Sandy Koufax

Sanford Koufax (/ˈkoʊfæks/; born Sanford Braun; December 30, 1935) is a former American Major League Baseball (MLB) left-handed pitcher. He pitched 12 seasons for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1955 to 1966. Koufax, at age 36 in 1972, became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.[1] He has been hailed as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

Koufax's career peaked with a run of six outstanding years from 1961 to 1966, before arthritis in his left elbow ended his career prematurely at age 30. He was an All-Star for six seasons[2] and was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1963. He won three Cy Young Awards in 1963, 1965, and 1966, by unanimous votes, making him the first three-time Cy Young winner in baseball history and the only one to win three times when one overall award was given for all of major league baseball instead of one award for each league. Koufax also won the NL Triple Crown for pitchers those same three years by leading the NL in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average.[3][4][5][6]

Koufax was the first major league pitcher to pitch four no-hitters and the eighth pitcher to pitch a perfect game in baseball history. Despite his comparatively short career, Koufax's 2,396 career strikeouts ranked 7th in history as of his retirement, at the time trailing only Warren Spahn (2,583) among left-handers. Koufax, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez, and Nolan Ryan are the only four pitchers elected to the Hall of Fame who had more strikeouts than innings pitched.

Koufax is also remembered as one of the outstanding Jewish athletes in American sports. His decision not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur garnered national attention as an example of conflict between professional pressures and personal beliefs.[7]

Sandy Koufax
Sandy Koufax
Koufax with the Los Angeles Dodgers, c. 1965
Born: December 30, 1935 (age 83)
Brooklyn, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
June 24, 1955, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 1966, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB statistics
Win–loss record165–87
Earned run average2.76
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Vote86.87% (first ballot)

Early life

The Cincinnatian. 1954 baseball
1954 University of Cincinnati baseball team photo with Sandy Koufax (top row, 5th from the left).

Koufax was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family, and raised in Borough Park.[8] His parents, Evelyn (née Lichtenstein) and Jack Braun, divorced when he was three years old. His mother was remarried when he was nine, to Irving Koufax.[9] Shortly after his mother's remarriage, the family moved to the Long Island suburb of Rockville Centre. Before tenth grade, Koufax's family moved back to the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.[10]

Koufax attended Brooklyn's Lafayette High School, where he was better known for basketball than for baseball. At the time, school sports were not available because New York's teachers were refusing to supervise extracurricular activities without monetary compensation. As an alternative, Koufax started playing basketball for the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst local community center team. Eventually, Lafayette had a basketball team; Koufax became team captain in his senior year, and ranked second in his division in scoring, with 165 points in 10 games.[8][11] In 1951, at the age of 15, Koufax also joined a local youth baseball league known as the "Ice Cream League". He started out as a left-handed catcher before moving to first base. While playing first base for Lafayette High School's baseball team with teammate and friend Fred Wilpon,[12] he was spotted by Milt Laurie, the father of two Lafayette teammates and a baseball coach. Laurie recognized that Koufax might be able to pitch, and recruited the 17-year-old Koufax to pitch for the Coney Island Sports League's Parkviews.[13]

Koufax attended the University of Cincinnati and was a walk-on on the freshman basketball team, a complete unknown to coach Ed Jucker.[9] He later earned a partial scholarship. In spring 1954, he made the college baseball varsity team.[14] In his only season, Koufax went 3–1 with a 2.81 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 30 walks in 32 innings.[15][16] Bill Zinser, a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers, sent the Dodgers front office a glowing report that apparently was filed and forgotten.[17]

After trying out with the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds,[18] Koufax did the same for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.[19] During his Pirates tryout, Koufax's fastball broke the thumb of Sam Narron, the team's bullpen coach. Branch Rickey, then the general manager of the Pirates, told his scout Clyde Sukeforth that Koufax had the "greatest arm [he had] ever seen".[20] The Pirates, however, failed to offer Koufax a contract until after he was already committed to the Dodgers.[21] Dodgers scout Al Campanis heard about Koufax from a local sporting goods store owner. After seeing Koufax pitch for Lafayette, Campanis invited him to an Ebbets Field tryout. With Dodgers manager Walter Alston and scouting director Fresco Thompson watching, Campanis assumed the hitter's stance while Koufax started throwing. Campanis later said, "There are two times in my life the hair on my arms has stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the second time, I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball."[22] The Dodgers signed Koufax for a $6,000 ($56,000 today) salary, with a $14,000 ($131,000 today) signing bonus.[23] Koufax planned to use the money as tuition to finish his university education, if his baseball career failed.[24]

Professional career

Early years (1955–60)

Because Koufax's signing bonus was greater than $4,000 ($37,000 today), he was known as a bonus baby. This forced the Dodgers to keep him on the major league roster for at least two years before he could be sent to the minors. To make room for him, the Dodgers optioned their future Hall of Fame manager, Tommy Lasorda, to the Montreal Royals of the International League. Lasorda would later joke that it took Koufax to keep him off the Dodger pitching staff.[25]

Koufax made his major league debut on June 24, 1955 against the Milwaukee Braves, with the Dodgers trailing 7–1 in the fifth inning. Johnny Logan, the first batter Koufax faced, hit a bloop single. Eddie Mathews bunted, and Koufax threw the ball into center field. He then walked Hank Aaron on four pitches to load the bases, but struck out Bobby Thomson on a 3-2 fastball—an outcome Koufax later came to view as "probably the worst thing that could have happened to me," leading, as it did, to five seasons spent "trying to get out of trouble by throwing harder and harder and harder."[26]

Cincinnati Redlegs at Brooklyn Dodgers 1955-08-27 (ticket)
A ticket from the game where Koufax earned his first career win.

