The year was rich in excellence. Princeton's Bill Bradley astonished the nation by leading his Ivy League team to the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament. Gary Player won the U.S. Open to complete his career sweep of all the major golf titles. Jimmy Clark showed his total command of the racing car. Distance Runners Michel Jazy and Ron Clarke broke one world record after another. Willie Mays hit home runs, stopped fights and just missed winning the pennant for San Francisco. But beyond everyone stood Sandy Koufax, Sportsman of the Year (see cover). He overcame a depressing physical disability that manifested itself in spring training (he had to pack his elbow in ice after each game during the season) and spread-eagled baseball as he pitched the Dodgers to the world championship. Of him, baseball's Paul Richards said, 'This man has a sense of responsibility beyond gain and glory.' Jack Olsen asked the normally reticent Koufax about that sense of responsibility—the management of excellence—and got this unique interview KOUFAX ON KOUFAX
Sandy, what's the difference between the way you manage your life and the way anybody else would manage his?
I don't do anything different. I do the things that most people do. There are times when I feel like I have an obligation not to do certain things because I'm preparing myself to pitch. But other than that my life is about as normal as I can keep it.
Yes, but you have this reputation for being awfully hard on yourself.
Maybe I am. I know sometimes people'll say, "Well, you've done everything possible, what're you gonna do next? You can't pitch a better ball game." And I say to myself, "Well, why not? Why can't I do more, why can't I do a better job?" There's nothing to stop me—except the hitters. You can always try to pitch a better ball game, the best you possibly can.
Sandy, I've seen you after you've pitched and you sit at your locker and you look like World War II. At this stage of your career isn't there any tendency on your part to jake it a little, not to put out quite so much?
I can't. I can't. Sometimes you get enough runs and you try to take it easy and all of a sudden you're in trouble.
Yes, but you go out there and work like a guy who's expecting to be cut right after the game.
You've got to put out on every pitch. How do you know what the other pitcher's going to do? He's out there trying to get your team out, too. People say, doesn't it make you a better pitcher because your team doesn't score runs, doesn't that make you bear down? Well, the Dodgers score more runs than people think, but even if your ball club scores a lot of runs I don't think you can take the attitude that you can give up two or three runs and still win. You've got to say to yourself, "I don't know how many I'm gonna get, but if I can keep the other side from scoring any I have a lot better chance." So you put out on every pitch.
People say you're your own toughest critic.
Whatever I'm going to try to do I try to do as well as I can. In baseball, where there's no such thing as being perfect, you can always do better. If I've made a mistake, I want to be aware of it. You make a lot of mistakes in ball games. You get away with maybe 50% of them, maybe more sometimes. But when you make a mistake you can't just slough it and forget it.
What do you think drives you?
I think it's just competition. I'm the same way about everything. I want to win, and I want to do things well. And I want to be capable of doing my best. If I were to go out and get beat and then realize after the game that I got beat because of something I did the day before...to me, that'd be the worst way to lose. Now, if I get beat because of something I couldn't do or didn't do on the field, at least I know I gave the best I could. But if it was something that happened off the field....
You mean like not getting enough sleep or running around or something like that?
Well, let's say it's hot and you want to go swimming, and you swim for an hour and all of a sudden your arms are tired, you're stiff. If I could look back at that and see how it cost me a ball game, I'd be disturbed with myself. I'd be wrong. I'd be wrong for myself and I'd be wrong for 24 other guys, because I wouldn't be capable of doing the best I can. I'd be ashamed of myself.
Nobody else would know what you'd done.
I'd know it. When I get beat, I want it to be on the field. I don't want to beat myself the day before. So I'm careful. After I pitch a game I say to myself, "Well, this is my day, my night," and I'll go out. I might go out the next night, possibly, but the third night and the night before I pitch I sort of cool it a little bit.
What else do you cool during the season?
