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|Birth||December 30, 1935, Brooklyn, New York|
|Debut||June 24, 1955, Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Braves, County Stadium|
|Team(s)||Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1955 to 1966)|
Sanford Koufax ( IPA pronunciation: /'kofæks/), born Sanford Braun on December 30, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, was a American baseball player during the 1950s and 1960s. A left-handed pitcher, Koufax played his entire 11-year career, 1955- 1966, for the Dodgers franchise of Major League Baseball. An accomplished athlete, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Koufax in 1972 and he was recognized as an National League All-Star every year between 1961- 1966.
Between 1961-1966, Koufax won eighteen major awards. This slew of awards included the 1963 National League MVP Award, the 1963 NL Pitchers' Triple Crown, and the 1963 Cy Young Award. In 1965, Koufax again won the NL Triple Crown and the Cy Young Award. The following year, Koufax added another Cy Young Award to his trophy case.
Koufax appeared in four separate World Series competitions while with the Dodgers. The team won three of those championships and Koufax helped by winning four games. One of Koufax's most notable career moments occurred during the 1965 World Series. Koufax, an American Jew, refused to pitch Game 1 because game day fell on Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holiday.
In recognition of his accomplishments on the field, the Dodgers retired the number 32. This was the number Koufax wore during his career.
Sandy Koufax was born on December 30, 1935 to Evelyn and Jack Braun. He grew up in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York. His parents divorced when he was three-years-old and when his mother remarried, Koufax took the surname of her new husband Irving.
Koufax attended High school Brooklyn's Lafayette High School. While there, he forayed into both basketball and baseball. By this time, Koufax had started to visit his local Jewish Community Centre and play basketball there. In 1940, at the age of 15, Koufax began to play in the Baseball Ice Cream League where he was noticed by baseball scouts.
While at Lafayette, Koufax was spotted by Milt Laurie, the father of two of Koufax's teammates and coach of the Coney Island Sports League's Parkviews. Laurie got his sons to recruit Koufax to pitch for the Parkviews. Laurie would keep Koufax overnight in order to make sure he got to the baseball field on time.
Koufax graduated from High School and decided to attend the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship.. Koufax lived off-campus and joined the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.
During the school's 1953 spring break, the baseball team went to New Orleans and Florida. Before the team left, Koufax and his roommate, Norman Lefkowitz, decided to try out for the squad. Two catchers, Bill Hall and Joe Miller, quit the team during Koufax's tryout period. Finally, Danny Gilbert volunteered for the job. In 1954 , both Koufax and Gilbert made the varsity team. That season, Koufax went 3–1 with a 2.81 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 30 walks, in 32 innings. Bill Zinser, a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers, sent the Dodgers front office a glowing report which was promptly lost.
Koufax's first tryout was with the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. His next tryout was for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field. During the tryout, Koufax threw so hard that he broke the thumb of his catcher, Sam Narron, the bullpen coach for the Pirates. Branch Rickey, then general manager of the Pirates, told his scout Clyde Sukeforth that Koufax had the "greatest arm I've ever seen". The Pirates offered Koufax $15,000, but he turned them down.
Dodgers scout Al Campanis had been told about Koufax from a local sporting goods store owner. After seeing Koufax pitch at Lafayette High School, Campanis immediately invited him to a try out at Ebbets Field. Dodgers manager Walter Alston and scouting director Fresco Thompson watched as Campanis assumed the hitter's stance while Koufax started throwing. Campanis later said that "the hair on my arms rose, and the only other time that happened was the first time I saw the Sistine Chapel". The Dodgers signed Koufax for $20,000—a $14,000 signing bonus and a $6,000 salary. Koufax accepted this offer, planning to use the signing bonus as tuition for architecture school just in case baseball did not work out.
Because Koufax's signing bonus was greater than $4,000, he was known as a bonus baby. That forced the Dodgers to keep him in the major leagues for at least two years before he could be sent to the minors. To make room for him on the roster, the Dodgers optioned their future manager, Tommy Lasorda, to the Montreal Royals of the International League. Lasorda would later joke that it took Sandy Koufax to keep him off the Dodger pitching staff.
