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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Whatever I'm going to try to do I try to do as well as I can. In baseball, where there's no such thing as being perfect, you can always do better. If I've made a mistake, I want to be aware of it. You make a lot of mistakes in ball games. You get away with maybe 50% of them, maybe more sometimes. But when you make a mistake you can't just slough it and forget it.

What do you think drives you?

I think it's just competition. I'm the same way about everything. I want to win, and I want to do things well. And I want to be capable of doing my best. If I were to go out and get beat and then realize after the game that I got beat because of something I did the day me, that'd be the worst way to lose. Now, if I get beat because of something I couldn't do or didn't do on the field, at least I know I gave the best I could. But if it was something that happened off the field....

You mean like not getting enough sleep or running around or something like that?

Well, let's say it's hot and you want to go swimming, and you swim for an hour and all of a sudden your arms are tired, you're stiff. If I could look back at that and see how it cost me a ball game, I'd be disturbed with myself. I'd be wrong. I'd be wrong for myself and I'd be wrong for 24 other guys, because I wouldn't be capable of doing the best I can. I'd be ashamed of myself.

Nobody else would know what you'd done.

I'd know it. When I get beat, I want it to be on the field. I don't want to beat myself the day before. So I'm careful. After I pitch a game I say to myself, "Well, this is my day, my night," and I'll go out. I might go out the next night, possibly, but the third night and the night before I pitch I sort of cool it a little bit.

What else do you cool during the season?

I give up golf. I don't know whether golf hurts my pitching, but it's not worth taking the chance. Especially if you've seen me play golf. I'm not going to make a living playing golf. Two or three years ago we had an off day one Monday. I had pitched Sunday, so on Monday I went out and played golf, and then we went to San Francisco and I started a game and got knocked out in the first inning. I didn't think about the golf at the time, but about three months later I played in a Dodger golf tournament and the first time I pitched after that I tore something in my shoulder. I began to think maybe it wasn't a coincidence.

Couldn't you play golf but swing a little easier?

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