I give up golf. I don't know whether golf hurts my pitching, but it's not worth taking the chance. Especially if you've seen me play golf. I'm not going to make a living playing golf. Two or three years ago we had an off day one Monday. I had pitched Sunday, so on Monday I went out and played golf, and then we went to San Francisco and I started a game and got knocked out in the first inning. I didn't think about the golf at the time, but about three months later I played in a Dodger golf tournament and the first time I pitched after that I tore something in my shoulder. I began to think maybe it wasn't a coincidence.
Couldn't you play golf but swing a little easier?
When you're a bad hitter like me you want to swing hard at something, so when I play golf I try to tear the cover off the ball, which is probably the worst thing I can do. So I gave golf up during the season.
Do you worry before a ball game, lose sleep?
On Thursday night I can't do anything about Friday's game. I try not to even think about it.
Are you able to handle your temper the same way? You used to have a bad temper.
I still have a bad temper, but it's something I try to control. Every year for the last four or five years, ever since I started to win, I could always think back to five or six ball games that I didn't win because I got mad out there and lost control of myself. But every year this has happened less and less. Used to be I'd be out of a ball game before I was in it. I'd get in trouble in the first two innings and I'd lose my head and try to throw harder. Then after the game I'd ask myself, "Why didn't you do this or that? Why did you insist on going with a fast ball when it wasn't a good pitch for you today?" The trouble is, you get mad at being roughed up and you start throwing instead of pitching and then you're out of the ball game.
How do you work on the temper problem?
I don't know. Mostly it's just the realization of what the problem is that helps you. You begin to understand how temper works: you start getting madder and madder and throwing harder and harder, and the harder you throw the madder you get. That's why I don't believe in giving 100% effort physically. Somewhere you've got to save just a little bit for thinking. Maybe you can give 100%, physically on the last pitch of a ball game, if you've got good stuff. But if you're giving 100% all through the game, you're not thinking.
Sandy, if you bossed other people the way you boss yourself....
I wouldn't. I wouldn't even try. I could never ask anybody to lead my life, but I enjoy it.
I've heard it said that you're not excited enough about the game.
I get just as excited as anybody. I guess I just don't show my emotions as much as some people.
But you've got 'em?
Sure, I've got 'em. It's your emotions that push you, the desire to be happy, to do a good job. It's my emotions that push me. But I don't get excited so that I jump around. I could never do what Lou Johnson does, yet I've gotta love Lou Johnson. To me, his enthusiasm and his excitement are part of what made the Dodgers win the pennant. I do what Lou Johnson does, but I do it inside myself. I'm happy, I feel great when I do something to help us win.
Do you like to play the game, Sandy? Or is it just a way to make a living?
I love to play. I love the game. The only problem I have is something that all pitchers go through. For three out of four days you just sit around watching and you sit there on the bench, and it's uncomfortable. Somebody gets in trouble and you'd like to be able to help but you have to sit there. Some games are dull and some games are interesting. You can get bored. But if it's dull and you're winning it's not as boring as it is when it's dull and you're losing.
But you know you have to sit there for two or three hours when you haven't got a chance to get in?
That's right, and it's a frustrating feeling. The great thing about Don Drysdale's year was he'd go to the ball park the day after he pitched and think, well, maybe I'll get a chance to pinch-hit. Then he's part of the ball game.
With your hitting that'll never happen to you.
About my hitting, the less said the better.
Well, at least you're not a joke up there anymore. It used to be like comic relief when you came up.
Yeah, and this year I had 20 hits, and I won two or three ball games with base hits. My luck just turned. I'd get two hits in a ball game, one off the end of the bat and it hurt and one off the fists and it hurt, or else three infielders would collide trying to catch one and it's hit so soft it's a base hit. Then I'd come around to score and it'd be the winning run. I remember a game against Houston when they walked the No. 8 hitter to get to me. We've got a man on second in a tie game, and I get a base hit and the ball game's over.
Did it used to make you mad to go up there and make a fool out of yourself with the bat?
