I consider myself lucky – maybe not the luckiest man on the face of the Earth, but lucky nonetheless – to have had the chance to watch Sandy Koufax pitch both in person at Shea Stadium and numerous times on television. I was just a teenager, but was still aware that I was watching one of the game’s all-time greats.
And that wasn’t a determination based on reading the back of his baseball card, but more accurately a widespread perception based on the level of dominance that he displayed over his final six seasons.
Koufax is quite properly in the headlines these days with the opening of a unique art exhibit devoted exclusively to artwork showcasing the Hall of Famer. “32 at 75” describes the number of different pieces that portray Koufax, on the occasion of his 75th birthday arriving in 2010 (Dec. 30).
The works are on display at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack, N.Y., but will eventually be put up on the organization’s website. As soon as that happens, I will pass the information along to the Infield Dirt readers.
In the meantime, it gave me the opportunity to say Happy Birthday to Sandy via this week’s SCD cover (Nov. 5) and the artwork shown on this page.
There’s kind of a double standard out there when it comes to Hall of Fame voting; lots of position players get dissed – Dale Murphy comes to mind, largely because I wrote about him recently – for not displaying HOF-like numbers for a sufficient number of years, yet a pitcher can sidestep that land mine.
The number of non-pitchers confronted with that bias has been considerable: some, like Chuck Klein and Ducky Medwick (roughly six seasons each with HOF-like numbers) have managed to get a plaque, but many more have not.
Dizzy Dean, a teammate of Medwick’s on the infamous Gas House Gang, got inducted with perhaps five seasons that might be considered worthy, but like Koufax, he was cut down by an injury.
I don’t know if a Hall of Fame without Dizzy Dean would be unthinkable, but I can promise you it would be simply impossible to even talk about pitching in the 1960’s without planting Koufax atop the heap. As I think I have noted before, for those last five seasons, you didn’t wonder if he would win every time he took the mound, you wondered if he would throw a shutout.
And that’s just me as an eternal pessimist even as a teen. The guys with a really cheery, rose-colored outlook on life speculated if he would throw a no-hitter.