Koufax made his major league debut on June 24, 1955, in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Braves with the Dodgers trailing 7–1. Johnny Logan, the first batter Koufax faced, got a bloop single. He was followed by future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. Mathews bunted, and Koufax calmly fielded the ball and threw it into centre field, trying to get Logan on the force. Aaron then walked on four pitches to load the bases. Bobby Thomson was the next batter, and after working the count full, he struck out swinging. Thomson had just become Koufax's first strikeout victim.
Koufax's first game as starting pitcher was on July 6. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up eight walks. He did not start again for almost two months, but he made the most of it when it did happen. On August 27, playing at Ebbets Field against the Cincinnati Reds, Koufax threw a two hit, 7–0 complete game shutout for his first major league win. Koufax made only twelve appearances in 1955, pitching 41.7 innings and walking almost as many men (28) as he struck out (30). His only other win in 1955 was also a shutout.
During the fall, he enrolled in Columbia University's School of General Studies, which offered night classes in architecture. The Dodgers won the 1955 World Series for the first title in franchise history—but without any help from Koufax, who sat on the bench for the entire series. After the final out of the Series, Koufax drove to Columbia to attend class.
1956 wasn't very different from 1955 for Koufax. He saw little work, pitching only 58.2 innings, walking 29 and striking out 30; he had a 4.91 ERA. Rarely was he allowed to work out of a jam. As soon as he threw a couple of balls in a row, Alston would have somebody start warming up in the bullpen. Jackie Robinson, in his final season, clashed with Alston on several different subjects, including Koufax. Robinson saw that Koufax was talented and had flashes of brilliance, and Robinson objected to Koufax being benched for weeks at a time.
To prepare for the 1957 season, the Dodgers sent Koufax to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. On May 15, the restriction on sending Koufax down to the minors was lifted. Alston gave him a chance to justify his place on the major league roster by giving him the next day's start. Facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Koufax struck out 13 and earned a complete game win. It was his first complete game in almost two years. For the next two weeks, and for the first time in his career, he was in the starting rotation. Despite winning three of his next five, leading the league in strikeouts and having a 2.90 ERA, Koufax didn't get another start for 45 days. In his next start, on July 19, he struck out eleven in seven innings, but got a no decision. On September 29, Koufax became the last man ever to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers before their move to Los Angeles, by throwing an inning of relief in the final game of the season.
Over the next three seasons, Koufax was in and out of the Dodger starting rotation due to injuries. He started the 1958 season strong by going 7–3 through July, but ended up spraining his ankle in a collision at first base. He finished the season with an 11–11 record, leading the league in wild pitches. In June 1959, Koufax struck out 16 Philadelphia Phillies to set the record for a night game. Two months later, he broke that record in Los Angeles, against the Giants, tying Bob Feller's major league record with 18 strikeouts.
The Dodgers played the Chicago White Sox in the 1959 World Series. Game One was in Chicago, where Koufax made his first World Series appearance, pitching two perfect innings of relief in an 11–0 loss. Alston gave him the start in Game Five. The game was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of 92,000 fans. Koufax and the Dodgers lost 1–0 when Nellie Fox scored on a double play.
In early 1960 Koufax asked Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi to trade him because he wasn't getting enough playing time. By the end of 1960, Koufax was ready to quit baseball and devote himself to his electronics business. After the last game of the season, he tossed his gloves and spikes into the trash. Nobe Kawano, the clubhouse supervisor, retrieved the equipment to return to Koufax the following year (or to somebody else if Koufax did not return to play).
Koufax showed up for the 1961 season in better condition than he had in previous years. Over the winter, he decided to start working out and running more. Koufax also decided to find out just how good he could be. During a spring training trip to Orlando, a Dodger scout eating with Koufax and catcher Norm Sherry the night before the game discovered a hitch in Koufax's windup: he'd rear back far enough that, in his release, his vision was somewhat obstructed by his lead arm and he often couldn't see the full strike zone. Sherry translated it for Koufax in the same words that many others had used in the past: Sandy, you don't have to throw so hard. He also convinced Koufax not to pull so far back in his windup.
In the first inning of the game in Orlando, Koufax walked the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. Again, Sherry told him to take something off the ball to get better control. Koufax finally listened and struck out the side. By the time he came out of the game after seven innings, Koufax had struck out eight batters, walked five and given up no hits.