Not mad so much as frustrated. But not from the hitting standpoint. From the pitching standpoint. Because there are so many times during the year where a hit by a pitcher can win a game, and that can make a difference of four or five wins. And four or five wins can be the difference between a hell of a year and just a so-so year.
Are you bunting better?
This year I was the worst at bunting I've ever been in my life. Why I don't know.
Maybe you were afraid of getting hit on the pitching hand?
No, it's not that. It's just gotten to the point nowadays where it's so tough to bunt a man over, even if you get the bunt down. To me, the bunt has gone out of baseball a little bit because almost every ball club has got the first baseman and the third baseman down your throat. This year we were allowed to be a little bit more on our own; we could swing away if they were charging us too much. It has to be done. You can make a perfect bunt and they're right there looking at you.
Sandy, does it still bother you that people seem to expect you to get every batter out every time?
No, not as much as it used to. Although that reminds me of the first game I pitched in the World Series this year. I gave up one earned run and one unearned run in six innings. I didn't feel like I pitched well, but I didn't feel like I did that bad a job either. I've won a lot of ball games and pitched a lot worse than I did that day.
And everybody said, "Wow, they really got to Koufax!"
Yes, that's what they said. Where people make a mistake, they don't give credit to the other pitcher. Your club isn't scoring runs and they say your club can't score, they can't hit. But why doesn't somebody say the other pitcher did a better job? What beat us in Minnesota in the first two games of the World Series? Not the fact that Minnesota got to me and Don, but the fact that Kaat and Grant were better pitchers than we were on those days.
Not that you were all that bad, either.
No, but Kaat only gave up one run against me. He was the better pitcher.
Sandy, do you still keep a mental card file on batters?
Yeah, you have to. I don't try to remember every hitter as such, but what happens is, when you look at a hitter you almost automatically remember the times he's hurt you. You don't remember the time you had one ball and two strikes on him and nobody out and a 10-run lead and you threw a pitch and he hit a ground ball to the shortstop. But you remember the times when there were men on and he got a base hit and hurt you or the times when you've made the good pitch and gotten him out. You can't have just one pattern on a hitter, because then he'll really know. You've got to try to pitch them a little bit different each time up. You've got to give them credit for thinking. Everybody thinks about the pitcher standing out there and the signals and everything he does to try to fool the batter. But they never even mention the fact that the hitter is standing there with a bat in his hand, and not just to swing it, either. He is thinking also. That's why you see a lot of great hitters take a strike on two strikes and no balls, or two strikes and one ball, or three and two, because they've been fooled. They've been fooled because they were looking for something else, they've been thinking.
If you keep pitching a man to his weakness, he can adjust and clobber you, can't he?
Sure. You can't go along in a set way. I remember a ball game against the Cardinals. I'd gotten Kenny Boyer out all night low and outside. On his last time up in the ninth inning, with a man on second in a close game, I threw a pitch in the same place and he hit a line drive into right field. Luckily it was caught and turned into a double play, but that's not the point. By throwing to the same place over and over I could have blown the game.
You were lucky, in other words?
I was lucky. I had to be lucky.
Do you feel there's a lot of luck in pitching?
Oh, definitely. Those line shots right at the infielder and you've got a double play. And if it's two feet to either side you lose the ball game. Luck plays a big part in baseball. Good luck is a hell of a lot better than bad luck.
Given the choice...?
I'll take good luck.
Do you still have that tendency to stand on the mound till you get the sign you want, without shaking off pitches?
No, I shake. I do both. There are times when I don't want to shake.
Shaking might indicate something to the hitter.
Well, the odds are that the catcher is calling for a fast ball, right?
About 60% of the time, yes.
So if the batter sees you shake there's a slight presupposition on his part that it's a fast ball you're shaking off?
That's right. There are situations like, say, three and two on the hitter and the sign is for the fast ball and you shake. If I was the hitter, well, I'd almost have to think he's shaking away from the fast ball to the curve ball.
Because the fast ball's the natural pitch to throw on three and two?
