In the years between 1955 and 1966 there was not a more thrilling sight for Dodger fans, than the wild south paw, Sandy Koufax. While his first appearance was little to write home about, he soon proved naysayers wrong with a career-defining second outing.
On August 27, 1955 Koufax earned his first win and complete game on a two-hit 7-0 shutout over the Cincinnati Reds. He dominated the opposing line up; striking out fourteen, walking five, with the only two hits being a single in the first by Ted Kluszewski and a two-out double in the ninth by Sam Mele. Five days later Koufax would show that this outing was no fluke and continued his reign by leaving the Pirates high and dry with 4-0 loss in his third start.
By 1962, the Dodgers had picked up their roots to move out West and into Chavez Ravine, where Koufax really hit his stride. From 1961-1966, Sandy ruled over the pitching mound, collecting five consecutive ERA titles, six All-Star game elections, and an unbelievable 111-34 (.766 win percentage) record from 1962-1966. He threw four no-hitters in the years between 1962 and 1964, and led the Dodgers to a win in the 1963 and 1965 World Series. During his time with the Dodgers, Koufax would win four World Series games, and achieve a post season career of 0.95 earned run average and 61 strikeouts.
At the peak of his career, in 1963, he perfected the control of his explosive fastball and sharp-breaking curveball to strike out 306 batters, maintaining a 1.88 ERA and pitching a record-setting 11 shutouts. The 1963 season was as good to Sandy Koufax as he was to Dodgers. His see-to-believe 25-5 record was best described by Yankees great Yogi Berra, “I can see how he won 25 games, what I don’t understand is how he lost five.” Clearly this was a universal feeling that season as Koufax went on to win the National League MVP and the first of three Cy Young Awards.
Sandy Koufax retired after a short but illustrious career at the age 30 due to an arthritic condition. He would become the youngest player inducted into the Hall of Fame at 36 years and 20 days old.
This Hall of Famer is as much of a Dodgers legend as he is of dodger present and future. While leaving Camelback Ranch in conclusion to this season’s Spring Training he could be found sitting next to Dodgers newest left handed ace, Clayton Kershaw. It has been no secret since his debut that the Dodgers community is looking to Kershaw to reignite the fire that Koufax had started over fifty years earlier. When asked about the comparison between Kershaw and himself, Sandy Koufax simply replied. “If he is as good as I think he’s going to be, I’m honored.”
In tonight’s game against the Colorado Rockies the dodgers will be honoring No. 32, Sandy Koufax, by commemorating his likeness to a bobble head for their Dodgers Greats collection. This collection consists of ten bobble head giveaways to include Don Drysdale, Kirk Gibson, and the incomparable Vin Scully, and comes in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium.
Few have come close to achieving what Sandy Koufax had both on and off the field during his short career in Dodger Blue. He quickly became a hero on the hill and now permanently resides as a legend both in Cooperstown and Dodgertown. Truly one of the Dodgers’ greats, he left a mountain of a legacy and large shoes to fill, we are all simply lucky enough to spend the next fifty years getting to watch someone try and fill them.