Koufax's first start was on July 6.[27] He lasted only ​4 23 innings, giving up eight walks.[28] He did not start again for almost two months, but on August 27, Koufax threw a two-hit, 7–0 complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds for his first major league win.[28][29] Koufax threw ​41 23 innings in 12 appearances that season, striking out 30 batters and walking 28. He had two wins in 1955, which were both shutouts.[30]

During the fall, he enrolled in the Columbia University School of General Studies, which offered night classes in architecture. The Dodgers won the 1955 World Series for the first title in franchise history, but Koufax did not appear in the series. After the final out of Game Seven, Koufax drove to Columbia to attend class.[31]

The year 1956 was not very different from 1955 for Koufax. Despite the blazing speed of his fastball, Koufax continued to struggle with his control.[32] He saw little work, pitching only 58.7 innings with a 4.91 ERA, 29 walks and 30 strikeouts. When Koufax allowed baserunners, he was rarely permitted to finish the inning. Teammate Joe Pignatano said that, as soon as Koufax threw a couple of balls in a row, Alston would signal for a replacement to start warming up in the bullpen. Jackie Robinson, in his final season, clashed with Alston on Koufax's usage. Robinson saw that Koufax was talented and had flashes of brilliance, and objected to Koufax being benched for weeks at a time.[33]

To prepare for the 1957 season, the Dodgers sent Koufax to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. On May 15, the restriction on sending Koufax down to the minors was lifted. Alston gave him a chance to justify his place on the major league roster by giving him the next day's start. Facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Koufax struck out 13 while pitching his first complete game in almost two years. For the first time in his career, he was in the starting rotation, but only for two weeks. Despite winning three of his next five with a 2.90 ERA, Koufax did not get another start for 45 days. In that start, he struck out 11 in seven innings, but got a no-decision. On September 29, Koufax became the last man to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers before their move to Los Angeles, by throwing an inning of relief in the final game of the season.[34]

Over the next three seasons, Koufax was in and out of the Dodger starting rotation due to injuries. In 1958, he began 7–3, but sprained his ankle in a collision at first base, finishing the season at 11–11 and leading the NL in wild pitches. In June 1959, Koufax set the record for a night game with 16 strikeouts. On August 31, 1959, he surpassed his career high with 18 strikeouts, setting the NL record and tying Bob Feller's major league record for strikeouts in one game.[35]

In 1959, the Dodgers won a close pennant race against the Braves and the Giants, then beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Koufax pitched two perfect relief innings in the Series opener, though they came after the Dodgers were already behind 11–0. Alston gave him the start in the fifth game, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of 92,706 fans. Koufax allowed only one run in seven innings, but lost the 1–0 game when Nellie Fox scored on a double play. Returning to Chicago, the Dodgers won the sixth game and the Series.[36]

In early 1960, Koufax asked Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi to trade him because he was not getting enough playing time. By the end of 1960, after going 8–13, Koufax was thinking about quitting baseball to devote himself to an electronics business that he had invested in. After the last game of the season, he threw his gloves and spikes into the trash. Nobe Kawano, the clubhouse supervisor, retrieved the equipment to return to Koufax the following year (or to somebody else if Koufax did not return to play).[37]

Domination (1961–64)

1961 season

Sandy Koufax 1961
Koufax in 1961.

Koufax tried one more year of baseball and showed up for the 1961 season in better condition than he had in previous years. Years later he recalled, "That winter was when I really started working out. I started running more. I decided I was really going to find out how good I can be."[38] During spring training, Dodger scout Kenny Myers discovered a hitch in Koufax's windup: he would rear back so far that his vision was obstructed and he could not see the target.[39]

A day later, Koufax was pitching for the "B team" in Orlando. Teammate Ed Palmquist missed the flight, so Koufax was told he would need to pitch at least seven innings. In the first inning, Koufax walked the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. Catcher Norm Sherry advised Koufax to throw slightly less hard in order to improve his control. The advice worked, as Koufax struck out the side, going on to pitch seven no-hit innings.[40]

It was the beginning of Koufax's breakout season. Posting an 18–13 record for the Dodgers in 1961, Koufax led the league with 269 strikeouts, breaking Christy Mathewson's 58-year-old NL mark of 267.[41] Koufax was selected as an All-Star for the first time and made two All-Star Game appearances; MLB held two All-Star games from 1959 through 1962.[42] He faced only one batter in the 9th inning in the first game, giving up a hit to Al Kaline and he pitched two scoreless innings in the second game.[43]

