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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Letter: What is winning? Yom Kippur and Sandy KoufaxNew Canaan Advertiser, September 27th
On Oct. 6, 1965, Sanford “Sandy” Koufax told Los Angeles Dodger manager Walter Alston he could not pitch Game One of the World Series because it was Yom Kippur, The Jewish Day of Atonement. I was fifteen years old at the time and had no idea what ...Read more
Did Clayton Kershaw Just Have The Best Summer In Baseball History?Business Insider, September 26th
Then the calendar turned a page, and Kershaw has since morphed into a cyborg hybrid of Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, and Henry Rowengartner. In June, he had a 0.87 ERA and struck out twice as many batters (61) as he allowed on base (30)...Read more
Why Isn't Dolph Schayes as Famous as Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg?Jewish Daily Forward, September 26th
Schayes' Rebellion: Dolph Schayes signed with the Syracuse Nationals out of college in the early days of pro basketball. By Peter Ephross. Published September 26, 2014, issue of October 03, 2014. Print; Email. Share. ? Dolph Schayes and the Rise of ...Read more
Hey, The Jews, Just Ask Yourselves 'What Would Sandy Koufax Do?'Wonkette (satire), September 22nd
Experts say Greenberg — and later Dodger Sandy Koufax, who wouldn't pitch in the World Series in 1965 because of Yom Kippur — and other contemporary Jewish players have taken such stands more for symbolism than because they were devout...Read more
Jewish Hall of Fame: Sandy KoufaxShalom Life, September 17th
Since the dawn of time, Jewish people have contributed greatly to various fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn. With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying...Read more
On This Date In 1965, Sandy Koufax Throws Perfect GameSports Talk Florida, September 9th
On this date in 1965, Sandy Koufax threw the eighth perfect game in major league history. It was his fourth and final no-hitter and arguably the best single-game performance of his 12-year major league career. Koufax was elected into the Hall of Fame...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
MLB Notebook: Kershaw a modern day KoufaxPittsburgh Pirates News, August 22nd
From 1962-66, Sandy Koufax captured five National League ERA title and three MLB ERA titles. Over this span, Koufax fanned 26.8 percent of all batters he faced (for this five-year stretch, all NL starters produced a 15.0 strikeout percentage), owned a...Read more