SI Vault
December 20, 1965
The year was rich in excellence. Princeton's Bill Bradley astonished the nation by leading his Ivy League team to the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament. Gary Player won the U.S. Open to complete his career sweep of all the major golf titles. Jimmy Clark showed his total command of the racing car. Distance Runners Michel Jazy and Ron Clarke broke one world record after another. Willie Mays hit home runs, stopped fights and just missed winning the pennant for San Francisco. But beyond everyone stood Sandy Koufax, Sportsman of the Year (see cover). He overcame a depressing physical disability that manifested itself in spring training (he had to pack his elbow in ice after each game during the season) and spread-eagled baseball as he pitched the Dodgers to the world championship. Of him, baseball's Paul Richards said, 'This man has a sense of responsibility beyond gain and glory.' Jack Olsen asked the normally reticent Koufax about that sense of responsibility—the management of excellence—and got this unique interview KOUFAX ON KOUFAX
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December 20, 1965

Koufax On Koufax

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Occasional letters come in. You appreciate it, but there's a lot of difference between, say, writing with arthritis and trying to throw with it. A lot of people say, "Well, those ice treatments after each game must be the worst thing in the world for your arthritis when every doctor recommends heat." Well, that may be true, but the ice isn't for the arthritis, it's for the swelling. Twenty-four hours after the ice my elbow gets a lot of heat. The ice is only for right after a game, because if the elbow stays swollen I'm in trouble, because then it's going to take a week for the swelling to get out of it. Somebody else wrote in and suggested that I rub brake fluid on my elbow.

Brake fluid?

Yeah, we get a lot like that.

Be all right if you were a car.

But all these people were sincere, they were trying to be helpful.

Did you ever feel any irrational anger at all your injuries, like "Why is all this happening to me?"

I can't. I was given this arm. If I'd been given one that didn't have arthritis and things like that I might not be able to throw as hard. I might not have the same kind of stuff. I've got to take it, take what comes. The only thing that annoyed me was the finger, because of the way it happened. I did it because I was hitting left-handed, and the only reason I was hitting left-handed was to try to keep from getting hit in the left arm. I did it out of good sense and wound up missing half a year. That was slightly aggravating. I got jammed with a pitch and the bat broke an artery. How many times a day do guys get jammed and nothing happens?

And that's when you quit hitting lefty?


And now you're batting righty. Is that your natural way to hit?

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