Right. So I don't want to shake. Of course, there are other times when you shake for nothing, and times when you shake around the sign. You get the sign you want and then keep shaking till he comes back to it. You're trying to fool the hitter, so you've got to be a little bit of an actor. Maybe you're not going to specifically fool the hitter into thinking you're shaking off one certain pitch for another certain pitch. But if you can make him doubt.... Especially when he's got you in the hole, he might be looking for one particular pitch. If you can shake enough maybe you can make him say to himself, "Well, he's gonna throw the fast ball. But—maybe he's not! Maybe he wouldn't do it." You know, this little doubt.... If you can give the hitter this little doubt, it's helpful to you. So you turn to acting.
You haven't got enough going for you without having to be an actor, too?
Everybody does it. You watch catchers. They'll shake their heads no before they give you the sign. He's telling you to shake for awhile. Or he'll put down no sign and tell you to shake before he even starts giving you a sign.
It's like a game of chess.
Sure, the whole thing is you're trying to get the hitter out with a baseball, but if you can fool him before you even throw the ball you've got a better chance. Every pitcher does it.
Sandy, how do you feel when you're knocked out of the box. Are you humiliated?
It's not so much humiliation as the thought that you hadn't tried the right thing. You're in the clubhouse now and you're listening to the ball game and you can remember what you did. You think to yourself, maybe if I'd tried this, maybe if I'd gone to my curve ball more, or maybe if I'd pitched around somebody, walked somebody more or less on purpose.
Do you "pitch around" many hitters?
There are a couple of hitters in the league I'm willing to admit there are times I'm not gonna pitch to 'em. If you can avoid a .350 hitter for the .250 hitter.... Sometimes you're going to work very carefully to a good hitter and sometimes you even may wind up walking him. It isn't exactly an intentional pass, but you're not giving him anything good. Or sometimes you'll get behind a hitter like that and then try to come back, because that may be the best way to pitch to him, to throw what you're not expected to throw from behind. There are times to be careful, and times when you say, "Here, hit it!" You challenge the hitter. You just say, "This is my best pitch. Here, take your best shot at it." Say there are two out in the ninth inning and you've got a two-run lead and nobody on. You can't let the hitter get on if you can help it. You don't want the tying run to come to the plate. Now maybe it's three and one or three and two on the hitter. You can't walk him. You've got to make him hit it. He's liable to hit it as hard as he can and harelip somebody but maybe they'll pick it up and throw him out for you and you've been lucky. And that tying run never comes to the plate. That's a time you challenge the batter. And even if he hits it out of the park I'd still rather pitch to the next man from a windup than have a man on base and the batter still be the tying run.
How did you do against the real good hitters this year?
It's a strange thing. One year you can't get a hitter out. Next year it's easy. Two years ago I had so much trouble with Roberto Clemente it was unbelievable. And I'd gotten him out fairly well before that. Now this year I got him out fairly well, but next year he'll probably beat my brains out again. But your good hitters are going to hit you. They're not the guys you've got to get out to win. The good hitters are going to get their hits. Maybe there's two of them on a ball club and they're going to get two hits apiece. But that's only four hits! If you can keep the other men from getting on base, what the hell have you done? You've given up four hits! If you give up only three or four hits to the other batters, if you can spread them out, you've given only seven or eight hits in the ball game and generally you'll win. So it's not the real good hitters you've got to get out. It's the others. They're the ones that'll beat you.
What kind of games do you get the biggest kick out of winning?
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.
How did those oldtimers win 30 and 40 games a year?
The game's entirely different today. You can't even compare it with the game of 30, 40, 50 years ago. There's absolutely no way anybody's going to win 40-odd games these days. The biggest difference in pitching now and then is this: in those days the ball got the batter out, and nowadays the pitcher gets him out. I don't know how many balls they used in a game in those days, but I'll guarantee it wasn't more than one dozen. Today you go through seven, eight, nine dozen baseballs. You can't even get one dirty and it's gone. In the old days they used to cut 'em, use emery paper on 'em....
And they were deader to begin with.
