"How do you feel, Sandy?" Alston asked.
"I'll be honest with you, Skip," Koufax said. "I feel a hell of a lot better than the guy you've got warming up."
On Nov. 17, 1966, Collier came home from watching the Ice Capades and was greeted with this message from his babysitter: "Mr. Koufax has been trying to call you for a couple of hours." Collier knew exactly what it was about. He called Koufax.
"I'm calling the wire services in the morning," Koufax told him. "Is there anything you need from me now?"
"Sandy," Collier said, "I wrote that story months ago. It's in my desk drawer. All I have to do is make a call and tell them to run it."
Says Collier, "It was the biggest story I'll ever write. They ran it across the top of Page One with a big headline like it was the end of World War II."
I have gotten ahold of Koufax's home telephone number in Vero Beach, but I do not dare dial it. Even from afar I can feel the strength of this force field he has put around himself. To puncture it with a surprise phone call means certain disaster. I have read that Koufax so hated the intrusions of the telephone during his playing days that he once took to stashing it in his oven. Buzzie Bavasi, the Dodgers' general manager, would have to send telegrams to his house saying, "Please call."
I don't call. I am an archeologist—dig I must, but with the delicate touch of brushes and hand tools. I enlist the help of Koufax's friends. Now I understand why people I talk to about Koufax are apprehensive. They ask, Does Sandy know you're doing this story? (Yes.) It's as if speaking about him is itself a violation of his code of honor.
There is a 58-year-old health-care worker in Portchester, N.Y., named David Saks who attended Camp Chi-Wan-Da in Kingston, N.Y., in the summer of 1954. Koufax, who is from Brooklyn, was his counselor. "He was this handsome, strapping guy, a great athlete who had professional scouts trying to sign him," Saks says. "I was 13. He was 18. We all were in awe of him. But even then there were signs that he wanted people to avoid fussing about him to the nth degree."
Saks needed a day to think before agreeing to share two photographs he has from Camp Chi-Wan-Da that include the teenage Koufax. "Knowing how he is...," Saks explains. Saks has neither seen nor spoken to Koufax in 45 years. He does, however, have recurring dreams about happy reunions with him.