Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Sandy Koufax


Sandy Koufax pitched for the Brooklyn / Los Angeles Dodgers for twelve years, from 1955 to 1966. During the first seven years of his career he pitched without any great achievements as his record was 54 wins and 53 losses.

Then, from 1962 to 1966 Koufax became a phenomenon. He won five consecutive ERA titles and achieved a record of 111-34. No one had ever done this before (nor since). This is a winning percentage of .766. Picked for six all-star games, he led the league in wins and strikeouts in three consecutive seasons. In 1963 he threw 11 shutouts and ended with a record of 25-5 for a winning percentage of .833, so that he was indeed unbeatable in the 1960’s.

In the 1963 World Series he struck out 15 New York Yankees in game one. He also won game four as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in four games.

In 1965 Koufax won his second Cy Young award with a record of 26-8, having stuck out 382 batters (Nolan Ryan struck out 383 in one season many years later). In that year Koufax pitched his fourth career no hitter.

These achievements led to the inclusion of Sandy Koufax in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. He was then the youngest man ever to be so elected. His number, 32, was retired  To this day, many sports writers rate Koufax the greatest pitcher of all time.

Koufax's final statistics are: 165 wins, 87 losses, a winning percentage of .655. He started 314 games and completed 137. He pitched 40 shutouts and had a career ERA of 2.76.

Koufax refused to pitch game one of the World Series in 1965 because he would not work on Yom Kippur.

He retired from the game in 1966 because of severe arthritis. In 1967 he signed a ten year contract with NBC to be a broadcaster on The Saturday Game of the Week. He stayed only six years. He then became a minor league pitching coach with the Dodgers until 2003, leaving the Dodgers for one year after the New York Post, which belongs to the same Robert Murdoch who owns the Dodgers, claimed that he was a homosexual. Koufax returned to the Dodgers in 2004 after the Dodgers were sold to Frank McCord. In addition to working for the  Dodgers, Koufax had also invested in the electronics business.

Sandy Koufax was born in 1935 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Evelyn and Jack Braun. After his mother divorced his father and married Irving Koufax, Sandy was adopted and his name changed. He attended Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, where he excelled in basketball. He is 6'2" tall. He also played baseball and was recruited at age 15 to play for the Coney Island Sports League.

After graduating from High School, Koufax attended the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship. There he also played baseball. He then tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a contract after he had already signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. His contract paid him $6,000 and a signing bonus of $14,000.

Koufax was married and divorced twice. A biography of Sandy Koufax was written by Jane Leavy, a sports writer also from Brooklyn. It is called Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy.

    In April of 2007, Koufax, now 71 years old, was drafted by the new Israel Baseball League. The manager of the Modi’in Miracles, Art Shamsky, said of him: “It’s been 41 years between starts for him. If he’s rested and ready to take the mound again, we want him on our team.” So do we. We salute you, Sandy Koufax, a great athlete, a great American and a great Jew.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Restoration of Israel (2006).

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