. For Sebring’s Donn Goodwin, that date would be July 14, 1954, when, as a 12-year-old, he threw the first perfect game in Little League Baseball history.
Not only was it a perfect game, Goodwin struck out all 18 batters he faced that day.
Last month, Goodwin was recognized by Little League Baseball for his accomplishment. It was a long time coming, but in some aspects that has made the entire ordeal that much more meaningful to him.
After his wife, Judy, passed away in February 2016, he decided it was time to move back to Virginia.
“I pulled out many boxes and that’s when I found my scrapbook and started finding all these old things,” Goodwin said. “When I found all this stuff I said, ‘this is kind of neat,’ and then I found a letter that my father had written to Carl Stotz, who started Little League Baseball in Williamsport. My father had written him and told him what I had done and Carl wrote back and said ‘that’s a pretty big accomplishment and we need to do something about that.’”
Goodwin called up Little League Baseball and told them he wanted to honor his father’s wishes and asked if there was anything that could be done.
He was asked if there was some way to verify what he was saying and he sent newspaper articles and some other memorabilia his father had collected. He also just happened to have several baseballs from other no-hitters, along with the ball from the perfect game, which he sent to the World of Little League Museum in February.
After several attempts, Goodwin was able to get to Williamsport last month, where he had some special guests — players from Back Mountain Little League in Pennsylvania, where he played as a youngster.
“I didn’t know any of the kids,” he said. “They came for one reason — to see me get that award. It was amazing.”
Goodwin posed for photos with the players and gave a 45-minute speech, where he talked of growing up and playing Little League, attending spring training games after moving to Florida and of course — the perfect game.
“You have to remember, these were 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-old kids sitting in a movie theater and you could hear a pin drop,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Goodwin also presented the Back Mountain coach with his All-Star trophy from the 1953 season, saying the league could come up with some sort of guidelines where one team gets to keep it for the season.
“It belongs back home,” he told the audience.
While speaking to the current players, he interjected portions of the perfect game throughout his speech, beginning with doing his chores in the morning and having lunch with his friends, to arriving at the park and the progression of the game.
“I noticed my teammates were treating me like I had some terrible disease, so they did their best to avoid me,” he told the players.
After his speech, the real fun began and Goodwin and players were invited to play catch on Howard J. Lamade Stadium, where the Little League World Series championship game is played.
“The thing that was so special, one little boy came up to me, and I thought I was going to cry, and asked if he could have my autograph,” Goodwin said. “Once one does it, the others followed and they either brought a ball to me or they took off their hat and had me autograph their hat. So finally, I asked one little boy ‘why are you having me autograph your hat?’ He said, ‘Mr. Goodwin I want to have some of your luck the next time I’m playing so I can have a really good game.’”
Goodwin was presented with a Little League Baseball ring, which he wears with a great deal of pride.
While his days on the diamond now consist of senior softball games, Goodwin will always look back on July 14, 1954 and remember what is was like to be a 12-year-old boy once again.
“Now, it’s the sixth inning and everyone was getting excited, especially the fans when they realized what was happening. There were two outs and we are down to the last out needed. I remember the batter was fouling off a few times until I threw my fastball to him, which he missed and the umpire called ‘strike three.’ Everyone was screaming and shouting and everyone was patting me on the back saying I pitched a really great game.”