DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

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The Perfect Game

Finished Sandy Koufax, a Lefty's Legacy. Sandy strikes out the last six batters he faces to finish the perfect game with a flourish. I take back what I said about there being better games to use as a framework to discuss Koufax's career. His perfect game against the Cubs is arguably the best pitched game ever. Koufax did not allow any baserunners at all. Hendley allowed only one hit (a bloop double) and a walk (both to Lou Johnson). It is the only game in baseball history where there was only one hit total. The only run was scored without benefit of an official time at bat. Yes, the Cubs were not a great team that year, but Williams and Banks are both in the Hall of Fame, and Santo ought to be, so they had a few guys who could hit. It was a great game by almost any measure.

The game description is where the book shines. The surrounding material about his life and career is not quite as good. Almost all of the material is remembrances by people who know or knew him, rather than direct observations by the author, or reminiscences by Koufax himself. This works very well for the game chapters because you have a large number of viewpoints for a single event. The rest of his career gets short shrift by comparison. The only big thing that I discovered that was new to me was that he does do card shows and such. In fact it's one of his primary sources of income. I was less disappointed by that than I thought I would be. Even heroes need to make a living.

A large part of the book describes what Koufax meant to the Jewish community. He refused to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. It was something unheard of prior to that. The interesting part is that Koufax was not an observant Jew. He did it because he felt he had to be a role model. And he was. As a kid, my best friend was Jewish, and a diehard Yankee fan. Despite that, he always rooted for Koufax. He even did me one better, because being left-handed, he could actually pretend to be Koufax when we played baseball in the back yard. Being a righty, the best I could do was try to be Drysdale, throwing sidearm fastballs (which hurt my arm a lot, by the way).

There is a lot of stuff about Drysdale in the book, because they were a team within the team. It was they who showed baseball's management that at some point they'd actually have to pay players what they were worth when the two of them held out for more money together before the 1966 season. They weren't great friends, but they were teammates, and to Koufax that has always been important. One of the few quotes from Koufax that are in the book provides perhaps the saddest moment. Drysdale died of a heart attack while on the road to broadcast a Dodgers' game, and sometime after that Koufax was asked why he didn't continue his broadcasting career as Drysdale had. He sadly replied, "I didn't want to die in a cheap motel."

The one thing that stands out about Koufax above all else is his loyalty to his teammates. It was true back in the fifties, when he would hang out with his black teammates in then segregated Vero Beach, and it was still true when he found out about John Roseboro's health problems over the last couple of years. He has always been there for the guys he played with.

Still my hero...

Next up is The Silmarillion, which I've tried to start a couple of times over the years, and always put it aside in frustration somewhere in the first chapter. I have been advised to skip the early chapters to get to the meat of the matter, so maybe this time it'll take.

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