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Sandy Koufax was born on this date in Brooklyn in 1935. He pitched for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955 to 1966 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, the youngest player ever to receive that honor. Koufax’s remarkable career included four no-hitters, one of them a perfect game (27 batters up, 27 batters down), 2,396 strikeouts (38th on the all-time list, despite the brevity of his career), and three Cy Young Awards, all won by unanimous vote. Between 1963 and 1966, his most outstanding years, Koufax had a 97-27 won-lost record, with 1,228 strikeouts and a cumulative earned run average of only 1.85 (that is, he gave up fewer than two runs per nine innings). His decision not to pitch in the opening game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur endeared him fiercely to the American Jewish community.
“Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork.” —Willie Stargell
“No one else in baseball history has ever won 20 games in his last season and then retired. Koufax won 27. No one in the century retired after striking out 200 batters in his last season. Koufax retired after striking out 317.”—Steve Hirdt, Elias Sports Bureau
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.