1962 season

In 1962, the Dodgers moved from the Los Angeles Coliseum, which had a 250-foot left field line, to pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. The new park had a large foul territory and a comparatively poor hitting background. Koufax was an immediate beneficiary of the change, lowering his home ERA from 4.29 to 1.75.[44] On June 30 against the expansion New York Mets, Koufax threw his first no-hitter. In the first inning of that game, Koufax struck out three batters on nine pitches to become the sixth National League pitcher and the 11th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish a nine-pitch/three-strikeout half-inning, also called an immaculate inning. With the no-hitter, a 4-2 record, 73 strikeouts, and a 1.23 ERA for June, he was named Major League Baseball Player of the Month Award.[45][46] It would be the only time in his career he earned this distinction.[47]

1962 Bell Brand Sandy Koufax
1962 Bell Brand Sandy Koufax

Koufax had his strong season despite an injured pitching hand. While batting in April, Koufax had been jammed by a pitch from Earl Francis. A numbness developed in Koufax's index finger on his left hand, and the finger became cold and white. Koufax was pitching better than ever, however, so he ignored the problem, hoping that the condition would clear up. By July, though, his entire hand was becoming numb and he was unable to complete some games. In a start in Cincinnati, his finger split open after one inning. A vascular specialist determined that Koufax had a crushed artery in his palm. Ten days of experimental medicine successfully reopened the artery. Koufax finally was able to pitch again in September, when the team was locked in a tight pennant race with the Giants. But after the long layoff, Koufax was ineffective in three appearances as the Giants caught the Dodgers at the end of the regular season, forcing a three-game playoff.[48]

The night before the National League playoffs began, Manager Walter Alston asked Koufax if he could start the first game the next day. With an overworked pitching staff, there was no one else, as Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres had pitched the prior two days. Koufax obliged. Koufax later said, "I had nothing at all." He was knocked out in the second inning, after giving up home runs to Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Jim Davenport. After winning the second game of the series, the Dodgers blew a 4–2 lead in the ninth inning of the deciding third game, losing the pennant.[49]

1963 season

In 1963, Major League Baseball expanded the strike zone.[50] Compared to the previous season, National League walks fell 13 percent, strikeouts increased six percent, the league batting average fell from .261 to .245, and runs fell 15 percent.[51] Koufax, who had reduced his walks allowed per nine innings to 3.4 in 1961 and 2.8 in 1962, reduced his walk rate further to 1.7 in 1963, which ranked fifth in the league.[3] The top pitchers of the era – Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Jim Bunning, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, and above all Koufax – significantly reduced the walks-given-up-to-batters-faced ratio for 1963, and subsequent years.[52]

On May 11, Koufax no-hit the San Francisco Giants 8-0, besting future Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal—himself a no-hit pitcher a month later, on June 15. Koufax carried a perfect game into the eighth inning against the powerful Giants lineup, including future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda. He walked Ed Bailey on a 3-and-2 pitch in the 8th, and pinch-hitter McCovey on four pitches in the 9th, before closing out the game.[53] As the Dodgers won the pennant, Koufax won the pitchers' Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (25), strikeouts (306) and ERA (1.88).[54] Koufax threw 11 shutouts, setting a new post-1900 record for shutouts by a left-handed pitcher that stands to this day (the previous record of 10 shutouts had been held by Carl Hubbell for 30 years). Only Bob Gibson, a right-hander, has thrown more shutouts (13) since, and that was in 1968,[55] "the year of the pitcher."[56]

Koufax won the NL MVP Award and the Hickok Belt, and was the first-ever unanimous selection for the Cy Young Award.[57][58]

Facing the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, Koufax beat Whitey Ford 5–2 in Game 1 and struck out 15 batters — including the first 5, breaking Carl Erskine's decade-old record of 14 (Gibson would break Koufax's record by striking out 17 Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series opener). After seeing Koufax's Game 1 performance, Yogi Berra said, "I can see how he won 25 games. What I don't understand is how he lost five,"[59] to which Maury Wills responded, "He didn't. We lost them for him."[60] In Game 4, Koufax completed the Dodgers' series sweep with a 2–1 victory over Ford, clinching the Series MVP Award for his performance.[61][62]

1964 season

Koufax's 1964 season started with great expectations. On April 18, he struck out three batters on nine pitches in the third inning of a 3–0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the only National League pitcher to have two nine-pitch/three-strikeout half-innings.[46] On April 22, however, "he felt something let go in his arm." Koufax ended up getting three cortisone shots for his sore elbow, and missed three starts.[63]

On June 4, playing at Connie Mack Stadium against the Phillies, Koufax walked Richie Allen on a very close full-count pitch in the fourth inning. Allen, who was thrown out trying to steal second, was the only Phillie to reach base that day. With his third no-hitter in three years, Koufax became only the second pitcher of the modern era (after Bob Feller) to pitch three no-hitters.[64]

Koufax jammed his pitching arm in August while diving back to second base to beat a pick-off throw. He managed to pitch and win two more games. However, the morning after his 19th win, a shutout in which he struck out 13 batters, he could not straighten his arm. He was diagnosed by Dodgers' team physician Robert Kerlan with traumatic arthritis. With the Dodgers out of the pennant race, the book was closed on Koufax and his 19–5 record.[65]