Deader to begin with, and the pitcher could do anything he wanted to the ball practically. They used to cut 'em with bottle caps, or they'd have a piece of emery paper in the pocket to scrape 'em up. So a pitcher didn't have to work as hard. The ball did a lot of the work.
Also, wasn't the traveling easier in those days? All this running back and forth from coast to coast....
No, to me that's very easy. Baseball gets to be a tough job only because it's so constant. Baseball is tough. Physically there are times you're just dead. But being physically tired isn't that big an agony. And if you've won, tired is a great feeling, and you know you're going to wake up stiff but you also know you're going to get a good night's sleep. Baseball soreness isn't a bad kind of soreness. Sometimes in the winter I feel that I miss it. About the first week in February I start getting anxious to play again.
Sandy, you're just turning 30 now and pretty soon you'll be reaching the stage where a pitcher loses some of his power and starts looking for other pitches. Do you have any in mind?
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.
What about sliders, knucklers?
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.
That old sidearm pitch of yours didn't help your bad elbow, did it?
No. That's what first bothered me, and I've given up the sidearm delivery completely. I never used it much anyway, and it wasn't very important to me. But my elbow trouble isn't something that came from just a few pitches. It happened over a period of 10, 11, 12 years. It may even have started when I fell on a basketball court in high school.
I understand you don't like to discuss your physical ailments anymore. Why?
Enough has been said. The finger thing—Raynaud's Phenomenon—was in 1962. That's almost four years ago now. It hasn't bothered me since, and even that little hard spot under the skin is gone. Everything's gone. As far as I'm concerned, it's forgotten, except that it cost me half a year in baseball.
Do you get unsolicited advice on how to cure your arthritis?
Occasional letters come in. You appreciate it, but there's a lot of difference between, say, writing with arthritis and trying to throw with it. A lot of people say, "Well, those ice treatments after each game must be the worst thing in the world for your arthritis when every doctor recommends heat." Well, that may be true, but the ice isn't for the arthritis, it's for the swelling. Twenty-four hours after the ice my elbow gets a lot of heat. The ice is only for right after a game, because if the elbow stays swollen I'm in trouble, because then it's going to take a week for the swelling to get out of it. Somebody else wrote in and suggested that I rub brake fluid on my elbow.
Yeah, we get a lot like that.
Be all right if you were a car.
But all these people were sincere, they were trying to be helpful.
Did you ever feel any irrational anger at all your injuries, like "Why is all this happening to me?"
I can't. I was given this arm. If I'd been given one that didn't have arthritis and things like that I might not be able to throw as hard. I might not have the same kind of stuff. I've got to take it, take what comes. The only thing that annoyed me was the finger, because of the way it happened. I did it because I was hitting left-handed, and the only reason I was hitting left-handed was to try to keep from getting hit in the left arm. I did it out of good sense and wound up missing half a year. That was slightly aggravating. I got jammed with a pitch and the bat broke an artery. How many times a day do guys get jammed and nothing happens?
And that's when you quit hitting lefty?
And now you're batting righty. Is that your natural way to hit?
I have no "natural" way to hit.
Your natural way to swing, then?
Nothing about my batting can be described as natural!
When you were having the miseries did you ever say to yourself, "Well, maybe this is it, maybe I'm through now?"
This spring when I was sent home with the swelling in my elbow. Early in the spring I was going great, the best ever, nothing was happening, and all of a sudden my arm was back where it was the year before.
I notice that you followed the doctor's instructions so carefully—including that awful ice bath for your arm after every start—that he was quoted someplace as saying you obeyed medical instructions better than any athlete he'd ever known. Why?
Well, I stayed in the ice because I didn't want to miss a turn. I don't know if it helped me, I don't know what it did, but I'll be damned if I was gonna try to find out. I'd have loved to have made an experiment and not used the ice and seen what happened. But, then, if it is the ice that's enabling me to pitch, I'm liable to miss two or three starts, and that I didn't want to do. Looking back, it was a great satisfaction to win the pennant after we lost Tommy Davis and everybody picked us for eighth, but the biggest satisfaction I got this year was not missing a start. I was supposed to open the season in New York and instead I flew back to Los Angeles with arm trouble, but I pitched in the third or fourth game of the year and I went every four days after that.
