32 Days – Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

April 14 will mark the 50th anniversary of Sandy Koufax‘s only Opening Day start in a Hall of Fame career, and today we celebrate No. 32 as the countdown continues to Dodgers vs. D-backs on March 22 in Sydney, Australia.

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax poses for a portrait in 1962. (Photo by Louis Requena/MLB Photos)

Don Drysdale had generally handled the Opening Day assignment for the Dodgers in that era of their 1-2 domination on the mound following the club’s move from Brooklyn. The big right-hander started on Opening Day in 1958-61, ’63 and ’65. Johnny Podres had started it in ’62, the first game at Dodger Stadium. For Koufax, ’64 was his turn and his time.

Koufax had been named Most Valuable Player of the 1963 World Series, leading the Dodgers to a sweep of the Yankees and then receiving a unanimous Cy Young Award as well as National League MVP. Jane Leavy, author of his brilliant biography “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy,” would write: “He was feted while JFK was mourned.” Indeed, lofty Koufax and Dodger expectations for ’64 were realized immediately as 50,451 fans at Dodger Stadium sawΒ one of the greatest left-handers in Major League history scatter six singles and shut out the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Bill White led off the fourth for St. Louis and then reached second on a wild pitch, but Koufax retired the next three in order and that was the only Cardinal baserunner to get that far. It was Koufax’s ninth complete game with no walks.

“It just happened that way,” Koufax said on Monday at the Dodgers’ Spring Training camp in Glendale, Ariz., where he returned as a special adviser to team chairman Mark Walter. “It’s kind of called an honor, but a lot depends on what happens in Spring Training. If you have three or four good pitchers, it might depend who you are playing.”

Sandy KoufaxBut behind the scenes, an ominous arm problem was developing. Koufax had thrown a high percentage of slow curves and changeups that spring, and his arm had almost doubled in size after one exhibition against the Yankees. Eight days after his Opening Day performance, Koufax would feel something “let go” in his left arm, requiring a few cortisone shots. He would throw his third no-hitter that ’64 season, but would be diagnosed with traumatic arthritis after closing out a 19-win season and would win a combined 53 games while pitching in pain over two final Cy Young seasons.

The great Koufax went out in style, became the youngest former player ever inducted in Cooperstown, and left his mark on Opening Day and Baseball. How great it is to see him back in camp again, asking reporters on Monday if they knew how he fared in that 1964 opener, the game’s history meeting its future in yet another new beginning under the sun.

The 2014 Dodgers follow their March 22-23 Opening Series at Sydney with three games at San Diego and then their home opener on April 4 against the rival Giants. Let us know who should be No. 31 in our countdown in the comments below, and plan your own season at the ballpark. MLB Schedule | Tickets


  1. Allen Gronsky

    Sandy Kourax was a true joy to witness throwing a baseball…He did it with style, grace, and authority…and on top of that he was and is a true gentleman. We are so lucky that he wore a Dodger uniform with # 32 on his back. I saw him pitch as a young boy in Ebbett’s Field in 1955, and I had the pleasure of seeing him in Spring Training in Glendale in 2013. Sandy, you’re the greatest pitcher that ever wore the Dodgers uniform. Thank You for being YOU…
    Buckeye, Arizona

  2. Bill

    I was fortunate to see Koufax pitch times, once against the Yankees in the 1963 World Series and 5 times against the Mets. I still have the progtam where he pitched a one hitter allowing a home run to Jim Hickman. One of the truly amazing things about him was, if he did not have his curveball he could still pitch a shutout with just his fastball and control, as in the seventh game of the World Series against the Twins. Everyone who saw it remembers Sandy greatest in that game, but I will always remember the play Jim Gilliam made at third on Zoilo Versailles. So many great memories. I did not see his fourth no-hitter and perfect game but I did listen to the recreation of the game on radio by a young new announcer called Marv Albert on radio. The interesting thing about Koufax’s legend is there is not need to embellish, it is all true.

  3. Larry Mulligan

    The greatest who ever walked onto a mound! The great Willie Stargell once quipped, “The greatest thing in my career? The day Koufax retired”. Mantle, after striking out on a Koufax curve, shook his head and asked “What the f— was THAT”? There will never be another Sandy like that Sandy.

  4. Steve Sorkin

    Can’t remember what year it was, but the Dodgers and Phillies were playing a doubleheader at Dodger Stadium; Sandy and Big D were pitching. The Dodgers won both games, 8-0. What a time and joy!!!

  5. Mark Newman

    Reblogged this on MLB.com Blogs Central and commented:

    Please join me on the Opening Day Countdown Down Under blog here at MLB.com as I am posting a different Opening Day moment for 51 straight days on the way to Major League Baseball’s Opening Series March 22 in Sydney, Australia. Today is 32 Days away, so we are going with Sandy Koufax. Who should be 31? Follow the blog at openingday.mlblogs.com and leave comments! – Mark

  6. Pingback: MLB.com Pro Blogs of the Day « MLB.com Blogs Central
  7. tom smith

    Sandy Koufax- his windup was a thing of beauty- no one before or since has equaled it. I was lucky enough to see his last no-hitter (and only perfect game), and I’m sure he would have had many more if his arm had held out. Greatest pitcher ever, and a true class act. Those were the days…

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