Playing in pain (1965–66)

1965 season

The 1965 season brought more obstacles for Koufax. On March 31, the morning after pitching a complete spring training game, Koufax awoke to find that his entire left arm was black and blue from hemorrhaging. Koufax returned to Los Angeles to consult with Kerlan, who advised Koufax that he would be lucky to be able to pitch once a week. Kerlan also told Koufax that he would eventually lose full use of his arm. Koufax agreed not to throw at all between games—a resolution that lasted only one start. To get himself through the games he pitched in, Koufax resorted to Empirin with codeine for the pain, which he took every night and sometimes during the fifth inning. He also took Butazolidin for inflammation, applied capsaicin-based Capsolin ointment (called "atomic balm" by baseball players) before each game, and soaked his arm in a tub of ice afterwards.[66]

Despite the constant pain in his pitching elbow, Koufax pitched 335⅔ innings and led the Dodgers to another pennant. He finished the year by winning his second pitchers' Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (26), ERA (2.04) and strikeouts (382; the highest modern day total at the time. Nolan Ryan struck out 383 batters in 1973). Koufax captured his second unanimous Cy Young Award. Koufax held batters to 5.79 hits per nine innings, and allowed the fewest base runners per 9 innings in any season ever: 7.83, breaking his own record (set two years earlier) of 7.96. Koufax had 11-game winning streaks in both 1964 and 1965.[3][67]


On September 9, 1965, Koufax became the sixth pitcher of the modern era, and eighth overall, to throw a perfect game, the first by a left-hander since 1880.[68][69] The game was Koufax's fourth no-hitter,[69] setting a Major League record (subsequently broken by Nolan Ryan). Koufax struck out 14 batters, at the time the most recorded in a perfect game (now tied by Matt Cain). The game also featured a quality performance by the opposing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Cubs. Hendley pitched a one-hitter and allowed only two batters to reach base. Both pitchers had no-hitters intact until the seventh inning.

This remains the only nine-inning major league game where the teams combined for just one hit. The game's only run, scored by the Dodgers, was unearned.[70][71] The Dodger run was scored without a recorded at bat—Lou Johnson walked, reached second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third, and scored when the throw to get him out at third went wild.

World Series and Yom Kippur

Koufax garnered headlines by declining to pitch Game 1 of the World Series because of his observance of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur. This decision garnered national attention as an example of conflict between professional pressures and personal religious beliefs.[7] Don Drysdale pitched the opener, but was hit hard by the Minnesota Twins.

In Game 2, Koufax pitched six innings, giving up two runs, and the Twins won the Game 5–1 and took an early 2–0 lead in the series. The Dodgers fought back in Games 3 and 4, with wins by Claude Osteen and Drysdale. With the Series tied at 2 to 2, Koufax pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5 for a 3–2 Dodgers lead as the Series returned to Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium for Game 6. The Twins won Game 6 to force a seventh game. Starting Game 7 on just two days of rest, Koufax pitched through fatigue and arthritic pain. Despite giving up on his curveball early in the game after failing to get it over for strikes in the first two innings and pitching the rest of the game relying almost entirely on fastballs, he threw a three-hit shutout to clinch the Series. The performance earned him his second World Series MVP award. Koufax also won the Hickok Belt a second time, the first time anyone had won the belt more than once. He was awarded Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year award.[3][58][72]

1966 season

Before the 1966 season began, Koufax and Drysdale met separately with Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi to negotiate their contracts for the upcoming year. After Koufax's meeting, he met Drysdale for dinner and complained that Bavasi was using Drysdale against him in the negotiations, asking, "How come you want that much when Drysdale only wants this much?"[73] Drysdale responded that Bavasi did the same thing with him, using Koufax against him. Drysdale's first wife, Ginger Drysdale, suggested that they negotiate together to get what they wanted. They demanded $1 million ($7,720,000 today), divided equally over the next three years, or $167,000 ($1,290,000 today) each for each of the next three seasons. Both players were represented by an entertainment lawyer, J. William Hayes, which was unusual during an era when players were not represented by agents.[74][75] At the time, Willie Mays was Major League Baseball's highest paid player at $125,000 ($965,000 today) per year and multi-year contracts were very unusual.[76]

Koufax and Drysdale did not report to spring training in February. Instead, they both signed to appear in the movie Warning Shot, starring David Janssen. Drysdale was to play a TV commentator and Koufax a detective. Meanwhile, the Dodgers waged a public relations battle against them. After four weeks, Koufax gave Drysdale the go-ahead to negotiate new deals for both of them. Koufax ended up getting $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000 ($849,000 today). They rejoined the team in the last week of spring training.[77] In April 1966, Kerlan told Koufax it was time to retire and that his arm could not take another season. Koufax kept Kerlan's advice to himself and went out every fourth day to pitch. He ended up pitching 323 innings, a 27–9 record, and a 1.73 ERA. Since then, no left-hander has had more wins, nor a lower ERA, in a season (Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton did match the 27-win mark in 1972). In the final game of the regular season, the Dodgers had to beat the Phillies to win the pennant. In the second game of a doubleheader, Koufax faced Jim Bunning for the second time that season,[78] in a match-up between perfect game winners. Koufax, on two days rest, pitched a complete game, 6–3 victory to clinch the pennant.[79] He started 41 games (for the second year in a row); only two left-handers started as many games in any season over the ensuing years through 2016.