Sandy, what are your big satisfactions off the field? I remember when the cliché about you was that you only read Thomas Wolfe and Aldous Huxley....
And only listened to Beethoven and Bach....
....And Mendelssohn. 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.
Do things like that bother you?
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.
Do the photographers still respect your request not to be photographed smoking?
Most of 'em do. But usually when photographers are around I just don't smoke. I wait till they've taken their pictures.
Well, I don't know how many kids there are in this country who are smoking at 12 years of age and their mothers are saying you shouldn't do that because it's not good for you. And then they pick up a picture of me or any other athlete with a cigarette in his hand and then the kid says, "Well, if it isn't good for you, why is this man smoking?" And how much trouble is it to avoid pictures like this? It's no trouble for me and it's no trouble for a photographer.
How about drinking?
I drink. I don't drink constantly, but I enjoy a few drinks. I live a normal life. I have all the minor vices and a few of the major ones.
What else do you enjoy?
Well, I like sporting events, but I don't go to as many as I used to. Mostly I stay home and watch them on television. Then I can be comfortable, get up and get a cup of coffee, whatever I want. To my mind, color television has done more for football. It's great.
Color TV's a little hard on you, though, because it shows your heavy beard.
So? It vouldn't help, it vouldn't hoit!
Wouldn't there be a great temptation for somebody in your position to "go Hollywood"? You're living out here, you're a big hero, you must be invited to be a member of these swinging crowds, but you don't do it.
Oh, I have a lot of good friends out here. It depends on what crowd you're in and how much they're swinging.
Isn't there a temptation to do what certain other ballplayers have done, to lose a lot of time in the bright lights?
If I'd been out here when I first started, there might have been a lot more temptation.
Yes, but the way you were going in those days you wouldn't have been much of a hero.
Oh, I agree with you. But there would have been a lot more temptation for a young kid.
What about long range, Sandy? What are your goals?
Somebody asked me what's your goal, and I said I want to win as many games as I can. So right after that somebody wrote that I wanted to win more than Spahn. But I don't know if I can play 20 years like him. Spahn is a very fortunate man to be around that long.
Suppose you hit a period where your ERA goes up around 3.5 and you're wining 12 and losing 12, something like that, a journeyman everyday pitcher, how would you feel about going on then?
A lot depends on how many years it is from now. If I'm 33 or 34 years old and I feel I can't do the job as well as I'd like to, I'll probably get out. I don't want to be pushed out. It's tough to say you're going to quit when you've had a bad year. It's a lot easier to say it when you've just had your best year.
Well, I'm thinking of some pitchers in recent years who've commanded a fat salary for two or three years after they were washed up just because of their names.
That's what makes it difficult. You sit there and you say to yourself, "Who's gonna pay me this kind of money?"
Nobody's gonna pay you 100 grand to be a radio announcer.
Or whatever it is you're going to do. So when the time comes to make the decision you have to make it. But I don't want to be forced out. I don't want somebody to tell me, "Well, that's it. You're through!" I'd rather walk away when I feel I'm through.
After five or six more years of making the same money you're making now, maybe the money won't be as important to you as your record, and you'd be in a position to walk away after a good year.
Yes, but if it happened next year it'd be an awful tough decision. First of all, if it happened next year, if it looked like I was through, I'm not going to believe it! I'm going to say, "Well, it was just a bad year. Next year I'll be all right." Anyway, every athlete has one bad year somewhere around 30 years of age. I think it's a readjustment, the reflexes slip a little and you have to change. But I don't sit around and worry about the end. I can't get panicky about it, because I know it's got to end. Sooner or later I'll be finished. I would prefer it to be later, but if it's sooner I can't do anything about it. I'm glad I had what I had. Certain things are inevitable. From the day I got into the majors at 191 knew that someday it was going to end.