Koufax finally broke into the starting rotation permanently. On September 15, 1961, he surpassed the previous record of strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher in the National League with his 243rd strikeout. On September 27, Koufax broke the National League record for strikeouts in a season, surpassing Christy Mathewson's 58-year-old mark of 267, set in 1903. Koufax finished the year 18–13, with 269 strikeouts versus 96 walks. During the two 1961 All-Star games, Koufax pitched two and one-third innings without giving up a run.
The Dodgers moved to Chavez Ravine, their new stadium, in 1962. It was designed to be a pitcher-friendly park, with large foul territory and a terrible hitting background. Pitching in this park, Koufax lowered his home ERA from 4.29 to 1.75. On June 30 against the New York Mets, Koufax threw his first no-hitter, and would finish his career with a record four no-hitters; in the first inning of the 5-0 win over the Mets, Koufax struck out three batters on nine pitches to become the sixth National League pitcher and the 11th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning, as well as the first pitcher to accomplish the feat in the first inning of a game. He also broke the 38-year NL drought following Dazzy Vance's achievement of the feat, the longest stretch between accomplishments. With the no-hitter and a 1.23 ERA for June, he was named Player of the Month. While batting against the San Francisco Giants on July 8, Koufax's index finger on his left hand was injured, but he did not tell anybody. Koufax pitched in several more games while his finger slowly developed gangrene. After seeing a vascular specialist, it was determined that Koufax had a crushed artery in his palm.
Luckily, ten days of experimental medicine successfully reopened the artery. Koufax finally was able to pitch again in September, when the team was locked in a tight pennant race with the Giants. Trying to get back into shape after the long layoff, Koufax was ineffective in three appearances as the Giants caught the Dodgers at the end of the regular season. The night before the National League playoffs, Manager Walter Alston asked Koufax if he could start the first game on the next day. With an overworked pitching staff, there was no one else, as Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres had pitched the prior two days. Koufax obliged.
As Koufax later said, "I had nothing at all." He was knocked out in the second inning, after giving up home runs to Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Jim Davenport. After winning the second game of the series, the Dodgers blew a 4–2 lead in the ninth inning of the deciding third game, losing the pennant.
Koufax came roaring back in 1963. On May 11 he carried a perfect game into the eighth inning against the powerful Giants lineup including future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda. Koufax ended up walking Ed Bailey on a 3-and-2 pitch, but preserved the no-hitter, his second in as many years, by closing out the ninth. Koufax finished the year by winning the pitchers' Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (25), strikeouts (306) and ERA (1.88) while also throwing 11 shutouts. He won the NL MVP Award and the Cy Young Award (the first unanimous choice) as well as the Hickok Belt.
The Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the 1963 World Series where Koufax beat Whitey Ford in Game One with a new World Series record 15 strikeouts, and also won Game Four, completing the Dodgers' series sweep of the "Old Yankees", earning the World Series MVP Award for his performance. Because 'K' is the scoring symbol for a strikeout, some newspapers the day after Game One carried the singular headline 'K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-Koufax'. Clete Boyer was the only Yankee regular not to strike out against Koufax. Mickey Mantle, Tom Tresh and Tony Kubek struck out twice each, and Bobby Richardson struck out three times (after striking out only 22 times on the season, in 630 at-bats). Koufax also struck out three pinch-hitters, including Harry Bright to end the game. Yogi Berra, after seeing Koufax's Game One performance, was quoted as saying, "I can see how he won 25 games. What I don't understand is how he lost five."
The 1964 season started with great expectations. On April 18,Koufax struck out three batters on nine pitches in the third inning of a 3-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first (and currently only) pitcher to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning twice in the National League. On April 22, however, against the St. Louis Cardinals, during the first inning of Koufax's third start, he felt something "let go" in his arm. Koufax ended up getting three cortisone shots for his sore elbow, and he missed three starts. On June 4, playing at Shibe Park against the Philadelphia Phillies, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Koufax walked Richie Allen on a very close full-count pitch. Allen, who was thrown out trying to steal second, was the first and last Phillie to reach base.
