Koufax likes to slip into Dodgertown during spring training unnoticed, parking his Saab convertible or his Jeep Wagoneer in a back lot, visiting with O'Malley if he sees the shades open to Villa 162 and watching pitchers throw on the sacred ground of the practice mounds. He has noticed that there are a lot more microphones and cameras at Dodgertown since Rupert Murdoch bought the team last year. He is not happy about that.
I am chatting with Bobby McCarthy, Koufax's friend from Vero Beach, during an exhibition game at Dodgertown when Dave Stewart, a former Koufax pupil (who himself coached the pennant-winning San Diego Padres pitching staff last year), stops by. "We were talking about Sandy," McCarthy says.
"Oh, yeah?" Stewart says. "I just saw him in the clubhouse."
I bolt, but when I get to the clubhouse, the Ghost has vanished. I can practically smell the ethereal contrails.
A few days later I get the official word from a member of Kou-fax's inner circle: "He doesn't want to talk. He's at the point where he doesn't care what people write; he just doesn't want to say anything. Sorry."
I fire my last bullet. The home phone number. I haven't needed to muster this kind of courage to dial a telephone since I asked my date to our high school prom. The phone rings. I remember the code: The answering machine is on if he's in town, off if he's not. The phone just keeps ringing.
It is Opening Day of the 1999 season. I am standing before the house at Winkumpaugh Farm. Or what is left of it. It burned to the ground 22 days ago.
I am staring at a cement hole in the ground filled with ash and garbage and the stump of a chimney. Standing with me is Dean Harrison, a 45-year-old intensive-care nurse who grew up in West Orange, N.J., rooting for Koufax. He bought the property last year and lives in a house farther up the hill. When his power goes out during a winter storm, he calls the utility company and says, "The Koufax line is out." And they know exactly where the problem is. He knows the history of the place.
Koufax sold Winkumpaugh Farm to Herbert Haynes of Winn, Maine, who sold it three months later to John and Kay Cox of Mare Island, Calif. Cox was an absentee landlord, renting it when he could. Young people used it as a party house. Necessary repairs were left undone. By the time Henderson bought it last fall, Winkumpaugh Farm was in awful shape. "I wanted to save it," he says. "I was about 30 years too late." He finally decided to donate the farmhouse to the Ellsworth Fire Department.
When the fire company went out to the house on March 14, patches of ground were showing through what was left of winter's last snowfall. The first thing the firemen did was grab pieces of Sandy Koufax's life for themselves. They pulled up floorboards and planks of clapboard siding. A policeman, Tommy Jordan, tossed some switch plates, two faucet handles and a small pile of bricks into the back of his squad car.