The Dodgers went on to face the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, and Game 2 marked Koufax's third start in eight days. He pitched well enough—Baltimore first baseman Boog Powell told Koufax's biographer, Jane Leavy, "He might have been hurtin' but he was bringin'"—but three errors by Dodger center fielder Willie Davis in the fifth inning produced three unearned runs. Baltimore's twenty-year-old Jim Palmer pitched a four-hitter and the Orioles won 6–0.[80] Alston lifted Koufax at the end of the sixth inning,[80][81] with the idea of getting him extra rest before a potential fifth game. It never happened; the Dodgers were swept in four, not scoring a single run in the last three.[82] Less than six weeks later, Koufax announced his retirement due to his arthritic condition on Friday, November 18, 1966.[83][84]

Career overall

In his 12-season career, Koufax had a 165–87 record with a 2.76 ERA, 2,396 strikeouts, 137 complete games, and 40 shutouts. He was the first pitcher to average fewer than seven hits allowed per nine innings pitched in his career (6.79) and to strike out more than nine batters (9.28) per nine innings pitched in his career.[85] He also became the 2nd pitcher in baseball history to have two games with 18 or more strikeouts, and the first to have eight games with 15 or more strikeouts. In his last ten seasons, from 1957 to 1966, batters hit .203 against Koufax, with a .271 on-base percentage and a .315 slugging average.[86]

Koufax's postseason record is impressive: a 4–3 won-lost record with a 0.95 earned run average, in four World Series. He is on the very short list of pitchers who retired with more career strikeouts than innings pitched. Koufax was selected as an All-Star for six consecutive seasons[2] and made seven out of eight All-Star Game appearances those seasons (not selected for 2nd All-Star Game in 1962).[42] He pitched 6​13 innings in four All-Star games including being the starting pitcher for 3 innings in the 1966 All-Star Game.

Koufax was the first pitcher to win multiple Cy Young Awards, as well as the first pitcher to win a Cy Young Award by a unanimous vote. He is also the only pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards in the era in which the award was presented to one pitcher across the board, rather than one in each major league, and one of three Dodgers pitchers to win the one-across-the-board Cy Young Award. (The others were Don Newcombe, the first Cy Young winner in 1956, and Don Drysdale in 1962.) Each of Koufax's three Cy Young Awards were by unanimous vote.[3][87] Koufax and Juan Marichal are the only two pitchers in the post-war era (1946-date) to have more than one 25-win season, with each pitcher recording three.

Among NL pitchers with at least 2,000 innings pitched who have debuted since 1913 and have already retired, he has the highest career winning percentage (.655) and had the lowest career ERA (2.76) until surpassed by Tom Seaver, whose NL career mark is 2.73. While Seaver ended his career with an overall career ERA of 2.86, this included three seasons in the American League. Seaver passed Koufax's mark in 1974 when he ended the season with more than 2,000 NL innings and an ERA of 2.47. Among retired pitchers, Koufax is currently second on the list of overall career ERA in the live-ball era, surpassed only by Whitey Ford (2.75). However, among active pitchers, fellow Dodger Clayton Kershaw has a 2.39 ERA in over 2,000 innings pitched through the end of the 2018 season. Kershaw also has a higher winning percentage, .689 through the end of the 2018 season.

Through 2010, among Jewish pitchers, he was first all-time in career strikeouts (ahead of Ken Holtzman), second in wins (behind Holtzman) and ERA (behind Barney Pelty), and seventh in games pitched (behind Alan Levine) among Jewish major league baseball players.[88]

Pitching style

Whereas many pitchers throw with a three-quarter or sidearm motion, Koufax threw with a pronounced over-the-top arm action. This may have increased his velocity, but reduced the lateral movement on his pitches, especially movement away from left-handed hitters. Most of his velocity came from his strong legs and back, combined with a high kicking wind-up and long forward stretch toward the plate. Throughout his career, Koufax relied mostly on two pitches.[90] His four-seam fastball gave batters the impression of rising as it approached them, due to underspin.[91] It not only appeared to move very late but also might move two or three distinct times. His overhand curveball, spun with the middle finger, dropped vertically 12 to 24 inches due to his arm action. Rob Neyer called it the best curve of all time.[92] He also occasionally threw a changeup and a forkball.[90]

At the beginning of his career, Koufax worked with coaches to eliminate his tendency to "tip" pitches (i.e. reveal which pitch was coming due to variations in his wind-up). Late in his career, and especially as his arm problems continued, this variation—usually in the position he held his hands at the top of the wind-up—became even more pronounced. Good hitters could often predict what pitch was coming, but were still unable to hit it.

Post-playing career

Sandy Koufax's number 32 was retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972.

