No. 151 Sandy Koufax (Number 33 Pitcher)

As I said in my introduction of players 151 to 160 Koufax is at the top of a lot of people’s list to the question if they had to pick one pitcher to pitch one game. He proved that in the World Series despite a 4-3 win-loss record as his ERA was under a run per game. He was first in championship WPA (win probability added) all three years the Dodgers won the pennant in the 1960s. He is sixth on the all-time list. Let us take this year by year.

In 1963 Koufax was 5-0 in September. The Dodgers were in control of the race most of the month. They were up 6 games coming into September.  It was 5 and a half on September 6th.  They then went 5-4 the next 9 games. However, the St. Louis Cardinals were hot and were just a game behind. The Dodgers were ending their 13-game road trip with 3 games in St. Louis. The first game of the series was Johnny Podres pitching for the Dodgers versus Ernie Broglio for the Cardinals. Both pitchers pitched well, and the game was tied 1-1 after eight. The Dodgers rallied in the top of the ninth for two runs to win the game. Ron Perranoski picked up the save in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodger lead was up to two games.

Koufax threw a shutout with a game score of 83 the next day. The Dodgers were up by 3 games with a 4-0 victory. This was a big performance in a big game. Game 3 of the series was a thriller. Down 5-1 after 7 with Bob Gibson pitching the game looked lost for the Dodgers. However, Gibson could get only one out in the eighth. He gave up 3 singles and a walk to the other 4 batters he faced in the eighth. The Dodgers had 3 of those runners score to pull within one. Ron Perranoski pitched the bottom of the eighth. Dick Nenn homered in the top of the 9th to tie the game. Perranoski pitched a scoreless ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth for the Dodgers. In the top of the 13th the Dodgers finally plated a run in the top of the 13th when Maury Wills grounded out scoring Willie Davis. Perranoski followed with a scoreless 13th. Perranoski was the relief ace for the Dodgers that year. He threw 6 scoreless innings in relief in this game. That is more than most starters now days.

The Dodger lead was now 4. They lost only one game before they clinched and weren’t really threatened.

Now to 1965. The Dodgers beat the Giants by 2 games. Koufax went 5-2 with a save in September. He won his last 3 starts giving up one run in 3 complete games. His ERA for the month was 1.51 lowering his ERA for the year to 2.04.

On September 7th, the Giants beat the Dodgers to sweep a two-game series and tie the Dodgers for the National League lead. Cincinnati was only a half game back and Milwaukee was a game back. The Dodgers went 3-3 the next six games and were 4 and a half games out. The Dodgers then won 13 in a row to take a two-game lead with 3 games to go. Koufax was 3-0 in this stretch. He had one bad outing where he gave up 5 runs in 2 plus innings, but the Dodgers came back and won the game. Back to the race with a two-game lead with 3 to go. The Dodgers could clinch the next day with a Dodger victory and Giant loss. The Giant’s did lose, but the Dodgers also lost. Koufax started the next game for the Dodgers. It was 1-1 after 4. The Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs. Johnny Roseboro walked to score the lead run. Then Koufax came up he walked to score the insurance run. That was all Koufax needed as he won the game 3-1. Koufax had a game score of 84.

Now on to 1966. The Dodgers beat the Giants by a game and a half (one in the loss column) and Pittsburg by 3 games. Koufax went 6-1 in September. On September 15th, the Pirates came into LA only a game and a half back. Drysdale won the first game 5-3 and Koufax won the second won 5-1 to give the Dodgers a 3-5 game lead. On September the 29th a Thursday the Dodgers won to take a 2-game lead over Pittsburg and a 3 and a half game lead over the Giants. Koufax beat the Cardinals 2-1 with a game score of 87. The Dodgers magic number to win the pennant was 2 for Pittsburg and 1 for San Francisco. The Dodgers had 3 games left to play as did Pittsburg. The Giants had 4. The race was still close.

The next day the Dodgers were the only one to play, probably due to rainouts. They lost to the Phillies, making the race a little closer. The Giants and Pittsburg were supposed to play each other in Pittsburg. So on to Saturday. The Giants and Pittsburg were to play a double header to make up for the game before. The Giants if still in the race would have to play a make up game with someone. All the games were in Pennsylvania. This day the Dodgers got rained out. San Francisco swept the Pirates to stay in the race eliminating the Pirates.

The Dodgers had a two-game lead on the Giants. The magic number was still one. The Dodgers had a double header the next day. The Giants would play at Pittsburg to try staying alive. The Giants won and the Dodgers lost the first game of the double header. The last game of the season was going to be Koufax against Jim Bunning. Alston, the Dodger manager probably save Koufax in case of a Dodger victory so he could pitch in the World Series.  The Dodgers won easily 6-3. He had a slow start to the 9th giving up 3 runs, but never had to face the tying run. The Dodgers clinched another pennant.

I always liked Sandy Koufax but could never read a biography of him. Why you ask? It was because he beat the Minnesota Twins twice (both shutouts) in the 1965 World Series. When I was a kid that was the only World Series the Twins played in and that guy Sandy Koufax shut us out twice, once in game 7. I was actually too young to watch the games, but it still breaks my heart.

 

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