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Koufax K'd the competition

Koufax dominating in '65 Series
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Signature game
Oct. 14, 1965 - Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walter Alston had this decision to make concerning his Game 7 starter in the World Series: Use Sandy Koufax on just two days rest or Don Drysdale on three days rest.

Alston chose Koufax, and the lefthander didn't let him or the Dodgers down. Koufax, who had blanked Minnesota on four hits in Game 5, shut down the power-loaded Twins again. He allowed only three hits and struck out 10 again to win 2-0 as the Dodgers became world champions.

And Koufax did it basically with just one pitch. Because he had difficulty getting his curve over the plate early, Koufax stuck with his fastball. "It can't be done unless you are exceptional," said catcher John Roseboro, "and Sandy is the most exceptional pitcher in the game today."

Koufax walked three, two in the first inning. But he found his rhythm in the middle innings and dominated the Twins. He ended the game with a flourish, fanning Earl Battey and Bobby Allison to become the first pitcher to record three double-digit strikeout games in Series play.

Despite his arthritic left elbow, Koufax struck out 411 in 361 2/3 innings and went 28-9 this year, including the Series.

Odds and ends

  • In his early days, Koufax was so wild that one Dodger said, "Taking batting practice against him is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets. You don't give yourself much of a chance."

      Here's how Koufax's final five seasons stack up against the best five consecutive years of other premier pitchers:
      Record Win pct.
      Sandy Koufax
    111-34 .766
      Walter Johnson
    149-63 .703
      C. Mathewson
    147-56 .724
      Lefty Grove
    128-33 .795
      Greg Maddux
    89-33 .730
      ERA ERA titles
      Sandy Koufax
    2.02 5
      Walter Johnson
    1.54 2
      C. Mathewson
    1.93 2
      Lefty Grove
    2.56 4
      Greg Maddux
    2.13 3
      Strikeouts IP
      Sandy Koufax 1,444 1,377
      1962-1966 9.4 strikeouts per 9 inn.
      Walter Johnson
    1,181 1,746 2/3
      1911-1915 6.1 strikeouts per 9 inn.
      C. Mathewson
    983 1,640
      1904-1908 5.4 strikeouts per 9 inn.
      Lefty Grove
    925 1,408 1/3
      1928-1932 5.9 strikeouts per 9 inn.
      Greg Maddux
    883 1,156 1/3
      1993-1997 6.9 strikeouts per 9 inn.

  • Before establishing himself as a star, Koufax tied Bob Feller's major league record of striking out 18 in a nine-inning game on Aug. 31, 1959. He whiffed 15 of the last 17 San Francisco Giants he faced before a crowd of 82,074 at the L.A. Coliseum.

  • Koufax struck out 18 again (Cubs, this time) on April 24, 1962 at Wrigley Field.

  • His National League record four no-hitters were against the Mets on June 30, 1962; the Giants on May 11, 1963; the Phillies on June 4, 1964; and the Cubs (a perfect game) on Sept. 9, 1965.

  • Koufax was selected the Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year in 1963 and 1965.

  • His 11 shutouts in 1963 are the most by a lefthander this century.

  • In 1965, he was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

  • After the 1965 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale held out together, asking for a total of $1 million for three seasons. They signed one-year contracts late in spring training; Koufax received $125,000 (a raise of $40,000) and Drysdale $110,000 (a raise of $30,000). They were the highest paid pitchers in the game and only Willie Mays earned more.

  • Koufax won pitching Triple Crowns in his three Cy Young seasons, leading the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts in 1963, 1965 and 1966.

  • While Koufax had a 0.95 ERA in eight World Series games, his record was only 4-3 because of a lack of offensive support. He struck out 61, walked 11 and allowed just 36 hits in 57 innings. He was named Series MVP twice (1963 and 1965).

  • Koufax's winning percentage of .778 (42-12) in the month of June was the best for any pitcher in any month in the 20th century.

  • In his last four seasons, Koufax was 14-2 with a 1.55 ERA in September.

  • He was 11-3 in 1-0 games.

  • He averaged 7.64 innings per start from 1961-66.

  • By winning 27 games in 1966, Koufax is the only pitcher in history to be a 20-game winner in his final season.

  • In his last seasons, Koufax had to ice his arm for 30 minutes after starts and wore a rubber sleeve to prevent frostbite.

  • Koufax received $430,500 in salary for his 12 years with the Dodgers.

  • He met Anne Widmark in 1968 and they married on New Year's Day 1969. They divorced in the early 1980s.

  • Koufax remarried a few years later, but divorced in the late 1990s. He has no children.

  • Six weeks after retiring as a pitcher, Koufax signed a 10-year contract with NBC to be its color analyst for its Game of the Week. He quit after six seasons, in February 1973.

  • Koufax didn't take another job until 1979, when he became a roving minor league pitching coach with the Dodgers. He quit in February 1990, telling Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, "I just don't think I'm earning what you're paying me."

  • Since then, Koufax has worked with pitchers at various major league camps during spring training, including the Dodgers. Among the pitchers that Koufax helped were Orel Hershiser and Al Leiter.

  • In 2003, Koufax severed his ties with the Dodgers because of a gossip-item in a newspaper owned by the team's parent company. A report in the New York Post, owned by News Corp., intimated that he was a homosexual. The Post apologized to Koufax and retracted the item.

  • Koufax told the Dodgers he would no longer attend spring training at Dodgertown in Florida, visit Dodger Stadium or participate in any activities while they are owned by News Corp., which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

  • Koufax does perhaps two card shows a year.

  • Since retiring from baseball, Koufax has moved frequently as he guards his privacy. He has lived in Maine, California, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina and Florida. Now, he spends much of his time in Vero Beach.

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