Sandy Koufax was born Sanford Braun, on December 30, 1935. His parents, Jack Braun
and Evelyn Lichtenstein, lived in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York.
They divorced when Sandy was three years old.
At the age of nine,
Evelyn re-married lawyer Irving Koufax. Irving never actually adopted
Sandy, but he always reffered to Mr. Koufax as his father and took on
his last name.
Sandy Koufax's first professional tryout was with the New York Giants.
It didn't go well. He had forgotten his glove and, although he threw
hard, his control was not what they thought it should be.
His next tryout was with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.
Sandy threw so hard that he broke the thumb of bull pen coach Sam
Narron. Pirate general manager Branch Rickey, offered Koufax $15,000
and said he had the greatest arm he had ever seen. But Sandy turned it
Al Campanis, a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers, had heard about Koufax
and invited him to a tryout at Ebbets Field in 1954. The Dodgers
signed Sandy for
$20,000. $14,000 was a bonus and his salary would be $6,000.
Since Koufax's signing bonus was more than $4,000, the league rules
at that time said he could not be sent to the minor leagues for
2 years. If Koufax was not kept on the major league roster, any
team could sign him away from the Dodgers.
Future Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was sent down to the Montreal
Royals of the International league to make room for Koufax.
Sandy Koufax's major league debut came on June 24, 1955 against the
Milwaukee Braves. As a reliver in the fifth inning, Bobby Thompson
became his first strike out victim.
Koufax's first start came on July 6. He lasted 4 2/3 inning and walked
eight! He would not start again for nearly two months.
The Dodgers won the 1955 World Series but Koufax didn't throw a
Sandy struggled with his control in the early years of his career.
But on May 16, he threw a complete game win, striking out 13 and
earning a spot in the rotation.
Over the next few seasons, Koufax was plagued with injuries.
His 1958 season ended with an 11-11 record. He also led the league
in wild pitches.
After the 1960 season, Sandy Koufax was ready to quit baseball.
He reportedly threw his spikes and glove into the trash after the
final game of the season.
During spring training in 1961, a Dodger scout noticed something wrong
with Koufax's delivery. Catcher Norm Sherry would remind Sandy not
to "rear back" so much in his wind-up. He would also tell him not to
throw so hard.
In the next game, Koufax walked the bases loaded with 12 straight
pitches. Again, Sherry reminded Sandy about what the scout had told
him. Koufax listened to the advice and struck out the next three
batters. He went seven innings, struck out eight, walked five and
gave up no hits.
September 27, 1961, Sandy Koufax broke Christy Mathewson's 58 year
old, National League record for strike outs in a season by a lefty.
Koufax finished the season with 269 and only 96 walks.
Koufax pitched the first of his four no hitters against the Mets at
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on June 30, 1962.
In 1963, Koufax won the pitcher's "Triple Crown", by leading the
league in wins with 25, strike outs with 306 and ERA with 1.88.
He also threw 11 shoutouts and won the National League Cy Young
award and the Most Valuable Player award. He also won the World Series MVP that season as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 4 srtaight.
By the 1965 season, Sandy Koufax was pitching in tremendous pain.
He was diagnosed with traumatic arthritis in his pitching arm.
Cortisone, codeine and ice got him through the season and he managed
to win his second Triple Crown. Shattering the Major League record
for strike outs in a season (Bob Feller's 348). Koufax fanned 382. He won his second Cy Young Award.
The Dodgers won the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax,
despite not "having" his curve ball, threw a three hit shut out in the
final game to clinch it for the Dodgers. He won his second World
The Dodgers made it back to the World Series in 1966 against the
Baltimore Orioles. Koufax pitched game two but the Orioles swept
the Dodgers four straight.
After the 1966 World Series, Koufax announced his retirement due to
his arthritic condition.
Sandy Koufax only had a 12 year career. But what a career!
He finished with a record of 165-87, struck out 2,396, and a
lifetime 2.76 ERA. He pitched 137 complete games and 40 shut outs.
Koufax won three Cy Young Awards, all by unanimous vote. The thing
that makes this more impressive is that up until 1967, only one Cy
Young award was given. There was not one for each league.
On June 4, 1972, the Los Angeles Dodgers retired Sandy's number 32.
He was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame that same year. He was and
still is, the youngest former player to be inducted.
Pittsburgh Pirate's star Willie Stargell once said, "Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork."
After facing Koufax in the 1963 World Series, Yankee catcher Yogi
Berra said, "I can understand how he won 25 games. What I can't
understand is how he lost five!"
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