With his third no-hitter in three years, Koufax became only the second pitcher of the modern era (after Bob Feller) to pitch three no-hitters. On August 8, Koufax jammed his pitching arm while diving back to second base to beat a pick-off throw. He managed to pitch and win two more games. However, the morning after his 19th win, a shutout in which he struck out 13, he couldn't straighten his arm. He was diagnosed by Dodgers' team physician Robert Kerlan with traumatic arthritis. Koufax finished the year with an impressive 19–5 record.
Playing in pain
The 1965 season started off badly for Koufax. On March 31, the morning after pitching a full game during spring training, Koufax awoke to find that his entire left arm was black and blue from hemorrhaging. Koufax returned to Los Angeles to consult with Kerlan, who advised Koufax that he'd be lucky to be able to pitch once a week. Kerlan also told Koufax that he would eventually lose full use of his arm. Together, they mapped out a schedule where Koufax would only pitch every fifth day instead of his customary every fourth day, resulting in thirty-four starts instead of forty-one. Kerlan didn't think that making seven fewer starts in a season would make much of a difference, so Koufax agreed not to throw at all between games -- instead of throwing the customary one day between.
To get himself through the games he pitched in, Koufax resorted to cortisone shots in the elbow, Empirin with codeine for the pain (which he took every night and sometimes during the fifth inning), and Butazolidin for inflammation. He would also apply capsaicin-based Capsolin ointment (called "atomic balm" by baseball players) before each game, and then soak his arm in a tub of ice. The trainers would leave three beers in the tub; when Koufax had finished them, he would take his arm out.
Despite the constant pain in his pitching elbow, Koufax finished the year by winning his second pitchers' Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (26), ERA (2.04) and strikeouts (382). His strikeout total obliterated the previous record of 348 set by Bob Feller in 1948, and lasted until 1973, when Nolan Ryan struck out 383 batters (his 382 strikeouts remains the National League single-season record).
Koufax and the Dodgers won the World Series again, while he captured his second Cy Young Award (again unanimously). In the Series, Koufax declined to pitch Game One due to his observance of Yom Kippur, and his team was hit hard. Koufax pitched six innings, giving up 2 runs in Game Two, but the Minnesota Twins won the game 5–1, and took an early 2–0 lead in the series. The Dodgers fought back, with Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, and Koufax picking up vital wins to take a 3-2 lead back to Minnesota. Koufax pitched a complete game shutout winning 7-0 in Game Five. The Twins won Game Six to force a seventh game. Starting Game Seven on only two days of rest, Koufax took the ball and, despite not having good command of his curveball and pitching through tiredness and arthritic pain, he threw a three-hit shutout to clinch the Series. The performance was enough to win him his second World Series MVP award. Also in 1965, he won the Hickok Belt a second time, the first (and only) time anyone had won the belt more than once. He was also awarded Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year award.
On September 9, 1965, Koufax became the sixth pitcher of the modern era to throw a perfect game. Koufax had not won a game in three weeks; not since Juan Marichal hit Koufax's catcher, John Roseboro, in the head with a baseball bat; not since the Watts riots started. The Dodgers were playing at home against the last place Chicago Cubs. Bob Hendley, the pitcher for the Cubs, was just up from the minor leagues and had a 2–2 record.
Koufax retired the first batter he faced, Donald Young, a late season call-up, on a pop-up on the second pitch of the game. Glenn Beckert, another rookie, struck out looking at a curveball after hitting a line drive down the third base line just barely foul. The third batter, Billy Williams, also struck out looking at curve ball. In the second inning, Ron Santo fouled out to catcher Jeff Torborg, Ernie Banks struck out on a forkball, and Byron Browne, during his first major league at-bat, lined out to centre fielder Willie Davis. Koufax got Chris Krug to line out to centre field to start off the third inning. Following him, Don Kessinger flew out on an 0–2 pitch and Hendley struck out. In the fourth inning, Koufax got Young to line out to centre field and Beckert to fly out to right. Koufax then struck out Williams a second time.
