This is game 68 of the 2006 baseball season
In the first inning let’s take a look at This Week in Baseball History for the 4 week of October.
1963 Sandy Koufax, who unanimously won the CY Young Award six days ago, is also named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. The Dodger legend out points Pirates’ infielder Dick Groat, 237-190.
Sanford Koufax, nickname Sandy, was born Sanford Braun on December 30, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. He is viewed as one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball history. Koufax played his entire career for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1955 to 1966.
Sandy was the only child of Jack Braun and Evelyn Lichtenstein but his parents divorced by the time he was three. Jack Braun had little contact with his son after the divorce.
When Sandy turned nine his mother married Irving Koufax. Although Irving never legally adopted Koufax, Sandy always referred to Irving as his father and took on his last name.
Koufax packed a Hall of Fame career into the final six of his dozen major-league seasons. He was always a hard thrower, but control problems hobbled him during his early years.
A Brooklyn high school baseball and basketball star, Koufax played both sports as a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, then signed a bonus contract with the Dodgers.
Because Koufax’s signing bonus was greater than $4,000, he was known as a bonus baby. That forced the Dodgers to keep him in the major leagues for at least two years before he could be sent to the minors. To make room for him on the roster, the Dodgers optioned their future manager, Tommy Lasorda, to the Montreal Royals of the International League. Lasorda would later joke that it took Sandy Koufax to keep him off the Dodger pitching staff.
Koufax made his major league debut on June 24, 1955, in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Braves with the Dodgers trailing 7–1. Johnny Logan, the first batter Koufax faced, got a bloop single. He was followed by future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. Mathews bunted, and Koufax calmly fielded the ball and threw it into center field, trying to get Logan on the force. Aaron then walked on four pitches to load the bases. Bobby Thomson was the next batter, and after working the count full, he struck out swinging. Thomson had just become Koufax’s first strikeout victim.
Koufax’s first game as starting pitcher was on July 6. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up eight walks. He did not start again for almost two months, but he made the most of it when it did happen. On August 27, playing at Ebbets Field against the Cincinnati Reds, Koufax threw a two hit, 7–0 complete game shutout for his first major league win. Koufax made only twelve appearances in 1955, pitching a little over 41 innings and walking almost as many men as he struck out, with 28 walks and 30 strike outs.
1956 wasn’t very different from 1955 for Koufax. He saw little work, pitching only 58.2 innings, walking 29 and striking out 30; he had a 4.91 Earned Run Average.
On May 15, 1957 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 and earned a complete game win. It was his first complete game in almost two years. For the next two weeks he was in the starting rotation. Despite winning three of his next five, leading the league in strikeouts and having a 2.90 Earned Run Average, Koufax didn’t get another start for 45 days.
In his next start, on July 19, he struck out eleven in seven innings, but got a no decision. On September 29, Koufax became the last man ever 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.
Used little while the team was in Brooklyn, Koufax began to show flashes of brilliance once the Dodgers reached the West Coast. He was 11-11 in 1958 and tied the then-Major League strikeout mark with 18 against the Giants on August 31, 1959. That season he lost a 1-0 game to the White Sox in the World Series. Although only 8-13 in 1960, he struck out 197 batters in 175 innings.
Whether it was following the advice of part-time Dodger catcher Norm Sherry to ease up on his speed to achieve control or simply the maturing of a pitcher with great stuff, almost overnight Koufax became overpowering. Koufax finally broke into the starting rotation permanently.
On September 15, 1961, he surpassed the previous record of strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher in the National League with his 243rd strikeout. On September 27, Koufax broke the National League record for strikeouts in a season, surpassing Christy Mathewson’s 58-year-old mark of 267, set in 1903. Koufax finished the year 18–13, with 269 strikeouts versus 96 walks.
On June 30, 1962 against the New York Mets, Koufax threw his first no-hitter. In the first inning of the 5-0 win over the Mets, 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 the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning, as well as the first pitcher to accomplish the feat in the first inning of a game.
While batting against the San Francisco Giants on July 8, Koufax’s index finger on his left hand was injured, but he didn’t tell anybody. Koufax pitched in several more games while his finger slowly developed gangrene. After seeing a vascular specialist, it was determined that Koufax had a crushed artery in his palm.
Koufax finally was able to pitch again in September, when the team was locked in a tight pennant race with the Giants. Trying to get back into shape after the long lay-off, Koufax was ineffective in three appearances as the Giants caught the Dodgers at the end of the regular season. The Giants went on to win the National League play-offs.
Koufax came roaring back in 1963. On May 11 he carried a perfect game into the eighth inning against the powerful Giants lineup. Koufax ended up walking Ed Bailey on a 3-and-2 pitch, but preserved the no-hitter, his second in as many years.
