They didn’t call Sandy Koufax “The Left Hand Of God” for nothing. On the rare occasions they faced him, the Mets and Yankees surely knew why…
On November 18, 1966, Sandy Koufax, the ace pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, retired from baseball. He was just 30 years old, and he was retiring after a great season – having won 27 games while leading the Dodgers to a National League pennant and his third Cy Young award.
Pitching for the Dodgers on the West Coast and in an age where the marriage between baseball and television was in its infancy, millions of fans on the East Coast, and particularly those in the New York Metropolitan area, rarely had the opportunity to witness Sandy Koufax pitching.
Rarely too, did the Mets and Yankees ever face him. But my oh my, when they did, the results were as spectacular as Koufax himself.
The Yankees ran into Sandy Koufax in Game One of the 1963 World Series at Yankee Stadium before 69,000 fans in attendance. A mere three seasons later, Koufax would be calling it quits while he could still lift his left arm.
But on this day, the results were memorable and sensational as Sandy Koufax established a new record for strikeouts in a World Series game, striking out 15 Yankees. The Yankees lineup that day included the M & M Boys, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris, neither of whom would manage to get a hit in the Yankees 5-2 loss to Koufax. Rare footage of a brief clip follows:
Remarkably, Sandy Koufax rose even higher to heights when he faced the New York Mets on June 30, 1962, at Dodger Stadium in a game attended by only 29,797 (lucky) fans who witnessed Koufax spinning the first of four no-hitters he pitched in his brief career.
There is no video I could find of this game. But for some fans, there is something even better – the radio broadcast of the final three innings (give a listen here).
In their inaugural season in 1962, few would give Sandy Koufax “extra credit” for putting a whooping on a Mets team that would lose a stunning 120 games that season. But as we know, even today no-hitting any lineup containing major league ballplayers is rare and difficult.
And a check of the box score for that day does indeed reveal some good talent like Richie Ashburn and power-hitting Frank Thomas, who combined to total only one of Koufax’s thirteen strikeouts that day.
In the formal press conference announcing his premature retirement, Sandy Koufax appeared sedate in his suit and tie. In several different ways, he tried to answer the question – why? Evident in his answer as you’ll see in the video below, though, is a feeling that Koufax is asking the same question of himself – why me?
As we know, baseball, much like life, is not always fair. Though not on the winning side, Mets and Yankees fans should be able to rejoice in being a part of baseball history, and the legacy – yes, I’ll say it – of the greatest pitcher who ever lived, the Left Hand Of God, Sandy Koufax.