Sandy Koufax

American baseball player (born 1935)

Sandy Koufax (born Sanford Braun on 30 December 1935) is an American left-handed former pitcher in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1955 to 1966.

Sure, nice guys can win — if they're nice guys with a lot of talent.

Quotes edit

If you do a good job, the numbers say so. You don't have to ask anyone or play politics. You don't have to wait for the reviews.
  • What do I strive for? Well, I go out there with the idea of shooting for a no-hit game. When the first hit is made off me, I then try to keep them or any runs scored down to a minimum. The main idea is to win. As to strikeouts, yes. I am proud of my records. I'm not out there trying to blow down every hitter. There are too many smart ones in the league. I want to get them out first, strike them out if I can.
  • The biggest thrill is the game where you give up one or two or three runs when you don't have anything, when you have no right even being out there, no reason to be out there. Those games are the difference between having a .500 year and a really great year. You figure, if you go out there 30 times, 15 times you're going to have great stuff and 15 times you're going to have mediocre stuff. If you can win a fair percentage of the games when you're mediocre, you're going to have a good year.
  • Well, I already have a fork ball, but it's not really another pitch. I use it instead of a change of pace. If I have a good fast ball and a good curve ball I hesitate to use anything else. But if they're not getting me by, I try to use anything I can, including the fork ball. [...] I don't know if I can throw any other pitches. I used to try the slider once in a while, and some other pitches, but since I had this little problem with my elbow it seems like only my old standby pitches don't bother me. All the new stuff, like the slider or the others I used to try, it seems like they all hurt my arm.
  • You know what happens? Somebody writes a story 10 years ago and it never changes. If the guy 10 years ago was wrong, the stories are gonna be wrong for 20 years afterward. [...] They used to annoy me a lot more, but now I've begun to feel they're going to be written, there's nothing I can do about it and I'm not going to worry about it. Sometimes things don't come out the way you say them. You run into one of those reporters who's more interested in the dictionary and the very good usage of the English language, and he thinks that when John Roseboro says cool it means cold. But you can't let it annoy you.
  • At times it's a satisfaction and at times it's a little bit of an intrusion. You don't mind the kids. But sometimes their parents get to be...well, not bad about it, but they become demanding. The kids will ask, but the parents will demand sometimes. As long as somebody asks, I don't mind at all. But the ones who demand are tough on me. I've got so many bosses already I don't know if I can stand one or two more.
  • People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.
    • As quoted in "Sandy Began Slowly and Then Got Worse; At Tired Arm Stage" by Charles Maher, in The Los Angeles Times (April 14, 1966)
  • I'll never know. I've never been in a fight. But I doubt whether pitching speed would have any significance. You can't go into a windup in the ring.
    • As quoted in "Stuart's Problem; Suppose Sandy Had Become a Boxer" by Sid Ziff, in The Los Angeles Times (July 7, 1966)
  • I know I was faster 10 years ago. I think Jim Maloney, Bob Veale, Bob Gibson and perhaps one or two others throw faster. In my best days I don't think I threw faster than Ryne Duren. He was the fastest I ever saw.
    • As quoted in "Stuart's Problem; Suppose Sandy Had Become a Boxer"
  • There were now men on first and second. The batter was Henry Aaron. I walked him on four straight balls, which was probably the smartest thing I did all year. There have been many times since when I wished I had been wild enough to walk Henry Aaron. I'm usually backing up third as I am wishing it.
    • In Koufax (1966) by Koufax with Ed Linn, pp. 96-97
  • It was probably the worst thing that could have happened to me, getting my first out by striking out a big hitter. Because that became my pattern for five years, trying to get out of trouble by throwing harder and harder and harder.
  • But in the end it all comes down to talent. You can talk all you want about intangibles, I just don't know what that means. Talent makes winners, not intangibles. Can nice guys win? Sure, nice guys can win — if they're nice guys with a lot of talent. Nice guys with a little talent finish fourth, and nice guys with no talent finish last.
    • In Koufax (1966), p. 133; as quoted in "Koufax writes: 'Sure nice guys can win'" by Ed Rumill, The Christian Science Monitor (August 29, 1966) and Total Baseball : The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball (2001) by John Thorn, p. 2468
  • In 1960 I had made the transition from thrower to pitcher and had not understood that in making the transition I had made a beginning, not an end. you become a pitcher before you become a good pitcher. [...] Nor do I wish to testify under oath that I have not forgotten, do not—and will not—forget from time to time and revert to the wayward ways of my youth. It's usually when I'm tired or mad, but dumbness is not to be completely discounted either. In the 1965 All-Star Game I was terribly wild. I came into the game in the sixth inning and immediately threw seven straight balls. Although I got out of the inning, it was a struggle with every batter. [...] There was not a thing wrong with my arm. My arm was fine. My head was something else again. Knowing that I was only going to pitch an inning or two, I had thought, "Well, hell, I'll just go in and throw as hard as I can." And there I was, right back where I'd been ten years ago, wild high.
  • Roberto Clemente hit an outside fastball that was still rising when it hit against the light tower in left center field, 450 feet away from home plate. And on a 1-2 pitch at that. But there is no such thing as a good pitch to Clemente. Ask me how to pitch to Clemente, and I will tell you with complete confidence, "How do I know?" Roberto can hit any pitch, anywhere, at any time. He'll hit pitchouts, he'll hit brush-back pitches. He'll hit high, inside pitches deep to the opposite field, which would be ridiculous even if he didn't do it with both feet off the ground.