Koufax finished the year by winning the pitchers’ Triple Crown, leading the league in wins with 25, strikeouts with 306 and an Earned Run Average of 1.88. He also threw 11 shutouts. He won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award, the first unanimous choice.
The Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the 1963 World Series where Koufax beat Whitey Ford in Game One, with a new World Series record 15 strikeouts. He also won Game Four, completing the Dodgers’ series sweep of the Yankees. He earned the World Series Most Valuable Player Award for his performance.
Yogi Berra, after seeing Koufax’s Game One performance, was quoted as saying, “I can see how he won 25 games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”
The 1964 season started with great expectations. On April 18,Koufax struck out three batters on nine pitches in the third inning of a 3-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first pitcher to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning twice in the National League. On April 22, however, against the St. Louis Cardinals, during the first inning of Koufax’s third start, he felt something “let go” in his arm. Koufax ended up missing three starts.
On June 4 against the Philadelphia Phillies, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Koufax walked Richie Allen on a very close full-count pitch. Allen, who was thrown out trying to steal second, was the first and last Phillie to reach base.
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. On August 8, Koufax jammed his pitching arm 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, he couldn’t straighten his arm. He was diagnosed with traumatic arthritis. Koufax finished the year with an impressive 19–5 record.
The 1965 season started off badly for Koufax. On March 31, the morning after pitching a full game during spring training, Koufax awoke to find that his entire left arm was black and blue from hemorrhaging. Koufax returned to Los Angeles to consult with the team doctor, who advised Koufax that he’d be lucky to be able to pitch once a week. The doctor also told Koufax that he would eventually lose full use of his arm. Together, they mapped out a schedule where Koufax would only pitch every fifth day instead of his customary every fourth day. Koufax also agreed not to throw at all between games — instead of throwing the customary one day between.
Despite the constant pain in his pitching elbow, Koufax finished the year by winning his second pitchers’ Triple Crown, leading the league in wins with 26, Earned Run Average with a mark of 2.04 and strikeouts with 382.
On September 9, 1965, Koufax became the sixth pitcher of the modern era to throw a perfect game.
Bob Hendley, the pitcher for the Cubs, was just up from the minor leagues and had a 2–2 record. By the top of the fifth inning, neither team had reached first base. That changed when Hendley walked Lou Johnson on a three-and-two pitch. Ron Fairly dropped a sacrifice bunt that Hendley bobbled, leaving his only play at first base. On the first pitch to Jim Lefebvre, Johnson stole third base. The Cubs’ catcher Krug threw the ball over Santo’s head and into left field, which allowed Johnson to score. The Dodgers had scored a run without an official at-bat.
In the end, Johnson’s hit was the only one by either team; the combined total of 1 hit for the entire game is a major league record.
Koufax and the Dodgers won the World Series again, while he captured his second Cy Young Award, again unanimously. The Minnesota Twins took an early 2 game to 0 lead. The Dodgers fought back, with Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, and Koufax picking up vital wins to take a 3-2 lead back to Minnesota. The Twins won Game Six to force a seventh game. Starting on only two days of rest, Koufax took the ball and threw a three-hit shutout to clinch the Series. The performance was enough to win him his second World Series MVP award.
Before the 1966 season began, both Koufax and Drysdale went to Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi to negotiate their contracts for the upcoming year. In the past, Bavasi had used Koufax and Drysdale against each other in contract negotiations. They demanded $1 million dollars, divided equally over the next three years, or $167,000 each for the next three seasons. Koufax ended up getting $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000.
In April 1966, the doctor told Koufax it was time to retire, that his arm could not take another season. Koufax kept the advice to himself and went out every fourth day to pitch. He ended up pitching 323 innings and had a 27–9 record with a 1.73 Earned Run Average.
The Dodgers won and went on to face the Baltimore Orioles in the 1966 World Series. They were swept in four, not scoring a single run in the last three. After the World Series, Koufax announced his retirement due to his arthritic condition.
In a twelve-season career, Koufax had a 165–87 record with a 2.76 ERA, 2,396 strikeouts, 137 complete games, and 40 shutouts. His World Series record is just as impressive: a 4-3 won-lost record but a 0.95 earned run average in four World Series. He retired with more career strikeouts than innings pitched.
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; in fact, all three Cy Young Awards he won were by unanimous vote. Making this achievement more impressive is the fact that there was only one award given out to both leagues until 1967, when the rules were changed so that there would be a Cy Young Award winner in each league.
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. On June 4 of that same year, Koufax’s uniform number 32 was retired alongside Dodger greats Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson.
In this inning we’ll open up the Baseball Dictionary
Under the letter:
And now for the ninth inning…
Continuing our trip around baseball cities…
For those of you that want to stick around, here’s an
You can email me at email@example.com. Well, that’s it for today’s game of Baseball History Podcast. I’ll see you later at the ballpark.
TWIBH- Sandy Koufax