Sandy Koufax Was Not To Be Messed With (2024)

Sandy Koufax Was Not To Be Messed With (3)

I was grounded once as a child. Not when I hit a baseball through our front window. Not when the neighbors caught me pouring red dye in their swimming pool. The incident, I thought, was more innocuous. I scribbled a mustache on a Sandy Koufax baseball card. I showed the card to my dad and his face turned dark crimson. “You bastard,” he screamed. “You do not mess with Sandy Koufax! He is sacred.”

Koufax was an American baseball legend. He possessed a 100-mph fastball and what announcer Vin Scully called “a twelve-to-six curveball” that started at 12 o’clock then dropped to 6 o’clock. From 1963–1966, he had the best four-year span of any pitcher in baseball history. Four no-hitters, a 97–27 record, 1.99 earned run average, 1200+ strikeouts, one MVP, three Cy Young Awards and two World Series Championships.

In his early years, his velocity was unparalleled but he was wild. In 1961, he had a tonsillectomy and arrived at spring training 20 pounds lighter. He worked out to regain muscle mass and became a fitness addict. He also learned a new pitch. Pitching coach Joe Becker taught him a “slurve,” a cutting slider that broke away from left-handers.

Koufax was an early proponent of saber metrics. He consulted team statistician Alan Roth and learned that opponents who swung at Koufax’s first pitch hit .349. When he threw a first pitch strike, opponent average went down to .146. The solution was obvious. Get ahead on the first pitch. He cut down on his fastball speed and focused on control. He learned not to tip his pitches after teammate Wally Moon told him he held his hands higher when throwing a curveball.

These subtle changes turned Koufax from a thrower into a pitcher. In 1963, he posted an amazing 25–5 record even though the Dodgers had the most anemic offense in baseball. A joke emerged in Los Angeles inspired by the Dodgers offensive woes. “Did you hear Koufax pitched a no-hitter last night?” Pause. “Did they win?”

Opposing players were quick with accolades and one-liners. Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates said, “Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like trying to eat soup with a fork.” Yogi Berra said, “I see how he won 25 games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.” Manager Gene Mauch added, “He throws a ‘radio ball,’ a pitch you hear but don’t…

Sandy Koufax Was Not To Be Messed With (2024)


How fast could Sandy Koufax throw a fastball? ›

He is sacred.” Koufax was an American baseball legend. He possessed a 100-mph fastball and what announcer Vin Scully called “a twelve-to-six curveball” that started at 12 o'clock then dropped to 6 o'clock. From 1963–1966, he had the best four-year span of any pitcher in baseball history.

Did Sandy Koufax have arthritis? ›

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Sandy Koufax that led to the demise of his career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn't go another season, but he did just that – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

Why did Sandy Koufax change his last name? ›

Born Sanford Braun, he was given his stepfather's surname when his mother remarried. The young Koufax first excelled in basketball, which earned him a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati.

How fast could Bob Gibson throw a baseball? ›

The statistic highlights the exceptional performance of Bob Gibson during the 1968 World Series in a segment called Prime 9. It specifically focuses on his incredible ability to throw a pitch at an impressive speed of 103 miles per hour, which was considered one of the fastest pitches of that era.

How fast did Bob Gibson throw his fastball? ›

How fast was Bob Gibson's Fastball? Bob Gibson's 4-seam fastball “sat” between 92-95 mph in the sample I considered. It's likely he actively varied his grip or intended velocity, producing a high velocity range, measured at 87-95, with numerous indications that he regularly exceeded 95 mph.

Did Sandy Koufax ever hit a home run? ›

On April 24, Koufax tied his own record of 18 strikeouts in a 10–2 win over the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field. On June 13, against the Braves at Milwaukee County Stadium, he hit his first career home run off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, providing the winning margin in a 2–1 victory.

How big was Sandy Koufax? ›

Sandy Koufax was 6 ft 2 inches, 210 lb (188 cm, 95 kg).

What made Sandy Koufax so good? ›

With his blazing fastball and plummeting curveball, Koufax was a nightmare for hitters, especially in this era before the mound was lowered in 1969. He finished in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts in each of his last 10 seasons (1957-66) and in the top three seven times.

Did Sandy Koufax ever marry? ›

Koufax was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish family. He has been married three times and has no biological children.

Who was the best hitter against Sandy Koufax? ›

Hank Aaron was by far the most successful hitter against Koufax: 42-for-116 (. 362) with 7 HR, 1.077 OPS. Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks and Felipe Alou also had 7 HR apiece against Koufax, but Banks, who faced him more than anyone (143 plate appearances) batted just . 173 against him.

How many no-hitters did Sandy Koufax throw? ›

It was Koufax's fourth career no-hitter, and is the franchise record for no-hitters by one pitcher. At the time, Koufax's four no-hitters was the major league record for any pitcher, but has since been surpassed in 1981 by Nolan Ryan who ended his career with seven.

How fast was Tom Seaver's fastball? ›

At his best, Seaver — whose compact delivery inevitably produced a signature dirt smear on the right knee of his uniform — threw a 98 mph fastball, and while he was often referred to as having a four-pitch arsenal that included his slider, curve, and changeup, he claimed to have numerous variants.

How fast was Steve Carlton's fastball? ›

For Carlton, the trade meant a bigger paycheck, of course, but equally important, it freed him from a dictum St. Louis decreed: not to throw a slider. Carlton had a fastball in the 95 mph range, and a big, slow-breaking curveball.

How fast could Nolan Ryan throw a fastball? ›

In 1974, Nolan Ryan became the first Major League Baseball pitcher to be tracked by a radar during a game. His fastball topped out at 100.8 miles per hour., earning him the nickname "The Ryan Express".

Who is the fastest pitcher in history? ›

Aroldis Chapman officially holds the Guinness World Record for fastest baseball pitch with a 105.8 mph fastball. On Sept. 24, 2010, the Cincinnati Reds' pitcher set the record with a high-velocity pitch against the San Diego Padres.


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