Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Books: Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy

I really enjoyed the following book ...

As a life long Dodger fan, it was very informative to read about arguably the most famous Dodger ever.

I was born in 1963 so if my parents had taken me to a game or had the radio on, I would have been too young to remember.

Growing up following the Dodgers, I just knew that Koufax and Drysdale were the dynamic duo of the Dodgers.

The book has plenty of baseball but also a lot of the story of the era that Koufax lived through.

Leavy alternates chapters about the life of Koufax with chapters that recount each inning of the famed perfect game of September 9, 1965.

The first thing that struck me was that initially Koufax wasn't very good. He was wild and Dodger manager Walter Alston really didn't want to use him much. But eventually, Koufax hit his mark and the last six years of his 12 year career, the ball was in his hands a lot.

I had heard his career was cut short because of arm trouble. Little did I realize how bad it was. He essentially pitched until his arm nearly fell off. In three seasons he pitched over 300 innings!

Third, I knew of the famed perfect game. Every Dodger fan has heard playbacks of the final call by Vin Sculley where he recited the time and date as part of his call of that last inning. What I didn't know was that his opposing pitcher threw a 1-hitter and the 1-run was unearned due to a throwing error. It was a night of almost two perfect games.

The human dimensions of the Koufax story are amazing. It is hard to imagine that there once was an era where racial slurs against blacks and Jews were very common. Koufax endured those with grace and stood together with his black teammates. Koufax was a fiercely competitive ballplayer and very reserved. Yet, the book reveals that he was much more than that. His kindness to teammates and the people in his life comprised many of the anecdotes of the story.

Finally, there is the story of his refusing to pitch on Yom Kippor on game 1 of the 1965 World Series. Koufax was not the most religious of Jews but his decision has left an impression on many Jewish people. Check this page for one such story.

Jane Leavy has told a wonderful tale of a very interesting man. It is a book about baseball but it is a book about so much more.


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