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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You decide: Who are the 10 greatest Dodgers of all time?Los Angeles Times, April 27th
Will you place Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw in your top 10? Will you place Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw in your top 10? (Jon SooHoo / L.A. Dodgers). By Houston Mitchell contact the reporter. You decide: Who are the 10 greatest Dodgers of all ...Read more
Pirates sneak past Diamondbacks to earn 2-1 winPittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 25th
Burnett entered the game 10 strikeouts behind Los Angeles Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax and 14 away from becoming the 41st pitcher in major league history to reach 2,400 career strikeouts. A sluggish Pirates offense managed just four hits off right...Read more
Baseball manager's lifesaving legacy growsWJXT Jacksonville, April 25th
Starting in 1965, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Pete Rose and Al Kaline were the first five winners, and the 2008 award went to Boston pitcher Jon Lester, who got a cancer diagnosis in 2006. He received chemotherapy treatments at the ...Read more
Twins Star Tony Oliva visits fans at Mower County Senior CenterKTTC, April 24th
"I do remember, in that second game in the World Series, he got a double off Sandy Koufax. And not many people can get any hits off of Sandy Koufax! He's tremendous and we won the game." Purcell said she is disappointed in the behavior of some of the ...Read more
Franchise Four: Greatest living playersESPN (blog), April 23rd
Sandy Koufax is his own category of wonderful. But putting him on this list ahead of Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and especially Roger Clemens is pretty ridiculous. Let's look at it this way: Koufax went 165-87 with an ERA+ of 131. Now let's...Read more
Dodgers Celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, Civil Rights GameNBC Southern California, April 15th
Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, former Brooklyn Dodger pitching star Don Newcombe, Joni Campanella, the daughter of the late Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, and scholars from the Jackie Robinson Foundation will also be featured in the ceremony...Read more
Rachel Robinson and Sandy KoufaxLA Downtown News Online, April 14th
Rachel Robinson and Sandy Koufax. photo by Gary Leonard | Posted: Friday, April 17, 2015 3:13 pm. Dodger Stadium, April 15, 2015. 14 MORE IMAGES TAGGED WITH "TAKE_MY_PICTURE". Rules of Conduct. 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene ...Read more
Ask The Experts: How Much Is My Baseball Signed By Sadaharu Oh And Sandy ...Forbes, April 13th
I have a ball signed by Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, Ernie Banks, Sadaharu Oh, Frank Robinson and others. The ball is actually a Hawaii Islanders model (Triple A affiliate for the Pirates back then). There are a total of 14 signatures. Mark...Read more