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SANDY MAKES A PITCH FOR POSTERITY
Joe Jares
August 02, 1965
Protected from further arm trouble by doctors, masseurs, pills, ointments, an ever-ready bucket of ice water and the fervent prayers of his teammates, Sandy Koufax has a good chance to win 30 games and set a new strikeout record (see chart at right) while keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers at the top of the National League pennant race
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August 02, 1965

Sandy Makes A Pitch For Posterity

Protected from further arm trouble by doctors, masseurs, pills, ointments, an ever-ready bucket of ice water and the fervent prayers of his teammates, Sandy Koufax has a good chance to win 30 games and set a new strikeout record (see chart at right) while keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers at the top of the National League pennant race

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HOW KOUFAX COMPARES WITH FELLER AND DIZ

G

IP

H

BB

SO

W

L

ERA

DIZZY DEAN (1934)

50

312

288

75

195

30

7

2.65

BOB FELLER (1946)

48

371

277

153

348

26

15

2.18

SANDY KOUFAX (1965)

24

196

135

41

222

17

3

2.02

Sandy Koufax sat on the padded bench in the third-base dugout at Dodger Stadium last week, the white towel draped around his neck accentuating the dark brown stubble on his handsome face. It was the last of the ninth inning against the Houston Astros, there were two outs and the score was tied 2-2. Then Jim Lefebvre walked and Jim Gilliam was walked intentionally to get at the next batter, Sandy himself. Manager Walter Alston, knowing the top of his batting order would be coming up in the 10th, decided to let the pitcher bat.

"I'm going to drive him in," said Koufax. He discarded the towel and his blue jacket, toted his bat to the plate and hit the first pitch between shortstop and third to score Lefebvre from second base and win his own game 3-2.

That is the kind of season it has been for Sandy Koufax, a man to whom great seasons, or at least great partial seasons, have become almost routine. With the invaluable aid of brightly colored capsules, two masseurs, gobs of red ointment and enough ice to build an igloo, Koufax has established a record of 17-3 and is well on his way to becoming the first pitcher to win 30 games in one season since Dizzy Dean did it in 1934, the year before Koufax was born. With his total of 222 strikeouts, he has an even better chance to surpass Bobby Feller's season strikeout record of 348, set in 1946. Finally, and not incidentally, Koufax, with the help of his pitching partner, Don Drysdale, and the base stealing of Maury Wills, is keeping the weak-hitting, injury-riddled Dodgers at the top of the National League standings, defying the laws of logic.

Indexed to date, this has been Koufax's greatest year: he has started 24 games and has pitched nine or more innings in 18 of them. Only twice has he been hit hard and neither time was he charged with the loss. The three games he did lose were by scores of 4-3, 6-3 and 2-1, and the last of them was on May 26. Since then he has won 11 in a row and has been almost untouchable. Assuming he can start 16 more games, Koufax must win 13 to reach 30, which means that he must step up his already remarkable ratio of victories to games started, a difficult task.

The strikeout record seems more readily available. Whereas most pitchers traditionally depend on one pitch for strikeouts—their curve or fast ball—Koufax can strike out a batter with anything he throws, curve, fast ball or changeup, over each of which he has remarkable control. Koufax has averaged 9.3 strikeouts for his first 24 starts, and if he can continue that pace for 16 more games he will finish the season with some 370, well past Feller's 19-year-old record.

His Dodger teammates enjoy talking about Koufax but, with the ballplayer's traditional superstitiousness, they do not want to discuss 30 victories and/or 348 strikeouts any more than he does. All that Sandy will say is that—in another grand tradition of baseball—he thinks about just one game at a time. "You're talking about 30 wins and that's a lot," says Pitching Coach Lefty Phillips. "Both Drysdale and Koufax, every time they pitch, give a good account of themselves. The hot months, August and September, won't bother Sandy. He's pitched pretty consistently, unless he's been hurt."

Unless he's been hurt. Unless, but, except and if. These are the words that must haunt Sandy Koufax beneath his mild, nice-guy exterior.

"Do you know what's been really great about this season?" Koufax said recently. "So far I haven't missed a single turn. Win or lose, I've been able to pitch every four days."

No one could possibly appreciate the significance of this more than Koufax himself, for there have been times during the last four seasons when it looked as though he would never pitch again. In July of 1962 he was ripping along with more than 200 strikeouts and a 14-5 record when he developed a clot in the deep ulnar arch of his precious left palm. Eventually it affected the index finger on his left hand, and for a while there was danger that the finger would have to be amputated. Sandy was for all practical purposes through for the season—and so were the Dodgers.

Disease, injury and opposing batsmen did not bother him in 1963, when he won 25, lost five and struck out 306 for a National League record, but early last August he dived into second base in a game against Milwaukee and hurt his left elbow. Although he took his next two turns on the mound and won both games, the elbow became painful and useless. He did not pitch the rest of the year, departing with a 19-5 record, 223 strikeouts and a 1.74 earned run average, the best in the league.

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