In 1967, he signed a 10-year contract with NBC for US$1 million ($7,500,000 today) to be a broadcaster on the Saturday Game of the Week. He quit after six years, just prior to the start of the 1973 season.[93][94]

Koufax married Anne Widmark, daughter of movie star Richard Widmark, in 1969; the couple was divorced in 1982. His second marriage, to Kimberly Francis, a personal trainer, lasted from 1985 to 1998.[94] Koufax is currently married to Jane Purucker Clarke. He has no biological children.

In his first year of eligibility in 1972, Koufax was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, just weeks after his 36th birthday. His election made him the Hall's youngest member ever elected, five months younger than Lou Gehrig upon his election in 1939, though because the 1972 induction ceremony was nearly eight months after the election, Koufax's age at induction was slightly higher than Gehrig's, making Gehrig the youngest player ever inducted.[1] On June 4 of that same year, Koufax's uniform number 32 was retired alongside those of Dodger greats Roy Campanella (39) and Jackie Robinson (42).[95]

The Dodgers hired Koufax to be a minor league pitching coach in 1979. He resigned in 1990, saying he was not earning his keep, but most observers blamed it on his uneasy relationship with manager Tommy Lasorda.[96] Koufax returned to the Dodger organization in 2004 when the Dodgers were sold to Frank McCourt.[70][97]

Sandy Koufax 2014
Koufax at the 2014 BBWAA dinner

In 1999, The Sporting News placed Koufax at number 26 on its list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players".[98] That same year, he was named as one of the 30 players on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Although he rarely makes public appearances, he went to Turner Field in Atlanta for the introduction ceremony before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series.[99] Koufax threw out a ceremonial first pitch at opening day 2008 at Dodger Stadium, to help commemorate the Dodgers' 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles.

Koufax was the final player chosen in the inaugural Israel Baseball League draft in April 2007. Koufax, 71, was picked by the Modi'in Miracle. "His selection is a tribute to the esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league", said Art Shamsky, who managed the Miracle. "It's been 41 years between starts for him. If he's rested and ready to take the mound again, we want him on our team." Koufax declined to join the Miracle.[100][101]

Currently, Koufax serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro League players through financial and medical difficulties.

On January 23, 2013 the Dodgers hired Koufax as a Special Advisor to team Chairman Mark Walter. Koufax worked with the pitchers during spring training and will consult during the season.[102] On April 1, 2013, Koufax threw out the first pitch during ceremonies at Dodger Stadium.

On July 14, 2015, before the 2015 MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Koufax was introduced as one of the four best living players (as selected by the fans of major league baseball), along with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench. He threw the ceremonial first pitch to Bench from in front of the base of the mound.

On November 1, 2017, before game 7 of the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium, Koufax threw the ceremonial first pitch along with former teammate Don Newcombe.

White House recognition

JAHM 2010
Sandy Koufax (center of first row) at first White House reception for Jewish American Heritage Month, May 27, 2010. At Koufax's right are Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama

On May 27, 2010, Koufax was included among a group of prominent Jewish Americans at the first White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. U.S. President Barack Obama recognized how well-known Koufax's decision not to play on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur was in a humorous mention in his welcome remarks. Saying that he had "something in common" with Koufax, President Obama continued: "He can't pitch on Yom Kippur. I can't pitch."[103] The President also directly acknowledged the high esteem in which Koufax is held:

"This is a pretty fancy ... pretty distinguished group", he said of the invited guests, which included members of the House and Senate, two justices of the Supreme Court, Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, Rabbinical scholars, "and Sandy Koufax". The mention of his name brought the biggest cheer at the event.[103]

Career statistics

Sandy Koufax's career statistics[3]
165 87 2.76 399 314 137 40 9 2,324.1 1,754 806 713 204 817 2,396 18 87 9,497 1.106 131

See also


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  22. ^ Leavy, p. 55
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  • Boswell, Thomas (1982). "Koufax: Passing the Art Along". How Life Imitates the World Series. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 50–55.
  • Faber, Charles F. (2010). Major League Careers Cut Short: Leading Players Gone by 30. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786462094.
  • Edward Gruver (2000). Koufax. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 0-87833-157-3.
  • Bill James (1988). The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1988. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-35171-1.
  • Roger Kahn (2014). Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball. New York: Rodale, Inc. ISBN 978-1-62336-297-3.
  • Sandy Koufax; Ed Linn (1966). Koufax. New York: Viking Press.
  • Jane Leavy (2002). Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy. Perennial. ISBN 0-06-019533-9.
  • William F. McNeil (2001). The Dodgers Encyclopedia. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-58261-316-8.
  • Rob Neyer (2006). Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: A Complete Guide to the Worst Decisions and Stupidest Moments in Baseball History. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-8491-2.
  • Neyer, Rob; James, Bill (2004). The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6158-5.
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  • "Sandy Koufax Career Statistics". Retrieved May 24, 2005.
  • "Sandy Koufax Biography". ESPN SportsCentury. Retrieved May 24, 2005.