Looking back on 11 years of it, what do you see?
Well, it's been a little bit miserable, a little bit wonderful. But you get a satisfaction when you hear the crowd and you know you've done a good job.
Are you a cap tipper?
No, I'm a peak toucher.
And when you're out in public and some little kid comes over for an autograph, is that a satisfaction?
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.
Do you ever sit back and say to yourself, what an amazing thing it all is, your records and your achievements, that this is happening to you, that people will be talking about you 50, 100 years from now the way they talk about Cy Young and Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander now?
No, I never thought of it that way. I've never thought anything's happening to me.
Well, it is.
I can't picture people talking about me 50 years from now, either, and I never in my life sat down and thought about Walter Johnson or Cy Young or the other great pitchers.
Or yourself as one of them?
And how do you feel when people say you might be the greatest pitcher that ever lived?
I never even think about it.
From the batter's point of view, Sandy Koufax in full pitching motion is an awesome spectacle. Says the Pittsburgh Pirates' Willie Stargell, "Hitting against him is like eating soup with a fork."
OLSEN ON KOUFAX
At 30, Sandy Koufax lives alone in a modest two-bedroom bungalow in Studio City, just over the hill from Hollywood and Beverly Hills. As much as possible, he tries to keep it private. The house is a hillside percher, and no car without a good, firm low gear is going to make it up his driveway. There are a tiny backyard and a swimming pool which may be the world's smallest, and a two-car garage stuffed with an Oldsmobile 98 and a Corvette. The house is tastefully furnished, but when Sandy shows it off he does so with a deprecatory air. He is the precise opposite of the person who accumulates possessions for the sake of displaying them. He has a few oil paintings, none of them very special, and his bookshelves hold no great surprises: Funeral in Berlin, Herzog, Ship of Fools, The Bull from the Sea, a complete Sholom Aleichem, etc. He has several TV sets, including a 24-inch color set in his living room. He has an excellent hi-fi stereo rig, and he likes to do the wiring and the paneling himself. He has built a stereo control room (about 5 by 5 feet) off his den, and in it he keeps his records (mostly musical-comedy albums), turntable, tape recorder and amplifiers. He has several speaker systems dotted around the house.
Whenever visitors tend to get gushy about the place, Sandy tries to bring them down. One of his main obsessions is with normality—the everyday nature of his tastes and his life. When he is on a date he avoids the publicized places; he is a guy with a girl, not a celebrity looking for a mention in a column. He does not even seem to want the public to be aware that he has a superb view across the whole San Fernando Valley, as though this would stamp him as being too much out of the ordinary. "Sandy, how far can you see on a clear day?" I asked him.
"On a clear day..." he sang.
"No, no kidding. How far can you see across the valley?"
"Depends on what time I got home the night before. It's the valley, that's all."
"What're those mountains way over there?"
"How would I know? They're 'The Mountains,' that's all. The Catskills? I don't know."
Sandy has a lively sense of humor, and he can handle himself when he is being ragged. "Sandy," I said, "I've heard it said that you're just another pitcher, that you put your pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. Now, tell me the truth, Sandy, do you put your pants on one leg at a time?"
"No," he said. "I have a special rack in my bedroom. I'll show it to you. I balance on the bed and then...jump! It plays hell on the cuffs."
"You shouldn't have cuffs," I said. "They're out of style."
"Oh, my cuffs are on the inside, in case cuffs come back."
Sandy's house and Sandy's life and Sandy's manner are the reflection of the self-sufficiency that seems to be his outstanding characteristic. Except for a few little gewgaws, one would not know that his home belonged to the best pitcher in the business. There are no framed magazine portraits of him, and almost all the awards he has received are stowed out of sight. Only three mementos of baseball hang from the wall in his den: the two Cy Young Awards and the Most Valuable Player Award. Sandy doesn't seem to need ego support. The best pitcher in baseball knows how good he is.