NEW YORK -- Andy Carey, a former Yankees third baseman who helped preserve Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game, passed away on Dec. 15 in Costa Mesa, Calif., his family announced. He was 80.
A career .260 hitter, Carey played in 11 Major League seasons from 1952-62, beginning with the Yankees at age 20 in '52 and spending nine seasons wearing pinstripes.
Born on Oct. 18, 1931, in Oakland, Calif., Carey signed with the Yankees after spending a summer playing semi-pro ball in Weiser, Idaho. As New York's everyday third baseman in '55, Carey led the league with 11 triples and was known as a solid defender and clutch hitter.
Carey played on four Yankees World Series teams, winning rings with the 1956 and '58 squads. He is remembered as playing a key role in Larsen's Oct. 8, 1956, perfecto against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium.
Opening the second inning, Carey made contact with Jackie Robinson's hard smash to the third baseman's left, deflecting the ball from going to the outfield and allowing shortstop Gil McDougald to field it with barely enough time to throw Robinson out at first base.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Carey is quoted as saying in Lew Paper's 2009 account of Larsen's game, "Perfect." "We would have never gotten Robinson out if the game would have been played two or three years earlier when he still had his speed."
Carey again helped save the perfect game with one out in the eighth, when Gil Hodges hit a low line drive to Carey's left. Carey snagged the ball about an inch from the ground, and just in case the ball was ruled a trap, Carey threw on to first baseman Joe Collins to be sure the out was recorded.
"It was a fantastic thing to be part of," Carey once told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think we realized what a great game it was until many years later.
"It wasn't a big deal then -- it was just a real good game. But the longevity of it and the fact that no one has duplicated it made it what it is today. If someone had done it the next year, it wouldn't have been as significant."
Carey's Yankees career ended with a May 19, 1960, trade to Kansas City for outfielder Bob Cerv. Slowed by back injuries, Carey completed his pro service with the A's (1960-61), White Sox ('61) and Dodgers ('62).