By the top of the fifth inning, neither team had reached first base. That changed when Hendley walked Lou Johnson on a three-and-two pitch that could have gone either way. Ron Fairly dropped a sacrifice bunt that Hendley bobbled, leaving his only play at first base. On the first pitch to Jim Lefebvre, Johnson stole third base. The Cubs' catcher Krug threw the ball over Santo's head and into left field, which allowed Johnson to score. The Dodgers had scored a run without an official at-bat. In the bottom half of the inning, the Cubs went three up, three down with Santo flying out, Banks striking out for the second time in the game, and Brown grounding out.
The bottom of the order came up in the sixth inning for the Cubs. Krug grounded the ball to shortstop Maury Wills, who threw it in the dirt to first baseman Wes Parker. Parker managed to dig the ball out to save the play and Koufax's perfect game. Kessinger hit a dribbler down the third base line, but Junior Gilliam was playing shallow (to guard against the bunt) and threw him out by half a step. Hendley, who still had a no-hitter going of his own, struck out on three pitches.
Koufax's nerves started to get to him a little in the seventh, when he threw one pitch that sailed past Young and went all the way to the backstop. Koufax recovered and struck out Young. Beckert was next; he flew out to right field. Williams started out with three straight balls. Koufax's next two pitches were fastballs right down the middle. Williams let the first one go and fouled off the second one. Williams ended up hitting a pop fly to left field on the next pitch. During the bottom of the seventh inning, Johnson broke up Hendley's no-hitter with a bloop hit behind the second baseman. By the time Banks reached it, Johnson was on second base. Fairly grounded out to second, stranding Johnson on second base.
The heart of the Chicago order came up in the eighth inning, and Koufax struck out all three of them. Banks, who struck out for the third time, never made contact the entire game. The Dodgers went three up and three down in the bottom half of the inning. Koufax again struck out the side in the ninth inning, striking out the final two hitters on six straight curveballs, "big balloons" as called by Vin Scully, the Dodgers long time play-by-play announcer. As Scully commented at the end of his play-by-play, "And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X." The final out was made by Harvey Kuenn, the same man who made the final out of Koufax's 1963 no-hitter. In the end, Johnson's hit was the only one by either team; the combined total of 1 hit for the entire game is a major league record.
To date, the perfect game is the last no-hitter to be pitched against the Cubs. They have gone the longest of all MLB teams since a no-hitter was last pitched against them.
Before the 1966 season began, both Koufax and Drysdale went to Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi to negotiate their contracts for the upcoming year. In the past, Bavasi had used Koufax and Drysdale against each other in contract negotiations, saying to Koufax, "How could you ask for so much when Drysdale is only asking for ..." He would do the same thing to Drysdale, telling him that Koufax was asking for much less. Finally, Drysdale's first wife, Ginger Drysdale, suggested that they work together to get what they wanted. They demanded $1 million dollars, divided equally over the next three years, or $167,000 each for the next three seasons. Koufax was represented by an entertainment lawyer, J. William Hayes. When the hold out started, Drysdale's lawyer had a conflict of interest, so Hayes started advising them on their collective negotiations.
Koufax and Drysdale both signed to appear in the movie Warning Shot, starring David Janssen. Drysdale was going to play a TV commentator and Koufax was going to play a detective. They were photographed sitting on the set in director's chairs that had their names on the back. Dodger management started leaking allegations about dissension between Koufax and Drysdale, trying to drive a wedge between them. That spring, union activist Marvin Miller made the rounds of the spring training camps in his bid to become executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Everywhere Miller went, all the players were asking him about Koufax and Drysdale. Koufax finally gave Drysdale the go-ahead to negotiate new deals for the both of them. Koufax ended up getting $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000.
In April 1966, Kerlan told Koufax it was time to retire, that his arm could not take another season. Koufax kept Kerlan's advice to himself and went out every fourth day to pitch. He ended up pitching 323 innings and had a 27–9 record with a 1.73 ERA. In the final game of the regular season, the Dodgers had to beat the Phillies to win the pennant. In the second game of a doubleheader (Drysdale had lost the first game), Koufax faced Jim Bunning in the first ever match-up between perfect game winners. The Dodgers won and went on to face the Baltimore Orioles in the 1966 World Series. Game Two marked Koufax's third start in eight days. Koufax pitched well enough---Baltimore first baseman Boog Powell told Koufax's biographer, Jane Leavy, "He might have been hurtin' but he was bringin'"---but three errors by Dodger centre fielder Willie Davis in the fifth inning produced three unearned runs, and the Dodgers ended up losing the game 6–0 on Jim Palmer's four-hit pitching. The last man to face Koufax was Andy Etchebarren, who hit into a double play to end the sixth inning---Alston lifted his future Hall of Famer with the idea of getting him extra rest before pitching a potential fifth Series game. It never happened. The Dodgers were swept in four, not scoring a single run in the last three. After the World Series, Koufax announced his retirement due to his arthritic condition.