  • It is a curious thing that while a home-run hitter is expected to fatten up in the routs, and the pitchers are certainly not supposed to let up, the opposing team becomes furious when a base is stolen after a game is apparently out of reach. Particularly the manager. The theory seems to be that the stolen base is somehow extraneous to the game, that it is an extra effort, a thumbing of the nose. Not on our team it isn't. Stealing bases is Maury's game, and—to a sometimes alarming extent—it was the Dodgers' offense. Maury's game is to get the other team upset, to get them into a frame of mind where they are so eager not to let him show them up that the catcher throws the ball too hastily and the fielder rushes his tag. Result: the hasty throw is off the mark and the infielder neglects to wait for the ball. Maury's game is called Panic!
  • Maury had been made captain in the first week of spring training, a title which usually entitles its bearer to carry the lineup card to the umpires and draw an extra $500 on his salary. Maury took it seriously, and his leadership had a strong, cohesive effect. [...] Maury has become a dominant figure in our locker room. He has come to believe that there is nothing he cannot do if he sets his mind to it. There is something almost mystical in his belief in himself, especially when you remember that he came to us after nine full years in the minors with all the uncertainties of the fringe player hoping to hold on.
  • I don't regret one minute of the twelve years I've spent in baseball, but I could regret one season too many. [...] I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with complete use of my body.
  • I don’t know if cortisone is good for you or not. But to take a shot every other ball game is more than I wanted to do and to walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ball game because you’re taking painkillers … I don’t want to have to do that [...] I don't regret one minute of the last 12 years but I think I would regret the one year that was too many.
  • Mays always told me how hard it was to get a hit off me and every time I looked up, he was on second base. Yet, even with Mays, I had an idea what to do. When I pitched to Clemente and Aaron, I had no idea. They seemed to hit everything.
    • As quoted in "Koufax Still a Champion" by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (May 8, 1967)
  • If I could straighten it out, I'd be pitching at Dodger Stadium tonight instead of playing golf.
    • After being admonished to "get that left arm all the way round [and] straighten it out" by La Costa Resort's golf pro; as quoted in "How Red the Rose" by John Hall, in "The Los Angeles Times" (May 15, 1968)
  • The only time I really try for a strikeout is when I'm in a jam. If the bases are loaded with none out, for example, then I'll go for a strikeout. But most of the time I try to throw to spots. I try to get them to pop up or ground out. On a strikeout I might have to throw five or six pitches, sometimes more if there are foul-offs. That tires me. So I just try to get outs. That's what counts — outs. You win with outs, not strikeouts.
    • As quoted by Jack Orr (former Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter who had since become managing editor at Billboard), in My Greatest Day in Baseball (1968) by John P. Carmichael, and Baseball's Greatest Quotations : An Illustrated Treasury (2008) by Paul Dickson, p. 302
  • Last year wasn't Seaver's kind of year, but he's still an impressive pitcher, still strong. Like McLain, Marichal and Gibson, he has the good stuff and control. I mean he can make an excellent fastball or curve and throw it in good spots. A guy who throws what he intends to throw—that's the definition of a good pitcher.
    • As quoted in "Gibson, Marichal Top Koufax's Dream Team; Koufax Picks 11" by Bob Oates, Los Angeles Times (March 31, 1971), Pt. III, pp. 1, 6
  • Pitching is the art of instilling fear, making the man flinch by making him look for the wrong pitch. You're trying to control his instincts. But if your control is suspect like Ryan's is, and the thought of being hit is in the batter's mind, you'll go a long way.
    • As quoted in "Baseball's Exorcist Striking Out to New Horizons; Batter's Fear Helps Ryan Blaze Lay [sic] to Major League Record" by Jackie Lapin, in The Washington Post (September 1, 1974)
  • I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.
    • As quote in "Quote... : Father knows best; Soviet hindsight; Life in the NBA: Koufax strategy," The Christian Science Monitor (June 24, 1976), p. 11
  • Show me a guy who can't pitch inside and I'll show you a loser.
    • As quoted in "One Hard Way to Make a Living" by Roger Angell, in The New Yorker (May 4, 1981), p. 96; reprinted in Late Innings (1982) by Roger Angell, p. 358
  • I was known for my fastball and curve and did well with just those two pitches, but people don't know that I tried to add a third pitch, any third pitch. For a long time, I tried to learn the changeup. The Dodgers taught the changeup in a certain way - it was the Dodgers' changeup - and I tried to learn it for ten years but never got the hang of it. I never liked my changeup, and I never wanted to throw it. One day, I was playing catch and started to fool around with the forkball, and it felt more comfortable to me. I said, "Well, I'm gonna try this instead of the changeup." So I started to throw it, but I only used it occasionally in games, because I didn't throw it hard enough.
    I also threw the slider a couple of times. I threw the slider to Henry Aaron and Roberto Clemente, because I figured if it worked on those two great hitters, then I had something there. So I threw it to Aaron and almost hit him in the face. He reached out to get it, and it came right at him. And I threw it to Clemente. You may remember that in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, there was a light tower by where they used to park the batting cage. Halfway up. there was a bunch of transformers. Well, Clemente hit it off a transformer. I said, "Well, maybe I don't have a slider," and I gave it up. So, I never came up with a third pitch.

