Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy

I remember 1964 baseball cards. The cards for National League's 1963 leaders in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average all showed Sandy Koufax at the top. He had had a great season and was in his prime. He would dominate opposing batters for three more years and then retire. He was baseball's highest paid player at $150,000 per year, but he said that his health was more important than money and walked away. He was only 31 years old and had nothing left to prove on the field.

Retiring early was only one of the unusual acts of Koufax's short career, according to Jane Leavy in her tribute Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy. By declining to start Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it was Yom Kippur, he put his religious practice before his sports and solidified his reputation within the American Jewish community. He refused to make alcohol and tobacco ads, though he both drank and smoked. His dual strike for higher pay with Don Drysdale in spring training 1966 was the seed of the players' union movement, according to Leavy.

Perhaps the great game Koufax ever pitched was his September 9, 1965 perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. The fans at Dodger Stadium also witnessed a one-hitter pitched by the Cub Hendley. Leavy uses the game as a plot device, alternating innings of that game with chapters of Koufax's life. It is a common way to write a sports biography and in this case very effective. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is a biography that no baseball fan should miss. With the playoffs coming soon, this is a great time to pick it up.

Leavy, Jane. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy. HarperCollins, 2002. 282p. ISBN 0060195339.


simplicius said...

Wow, you really know how to fill up my holiday gift list. This book looks great, thanks!

ricklibrarian said...

It would be a great gift for a baseball fan.