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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
The Baseball Card Blog
Baseball Cards 1887-1914
Baseball Hall of Fame
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Sandy Koufax Memorabilia
Source: Google News
All hail Tony O!Black Hills Pioneer (blog), March 31st
In 1965, everything came together for the powerful Twins, who won the AL title and took the Los Angeles Dodgers to the limit in the World Series before falling in Game 7 to perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax. Tony O, as fans called...Read more
The Vin Scully Map Guide to Los AngelesCurbed LA, March 31st
Sandy Koufax ruled the mound, a new stadium was built (shadily), and championships were won in 1959, 1963, and 1965. Scully was there for it all. His call of the ninth inning of Koufax's only perfect game is held up as arguably the single greatest bit...Read more
2015 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the National League starting pitchersSILive.com, March 31st
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: The numbers he posted last year eclipsed anything turned out by Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez or (dare I say it) Sandy Koufax. Despite missing about six starts, here was Kershaw's line: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a BB/K ...Read more
Daily Kickoff: Hillary talks to Malcolm | O'Malley learns Heschel | Obama's ...Jewish Journal, March 30th
Kaminsky, who is Jewish, grew up a fan of Sandy Koufax, hearing stories from his family about the Hall of Fame Dodgers left-hander. Rob has yet to meet Koufax, but is hoping that day comes soon." [NYPost] BIRTHDAYS: HuffPost's Jessica Schulberg…...Read more
Who Knew? Sandy Koufax walked onto the University of Cincinnati baseball ...WCPO, March 24th
Sandy Koufax walked onto the University of Cincinnati baseball team and then into history. The Dodgers signed him after one year of varsity. Brent Coleman, WCPO contributor. 1:38 PM, Mar 24, 2015. 8:05 AM, Mar 26, 2015. Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax is ...Read more
This Day in Dodger's History: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale Made ...Lasorda's Lair, March 18th
Today is a historic day in Dodger history. Some of the young kids may not know or remember, but the Dodgers used to call their spring training home in Vero Beach Florida. The complex was affectionately termed “Dodgertown”. The historic Dodgertown at ...Read more
A Q&A with Sandy KoufaxESPN (blog), February 26th
Sandy Koufax's arrival at Camelback Ranch always sends ripples of excitement through camp, with fans chanting, "Sandy! Sandy!" when he moves between stations. The most dominant left-handed pitcher of the 1960s visited Los Angeles Dodgers camp ...Read more
The Left Arm of God: Sandy Koufax was more than just a perfect pitcherSI.com, August 30th
In honor of Sports Illustrated's 60th anniversary, SI.com is republishing, in full, 60 of the best stories ever to run in the magazine's history. Today's selection is on Sandy Koufax, whom the magazine named its favorite athlete of the 20th century...Read more