Quotes about Koufax edit

  • Sandy Koufax. Sandy was a special problem for me because he possessed exceptional control, speed and a great curve ball. He was highly disciplined, extremely committed and a very private person. These qualities enabled him to concentrate on his profession without a lot of unnecessary distractions.
    • Ernie Banks, responding to the question, "Who was the toughest pitcher you faced during your career, and why was he a special problem for you?"; as quoted in "Hall of Famers Name Their Toughest Diamond Foes" by William Guilfoile, in The 1991 National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Yearbook; reprinted in Baseball Digest (August 1992), p. 28
  • He's the greatest pitcher I ever saw. I can still see that big curveball. It had a great arc on it, and he never bounced it in the dirt. Sandy's curve had a lot more spin than anybody else's -- it spun like a fastball coming out of his hand -- and he had the fastball of a pure strikeout pitcher. It jumped up at the end. The batter would swing half a foot under it. Most of the time we knew what was coming, because he held his hands closer to his head when he threw a curveball, but it didn't matter. Even though he was tipping off his pitches, you still couldn't hit him.
  • It's no disgrace to get beat by class.
    • Bob Hendley, the losing Chicago Cubs pitcher in Koufax's perfect game, after Koufax sent him a gift to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the game — a 1965 NL baseball signed, "What a game!" plus a small handwritten note: "We had a moment, a night, a career. I hope life has been good to you. Sandy." Hendley himself pitched a one-hitter in the game, allowing one unearned run. American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball, p. 17
  • It sounded like somebody firing a pistol in a canyon . . . pow, pow, pow. That was the sound of the fastball popping Rube's mitt in that empty ballpark. We all came in to watch this kid.
  • If there was one game I had to win and I could pick any pitcher in any era, I'd pick Sandy. I'd sit in the bullpen and watch him paint that outside corner with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball and throw curves that looked like they were dropping out of the third deck. I'd think, "I'm gonna relieve this guy? With my stuff?"
  • The Dodgers had us back for Jackie Robinson Day, and before the game started, we're up in the press box, and Rachel Robinson is there, and Jackie's son and daughter. The Dodgers were playing the Reds, and Sandy Koufax walks up and says "Jerry, this is amazing. There's not one player on the Dodgers that is African-American." He said that it was sad that we're up there celebrating Jackie Robinson, but not much has changed.

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