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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Recent News: Sandy Koufax Memorabilia
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Future is now as Mets' pitching phenoms are quickly learning on the jobNew York Daily News, July 4th
He traces his tenure calling games to Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters and looks down on the same mound where he once saw Don Drysdale distinguish himself. He departs the stadium with his blue jacket over his shoulder following Syndergaard's outing...Read more
Pedro Martinez rooting for Chris Sale to break strikeout recordChicago Tribune, July 3rd
The American League Pitcher of the Month for June also joined Johnson and Martinez as the only three pitchers to strike out 12 or more in five consecutive starts, and Sandy Koufax as the only two since 1900 to have three straight starts of 12-plus...Read more
Cubs offense struggles again in loss to MarlinsChicago Sun-Times, July 3rd
One question asked the prospects to name their heroes. “And everybody said Roberto Clemente, or Sandy Koufax,” Bavasi said. “His said, `My father Joe. He's a plumber, takes pride in it, and so he's the best there is.' “ Article 3 of 5 . UP NEXT...Read more
When 'Baseball's Most Attractive Bachelor' Pitched His First No-HitterTIME, June 30th
On June 30, 1962, Sandy Koufax pitched his first no-hitter for the Dodgers. Up against the New York Mets, Koufax struck out 13 batters and walked five to lead his team to victory. It was his first of four career no-hitters—a feat achieved, to this day...Read more
Chris Sale making all kinds of history with run of stellar startsChicago Sun-Times, June 9th
Sale also joins Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers since 1900 to strike out 12 batters in three consecutive games while allowing no more than one run in each game. How has Sale done it? The left-hander is making batters swing and miss at historic rates...Read more
Happy 60th Anniversary: Possibly baseball's best transaction everCBSSports.com, June 8th
Checking what happened on a particular date in baseball history is a fun -- albeit admittedly dorky -- pastime for yours truly. Most days I end up with a nonchalant "oh, that's cool" feeling before moving on to actually important things. Every once in...Read more
Of Bob Dylan, Sandy Koufax and 10 Other Things About (Jewish) MinnesotaJewish Daily Forward, June 6th
2 The first Jews settled in Minnesota in 1849, nine years before the state joined the union in May, 1858. 3 Floyd Bjørnstjerne Olson, a member of Minnesota's Farmer Labor Party, was Minnesota's Governor from 1931-1936. When he was growing up, Olson ...Read more
The 20 greatest Dodgers of all time, No. 1: Sandy KoufaxLos Angeles Times, June 5th
Many people will tell you that the greatest pitcher in baseball history was Sandy Koufax on four days' rest. Second greatest? Sandy Koufax on three days' rest. Koufax pitched four no-hitters, one of those a perfect game, and led the Dodgers to two...Read more