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
Nolan's 7 best bets to throw a no-no in 2016MLB.com, February 12th
Hall of Fame right-hander Nolan Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters during his career -- three more than Sandy Koufax and four more than Bob Feller. He also threw 12 one-hitters, tied with Feller for the most in Major League history. "In every no...Read more
Hank Aaron, Bud Selig speak at Indian Wells fundraiserThe Desert Sun, February 12th
Their birthdays separated by just four months, Hank Aaron and Bud Selig grew up together in the game of baseball, starting when they first met each other in the 1950s. Hammerin' Hank, a baseball icon, was the star player for the Milwaukee Braves...Read more
Insults have America upsetSun Sentinel, February 12th
I gave the world Elvis and Bruce Springsteen and Louis Armstrong and Robin Williams and Dan Marino and Sandy Koufax and Serena Williams and Steve Jobs and Leonard Bernstein and Neil Armstrong. All of them are mine. So make me great again?...Read more
Bernie Stowe had insider view to Reds historyWCPO, February 12th
"It was only a few years later that we gave Sandy Koufax a tryout. Koufax was on a basketball scholarship at (the University of Cincinnati). The manager of the UC baseball team was also a bird-dog scout for the Reds and he told the Reds scouting...Read more
Jacob deGrom to Mets: 'Willing' to do long-term deal nowNew York Post, February 10th
On Friday, the legendary Sandy Koufax may make a stop at camp to see some of the young arms like lefty Steven Matz and deGrom. “I would enjoy sitting and talking to him,'' said deGrom, who met Koufax at the New York BBWAA dinner after his rookie ...Read more
Yogi Berra, Sandy Koufax and Early Wynn earn Baseball Hall of Fame call in 1972New York Daily News, January 19th
(Originally published by the Daily News on Jan. 20, 1972. This story was written by Joe Trimble.) Like Ado Annie, the hostess in “Oklahoma,” the baseball writers couldn't say no to three of the game's former greats, enshrining Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra...Read more
Top stats to know as Sandy Koufax turns 80ESPN (blog), December 30th
Hall of Famer and pitching legend Sandy Koufax turns 80 today. Koufax had one of the most interesting careers in the game's history. In his first seven seasons, Koufax went 54-53 with a 3.94 ERA. It would seem unlikely that anyone could have predicted...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