Further reading



External links

1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (second game)

The second 1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Fenway Park in Boston on July 31, 1961. It was the first MLB All-Star Game to end in a tie. The game in 2002 also ended in a tie.Rocky Colavito's one-out home run in the bottom of the first off National League starter Bob Purkey gave the American League a 1–0 lead, but Purkey only allowed two walks in the second before Art Mahaffey pitched a scoreless third and fourth, allowing only a leadoff walk to Mickey Mantle in the fourth. The Americans only got three more hits versus Sandy Koufax and Stu Miller.

American starter Jim Bunning pitched three perfect innings, but Don Schwall allowed a bases-loaded single to Bill White that tied the game in the sixth. All five hits the Nationals got were charged to Schwall. Camilo Pascual pitched three shutout innings before the game was called due to rain after nine innings with the score 1–1.

1963 Los Angeles Dodgers season

The 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers were led by pitcher Sandy Koufax, who won both the Cy Young Award and the Most Valuable Player Award. The team went 99–63 to win the National League title by six games over the runner-up St. Louis Cardinals and beat the New York Yankees in four games to win the 1963 World Series, marking the first time that the Yankees were ever swept in the postseason.

1963 Major League Baseball season

The 1963 Major League Baseball season was contested from April 8 to October 6, 1963. The American League and National League both featured ten teams, with each team playing a 162-game schedule.

In the World Series the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the New York Yankees in four straight games. The Dodgers' stellar pitching staff, anchored by left-hander Sandy Koufax and right-hander Don Drysdale, was so dominant that the vaunted Yankees, despite the presence of sluggers such as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in their lineup, never took a lead against Los Angeles the entire Series.

1963 World Series

The 1963 World Series matched the two-time defending champion New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Dodgers sweeping the Series in four games to capture their second title in five years, and their third in franchise history. Starting pitchers Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres, and ace reliever Ron Perranoski combined to give up only four runs in four games. The dominance of the Dodgers pitchers was so complete that at no point in any of the four games did the Yankees have the lead. New York was held to a .171 team batting average, the lowest ever for the Yankees in the post-season.

This was the first time that the New York Yankees were swept in a World Series in four games (the 1922 World Series had one tie).

Of the Los Angeles Dodgers four World Series championships since the opening of Dodger Stadium, this was the only one won at Dodger Stadium. Also, of the six championships from the Dodgers franchise, it remains the only one won at home.

This series was also the first meeting between teams from New York City and Los Angeles for a major professional sports championship. Seven more such meetings have followed with three more times each in the World Series and the NBA Finals, and the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

1964 Los Angeles Dodgers season

The 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers finished with a record of 80–82, 13 games behind the National League and World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, tied for sixth place with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

1965 Los Angeles Dodgers season

The 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers finished the regular-season with a 97–65 record, which earned them the NL pennant by two games over their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Minnesota Twins.

1965 Major League Baseball season

In the 1965 Major League Baseball season which was contested from April 12 to October 14, 1965, the Houston Colt .45s became the Astros, as they moved from Colt Stadium to the new Astrodome, becoming the first team to play their home games indoors, rather than outdoors. It was also the final season for the Braves in Milwaukee, before relocating to Atlanta for the 1966 season. The Los Angeles Angels officially changed their name to California Angels on September 2, 1965 with only 28 games left in the season in advance of their pending 1966 move to a new stadium in Anaheim.

In the World Series, the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

1965 World Series

The 1965 World Series featured the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers against the American League champion Minnesota Twins. It is best remembered for the heroics of Sandy Koufax, who was named the series MVP. Koufax did not pitch in Game 1, as it fell on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, but pitched in Game 2 and then tossed shutouts in Games 5 and 7 (with only two days of rest in between) to win the championship.

The Twins had won their first pennant since 1933 when the team was known as the Washington Senators. The Dodgers, prevailing in seven games, captured their second title in three years, and their third since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.

1965 in baseball

The following are the baseball events of the year 1965 throughout the world.

1966 Los Angeles Dodgers season

The 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League championship with a 95–67 record (1½ games over the San Francisco Giants), but were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

1966 Major League Baseball season

The 1966 Major League Baseball season was contested from April 11 to October 9, 1966. The Atlanta Braves played their inaugural season in Atlanta, following their relocation from Milwaukee. Three teams played the 1966 season in new stadiums. On April 12, the Braves ushered in Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking a 3–2 win in 13 innings. One week later, Anaheim Stadium opened with the California Angels losing to the Chicago White Sox, 3–1 in the Angels' debut in neighboring Orange County. On May 8, the St. Louis Cardinals closed out old Sportsman's Park/Busch Stadium I with a 10–5 loss to the San Francisco Giants before opening the new Busch Memorial Stadium four days later with a 4–3 win in 12 innings over the Atlanta Braves.

In the World Series the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 0.

1972 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1972 followed the system established one year earlier.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and

elected three: Yogi Berra, Sandy Koufax, and Early Wynn.

The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider executives, managers, umpires, and earlier major league players.

It also selected three people: Lefty Gomez, Will Harridge, and Ross Youngs.

The Negro Leagues Committee met for the second time and selected Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.

