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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THE PRESS DEMOCRATSanta Rosa Press Democrat, October 23rd
Bob Herr, a retiree from Graton, admitted to being a “diehard Dodgers fan” as a kid growing up in Los Angeles during lefty fastballer Sandy Koufax's dominant years in the 1960s. Now a convert to the orange and black, he'll be at AT&T Park Friday with...Read more
Koufax didn't skip a start for Yom KippurWashington Post, October 10th
The Post misleadingly asserted that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax “missed a start in the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur” [“Going on faith,” Sports, Oct. 1]. In fact, he started games 2, 5 and 7 instead of games 1, 4 and 7. There was some ...Read more
Tom Finneran: On Santa, and Sandy KoufaxGoLocalProv, October 9th
The poor kid is a pretty good pitcher but the lunatic hucksters in the media are already anointing him as the next Sandy Koufax. That's an insult to Koufax. As Joan Rivers liked to ask, “can we talk? I mean really………”. There are many ways to...Read more
Koufax or Kershaw? Take your pick.The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, October 6th
And as eight teams (four from each league) tirelessly compete against each other in an effort to call themselves World Series champions, all eyes are on Clayton Kershaw, Major League Baseball's best active pitcher, to see if he can finally seal the deal...Read more
Mac's Layup Drill: Sandy Koufax vs. Clayton Kershaw, Derek Jeter overplay, and ...Staten Island Advance - SILive.com, October 5th
A couple of days earlier some talking heads were trying to make a case that the Dodgers current ace Clayton Kershaw might be as good a pitcher as a past Dodger by the name of Sandy Koufax. I guess both having been successful left-handed big leaguers ...Read more
Sandy Koufax Chose His Faith Over The World Series And Won It AllHuffington Post, October 3rd
Not only was he the pitcher that every lefty would be measured against, but he had broadened the horizon for innumerable Jewish kids. "There are three things any self-respecting Jewish boy should want to grow up to be: a doctor, a lawyer, or Sandy...Read more
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
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