"When Hideo Nomo was getting really, really big, Sandy told me, 'He'd better learn to like room service,' " O'Malley says. "That's how Sandy handled the attention." Koufax almost never left his hotel room in his final two seasons for the Dodgers. It wasn't enough that he move to a creaky, charmingly flawed farmhouse in Maine with a leaky basement, he quickly bought up almost 300 acres adjacent to it.
Not even the serenity of Maine, though, could quell Koufax's wanderlust. After three years he decided the winters were too long and too cold. The farmhouse needed constant work. His stepfather took ill in California. Koufax sold Winkumpaugh Farm on July 22, 1974, leaving for the warmer but still rural setting of Templeton, Calif., in San Luis Obispo County.
Koufax is 63, in terrific shape and, thanks to shoulder surgery a few years back, probably still able to get hitters out. (In his 50s Koufax was pitching in a fantasy camp when a camper scoffed after one of his pitches, "Is that all you've got?" Koufax's lips tightened and his eyes narrowed—just about all the emotion he would ever show on the mound—and he unleashed a heater that flew damn near 90 mph.)
The romance with Anne ended with a divorce in the early '80s. He remarried a few years later, this time to a fitness enthusiast who, like Anne, had a passion for the arts. That marriage ended in divorce last winter. Friends say Koufax is delighted to be on his own again. Says Lou Johnson, a former Dodgers teammate, "He has an inner peace that's really deep-rooted. I wish I had that."
He is the child of a broken marriage who rejected everything associated with his father, including his name. Sanford Braun was three years old when Jack and Evelyn Braun divorced, and his contact with Jack all but ended about six years later when Jack remarried and stopped sending alimony payments. Evelyn, an accountant, married Irving Koufax, an attorney, a short time later. "When I speak of my father," he wrote in his autobiography, "I speak of Irving Koufax, for he has been to me everything a father could be." Koufax rarely spoke to Jack Braun, and not at all during his playing days. When the Dodgers played at Shea Stadium, Jack would sit a few rows behind the visitors' dugout and cheer for the son who neither knew nor cared that he was there.
Now there is but one Koufax bearing that name. He has no children, no immediate family—both his mother and stepfather are deceased. The death of his only sibling, a sister, in 1997, had a profound impact on a man who has struggled to deal with the deaths of friends and other players from his era. "People react to death differently," O'Malley says. "Sandy takes a death very, very, very hard."
He has a small circle of close friends, and many other buddies who always seem to be one or two phone numbers behind him. "It sounds odd, but he's very home-oriented," Keleshian says, "yet very nomadic."
His list of home addresses since he stopped playing baseball reads like a KOA campground directory: North Ellsworth, Maine; Templeton and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Idaho; Oregon (where his second wife ran a gallery); North Carolina (where he and his second wife kept horses); and Vero Beach-not to mention extensive trips to Hawaii, New Zealand and Europe. This spring he was looking for a new place to spend the summer and once again had his eye on rural New England. "He doesn't say much about what he's up to," says Bobby McCarthy, a friend who owns a Vero Beach restaurant that Koufax prefers to frequent when it's closed. "We'll be sitting in the restaurant in the morning, and that night I'll see he's at a Mets game in New York. And he hadn't said anything that morning about going there. But that's Sandy."
At 8:30 on a lovely Sunday morning in March, I attend a chapel service in the Sandy Koufax Room at Dodgertown. Players and coaches in their fabulously white Dodgers uniforms are there, but not Koufax. The Dodgers give glory to Jesus Christ every Sunday in a conference room named for the greatest Jewish ballplayer who ever lived. Outside the room is a picture of a young Koufax, smiling, as if he is in on the joke.
Don Sutton is a native of Clio, Ala., who reached the big leagues at age 21 in 1966, which is to say he got there just in time. His first season in the majors was Koufax's last. Says Sutton, "I saw how he dressed, how he tipped, how he carried himself and knew that's how a big leaguer was supposed to act. He was a star who didn't feel he was a star. That's a gift not many people have."