In a twelve-season career, Koufax had a 165–87 record with a 2.76 ERA, 2,396 strikeouts, 137 complete games, and 40 shutouts. His World Series record is just as impressive: a 4-3 won-lost record but a 0.95 earned run average in four World Series. He is on the very short list of pitchers who retired with more career strikeouts than innings pitched. Koufax was selected for seven All-Star games (twice in 1961 when there were two games played, and once in each year from 1962 to 1966, with the All-Star Game having returned to one game per year in 1963). Koufax was the first pitcher to win multiple Cy Young Awards, as well as the first pitcher to win a Cy Young Award by a unanimous vote; in fact, all three Cy Young Awards he won were by unanimous vote. More impressive yet, through Koufax's career and until 1967 there was only one such award given out annually, rather than the current practice of naming a Cy Young Award winner for each league.
He currently resides part-time in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
In 1967, he signed a ten-year contract with NBC for $1 million to be a broadcaster on the Saturday Game of the Week. Never feeling comfortable in front of the camera, he quit after five years, just prior to the start of the 1973 season.
Koufax was married to Anne Widmark, daughter of movie star Richard Widmark, until the couple's divorce in 1982. He then remarried and divorced again in the 1990s.
In his first year of eligibility in 1972, Koufax was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, just weeks after his 36th birthday. His election made him the Hall's youngest member ever, five months younger than Lou Gehrig upon his induction in 1939. On June 4 of that same year, Koufax's uniform number 32 was retired alongside Dodger greats Roy Campanella (39) and Jackie Robinson (42).
The Dodgers hired Koufax to be a minor league pitching coach in 1979. He resigned in 1990, saying he wasn't earning his keep, but most observers blamed it on his uneasy relationship with manager Tommy Lasorda. In 2003, Koufax ended his longtime relationship with the Los Angeles Dodgers when the New York Post (which, like the Dodgers, had become part of Rupert Murdoch's business empire) published a story reporting rumors about his sexual orientation and implying that Koufax was gay. Koufax returned to the Dodger organization in 2004 when the Dodgers were sold to Frank McCourt.
In 1999, The Sporting News placed Koufax at number 26 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players." That same year, he was named as one of the 30 players on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Although he rarely makes public appearances, he went to Turner Field in Atlanta for the introduction ceremony before Game 2 of the World Series. He had not attended the ceremony for the 100 All-Century Team nominees at the year's All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston.
Whereas many left-handed pitchers throw with a three-quarter or sidearm motion, Koufax threw with a pronounced over-the-top arm action. This may have increased his velocity, but reduced the lateral movement on his pitches, especially movement away from left-handed hitters. Most of his velocity came from his deceptively strong legs and back, combined with a high kicking wind-up and long forward stretch toward the plate. Throughout Koufax's career, he relied on two pitches: his four-seam fastball had a "rising" motion due to underspin and appeared to move very late; the overhand curveball, spun with the middle finger, dropped vertically ("12-to-6") due to his arm action. He also occasionally threw a changeup and a forkball.
At the beginning of his career, Koufax worked with coaches to eliminate his tendency to "tip" pitches (i.e. reveal which pitch was coming due to variations in his wind-up). Late in his career, and especially as his arm problems continued, this variation -- usually in the position he held his hands at the top of the wind-up -- was even more pronounced. Good hitters could often predict what pitch was coming; but hitting it was another story. Willie Mays said after Koufax's retirement, "Sandy would strike me out two or three times a game and I knew every pitch he was going to throw: fastball, breaking ball. I knew it. He would let you look at it and still I could not hit it."