The Left Arm of God: Sandy Koufax was pitcher perfect on and off the field  - Sports Illustrated

This Date In Baseball History- November 18, 1966- Sandy Koufax announces his retirement. Sandy Koufax had possibly the best five year period any pitcher had in baseball history- from 1962-66. In those five seasons his total record was 111-34. He led the National League in ERA all five seasons. He led the league in strikeouts in three of those seasons including a then record 382 in 1965. He won three Cy Young Awards and an MVP Award- he finished second in the MVP voting in 1965 and 1966. He pitched 4 no-hitters- one each year from 1963-66. Koufax in his final season won 27 and lost 9 with a 1.73 ERA. It may have been his finest season. He was 30 years old. Why did he retire? Koufax had been pitching with a painful arthritic elbow. He had used capsolin on the elbow, ice baths and pain killers- the elbow pain just got worse. In the summer of 1966 he decided that this would be his final season- he told few of his decision. On this date he held a press conference announcing his retirement.

The one player who I ‘just missed’ seeing that I wish I had seen -is Sandy Koufax. One of my first memories of baseball is- one summer evening- I would have been 5 years old. The family was sitting on my grandparents porch and my Uncle Dave a big baseball fan was waiting for a friend to pick him up. They were going to Forbes Field to see Sandy Koufax pitch against the Pirates. I had no idea who this Koufax guy was- but the way he talked about him I knew this was someone special. I sat there on the porch wanting to go too.

Over the years I have always struck up conversations with older fans asking them – who was the greatest player you ever saw- and who is the greatest pitcher you ever saw- was. The greatest player question always has drawn different answers- old timers would say DiMaggio, Ted Williams. Mantle and Mays would also be named, being in the Pittsburgh area all my life- Clemente is named. Usually when I asked that question there would be a pause before the answer was given- they were thinking on it. When I would ask the greatest pitcher part of my question- 9 times out of 10 the answer was immediate- Koufax.

A great book on Sandy Koufax which I can’t recommend enough- Sandy Koufax- A Lefty’s Legacy- by Jane Leavy. Leavy has written outstanding books also on- Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth- but I think her best is on Sandy.


  1. A classy guy and Kershaw has that also. I love seeing his curve bend…that looked impossible to hit. I don’t think the Dodgers treated him right. Some thought he was faking the injury…just stupidity. They were still mad about the threat of the hold out from Drysdale and him.
    If only other athletes were like him….going out on top. He could have stayed of course for the money but didn’t.

    I did think as a 12 year old he was coming back in 79. He was striking the then current Dodger hitters out.

    • I have always admired how he’s kept a low profile over the years. Class act. And there are times I wish I had been born 3 or 4 years earlier so I could have seen him pitch!

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