American Amateur Baseball Congress

The American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) is an amateur baseball organization in the United States for players from sub-teens through adults. Founded in 1935, it coordinates its programs with USA Baseball and the American Baseball Coaches Association. AABC has eight (8) age-range divisions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. There are also five (5) single-age divisions: 9's, 11's, 13's, 15's, and 17's. In some leagues, however, all divisions are age-range and none are single-age.

Under the AABC, each league has at least four (4) teams, each of which plays at least six (6) league games. Each league's winner goes on to state-tournament play. The winner of each state tournament goes to regional play and from there to the world series.

Cy Young Award

The Cy Young Award is given annually to the best pitchers in Major League Baseball (MLB), one each for the American League (AL) and National League (NL). The award was first introduced in 1956 by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, who died in 1955. The award was originally given to the single best pitcher in the major leagues, but in 1967, after the retirement of Frick, the award was given to one pitcher in each league.Each league's award is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with one representative from each team. As of the 2010 season, each voter places a vote for first, second, third, fourth and fifth place among the pitchers of each league. The formula used to calculate the final scores is a weighted sum of the votes. The pitcher with the highest score in each league wins the award. If two pitchers receive the same number of votes, the award is shared. The current formula started in the 2010 season. Before that, dating back to 1970, writers voted for three pitchers, with the formula of 5 points for a first place vote, 3 for a second place vote and 1 for a third place vote. Prior to 1970, writers only voted for the best pitcher and used a formula of one point per vote.

Los Angeles Dodgers award winners and league leaders

This is a list of award winners and league leaders for the Los Angeles Dodgers professional baseball franchise, including its years in Brooklyn (1883–1957).

Major League Baseball on NBC

Major League Baseball on NBC is the de facto branding for weekly broadcasts of Major League Baseball (MLB) games produced by NBC Sports, and televised on the NBC television network. Major League Baseball games first aired on the network from 1947 to 1989, when CBS acquired the broadcast television rights; games returned to the network in 1994 with coverage lasting until 2000. There have been several variations of the program dating back to the 1940s, including The NBC Game of the Week and Baseball Night in America.

Power pitcher

Power pitcher is a term in baseball for a pitcher who relies on the velocity of his pitches, sometimes at the expense of accuracy. Power pitchers usually record a high number of strikeouts, and statistics such as strikeouts per 9 innings pitched are common measures of power. An average pitcher strikes out about 5 batters per nine innings while a power pitcher will often strike out one or more every inning. The prototypical power pitcher is National Baseball Hall of Fame member, Nolan Ryan, who struck out a Major League Baseball record 5,714 batters in 5,386 innings. Ryan recorded seven no-hitters, appeared in eight Major League Baseball All-Star Games but also holds the record for most walks issued (2,795).A famous fictional example of a power pitcher is Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn from the film Major League, a character sports journalist Scott Lauber once called "the power pitcher everyone on my high school baseball team wished they were". Actor Charlie Sheen performed that role; he had actually played baseball earlier in his life, prior to acting, as a pitcher. Additional, non-fictional prominent power pitchers include Hall of Famers Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Bob Feller. Feller himself famously led his league in strikeouts and walks several times.The traditional school of thought on power pitching was known as "throw till you blow". However, multimillion-dollar contracts have changed mentalities. The number of pitches thrown is now counted by a team's staff, with particular attention paid to young power arms. The care which some of the older power pitchers took with their arms has allowed for long careers and further opportunity after they have stopped playing. For example, player Roger Clemens has remained in the public eye for years.

Sandy Koufax's perfect game

Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched a perfect game in the National League against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on September 9, 1965. Koufax, by retiring 27 consecutive batters without allowing any to reach base, became the sixth pitcher of the modern era, eighth overall, to throw a perfect game. The game was Koufax's fourth no-hitter, breaking Bob Feller's Major League record of three (and later broken by Nolan Ryan, in 1981). Koufax struck out 14 opposing batters, the most ever recorded in a perfect game, and matched only by San Francisco Giants pitcher, Matt Cain, on June 13, 2012. He also struck out at least one batter in all nine innings (Cain did not strike out a batter in the ninth in his perfect game), the only perfect game pitcher to do so to date.

The game was also notable for the high quality of the performance by the opposing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Cubs. Hendley gave up only one hit (which did not figure into the scoring) and allowed only two baserunners. Both pitchers had no-hitters intact until the seventh inning. The only run that the Dodgers scored was unearned. The game holds the record for fewest base runners in a perfect game (both teams), with two; the next lowest total is four.

Koufax's perfect game is a memorable part of baseball lore. Jane Leavy's biography of Koufax is structured around a re-telling of the game. An article in honoring Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully focuses on his play-by-play call of the game for KFI radio. This game was selected in a 1995 poll of members of the Society for American Baseball Research as the greatest game ever pitched.

Willie Hernández

Guillermo "Willie" Hernández Villanueva (born November 14, 1954) is a former relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs (1977–1983), Philadelphia Phillies (1983), and Detroit Tigers (1984–1989). He threw and batted left-handed. Hernández utilized the screwball.In 1984, Hernandez became only the third player ever to win the Cy Young Award, the MVP Award, and the World Series title all in the same season (Sandy Koufax was the first to accomplish this feat, in 1963 and Denny McLain did it in 1968.)

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