Never has a pitcher been as dominant as Sandy Koufax was in his prime. Before arm injuries forced him into early retirement, the Dodgers' lefty crippled hitters over a five-year period in ways no hurler ever has.
Koufax broke into baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, but it was not until 1961 that he asserted his dominance. Nonetheless, Koufax’s most collectible baseball cards come from his early years.
The card shows a headshot of a boyish Koufax—it looks like he has yet to take his first shave—set against a yellow background. The card is not considered too difficult to find, though it is rarely in high-grade because it is prone to poor centering.
Koufax was not the centerpiece of the Dodgers team that won the World Series that year. In fact, he only pitched in 12 games in the 1955 season.
Two years later, while Koufax was still a middling pitcher, Topps released its most striking Koufax card. The 1957 Topps shows a close up of Koufax wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap—it was the team’s last year in Brooklyn before moving to Los Angeles—with his famously infectious smile from ear to ear. Like the entire 1957 Topps set, this card is often found poorly centered and with border toning.
After the 1957 season, the Dodgers headed west. To commemorate the move, Bell Brand, a corn and potato chip company, released a ten-card regional set of all Dodgers. Bell Brand a...
The black-and-white Koufax card shows the lefty crouched down, as if he had just delivered a pitch to the plate. It’s a great image, but because the card came in bags of potato chips, it is very difficult to find in good condition.
At the time all of those Koufax cards were printed, few would have thought they would one day be extremely collectible. Koufax was a rather mediocre hurler stuck in the middle of the Dodgers rotation.
All that changed in 1961.
That was the year Koufax went 18-13, striking out a league-leading 269 batters en route to his first All-Star game. Koufax had finally realized the potential that made Dodgers scout Al Campanis famously remark, “There are two times in my life the hair on my arms has stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the first time I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball.”
From 1962 to 1966, Koufax led the National League in ERA every year, won three Cy Young awards, one MVP award, two World Series championships, and two World Series MVPs to go with those titles.
Unfortunately, despite his success, Koufax was constantly enduring serious arm pain. He was forced to medicate himself heavily before and between starts, and after the 1966 season his arm could not take it anymore: he was forced to retire in the heart of his prime at the age of 31. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame five years later, he became the youngest player ever to enter that illustrious club.
It is a wonder to consider what Koufax could have done had his left arm not failed him. Even with his early retirement, Koufax threw four no-hitters—a record at the time that was later broken by Nolan Ryan—including one perfect game.
In addition to his on-the-field dominance, Koufax is also remembered as one of baseball’s rare Jewish stars, which made him an idol to Jewish kids everywhere. The observant Koufax, a Brooklyn native, refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Nonetheless, the Dodgers would win that World Series, and Koufax would be named the series’ MVP.
Popular Koufax collectibles today include his game used #32 jerseys, autographed baseballs and photographs, and even autographed copies of the April 13, 1964, issue of “Sports Illustrated,” which had a drawing of Koufax on the cover.
On rare occasions, game-used Koufax gloves are made available to well-heeled collectors. Koufax’s Spalding glove that he wore during his 1963 no-hitter sold for six-figures in 2004, as did a glove he used during his final season, which was sold in 2009.
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Dave Roberts to be named Dodgers managerAmeriPublications, November 28th
He called the franchise “groundbreaking” for having such players as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo. The son of an African-American father and Japanese mother, Roberts will be the first ...Read more
Illinois treasurer to hold online auction of valuablesDeKalb Daily Chronicle, November 27th
The auction will include items such as an Engelhard 10-ounce gold bar; a 1923D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold piece; a 1967 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card and a 1966 Sandy Koufax Topps baseball card. Auction items have been appraised by an ...Read more
Every day at work a gift for retiring Chief Judge Rick HaseltonCorvallis Gazette Times, November 27th
There's a poster of Sandy Koufax pitching a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants in 1963 (the Dodgers won 8-0 on May 11, 1963), a photograph of Robert Kennedy on a train while visiting the mid-valley just months before he was killed, and a...Read more
Is Sandy Koufax due for Freedom Medal?FOXSports.com (blog), November 24th
Well, both of our most famous “pioneers” – Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente – were awarded medals posthumously. Seven of the 12 were African-American, but that's partly “explained” by the two pioneers and the simple fact that most of the greatest ...Read more
It's Cy Young Award day, so here's Sandy Koufax receiving his third (from Don ...MLB.com, November 18th
At 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday night, live on MLB Network, we'll all find out who won the 2015 Cy Young Awards. It's a tight race for both: Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel and David Price will face off for the AL award, while Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, and...Read more
Sandy Koufax's Game 7 in 1965: One for the agesFOXSports.com, October 27th
Jane Leavy: The 1965 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Dodgers is remembered chiefly for what didn't happen: Sandy Koufax did not pitch Game 1 because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. That act ...Read more
Sandy Koufax's refusal to pitch on Yom Kippur still resonatesESPN, September 22nd
Half a century ago, when Los Angeles Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax chose not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins because it fell on Yom Kippur, Elliot Strom was a 15-year-old baseball fan in Toronto. After attending services ...Read more
Sandy Koufax: Five amazing moments in the pitcher's legendary careerNew York Daily News, August 31st
Sandy Koufax's career might have ended before anyone was ready to see him go, but the legendary lefty still managed to pitch his way into the Hall of Fame with countless superb performances. On August 31, 1959, the Dodgers ace — two seasons after the ...Read more