|Book Review: Sandy Koufax – A Lefty’s Legacy|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 27, 2006
Book Review: Sandy Koufax – A Lefty’s Legacy
Whenever one thinks of Sandy Koufax, many different things can pop into one’s mind: Koufax’s supposed recluse nature, his being one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time, or the interesting story of his life. The book Sandy Koufax – A Lefty’s Legacy, written by Jane Leavy, combines all three components and more into a wonderful read.
The book tells two different tales in one. The first is a close examination of Koufax’s life, one that sheds light on the story of a young Jewish boy growing up in Brooklyn. The second narrative relives Koufax’s best baseball moment: his fourth no hitter, which just happened to also be a perfect game. Leavy interviewed many Dodgers fans to find out where they were during the game. Former Major League Baseball manager Kevin Kennedy stayed up beyond his bedtime, listening to the game on his radio before telling his father what was happening in the later innings. Ira Green, father of former Los Angeles Dodger Shawn Green, tells his son that he saw Koufax play some number of years after Green became a star in the Major Leagues; he responded with surprise.
As well as Dodgers fans, Leavy brings in players who either competed against or with the star left hander. Pages upon pages are dedicated to these former players. Among the more interesting facts within the book, readers learn that Harvey Kuenn was the final batter in two of Koufax’s no hitters, including the perfect game. Also, once four All Star players were sitting together when one of them asked, “How many combined home runs have we hit off Koufax?” In a perfect “speaking-of-the-Devil” moment, Koufax walks by and points to each one, reciting the answer.
The protagonist began his baseball career in Brooklyn, born the son of Jack Braun, who left his family when Koufax was three. His mother then married Irving Koufax. From there, the lefty’s athletic accomplishments began to skyrocket. He stood out on the basketball courts, making a huge impression on anyone who watched him. Rather than working on his shooting, Koufax worked on rebounding. He played the game the right way, paying attention to the little things.
On the baseball field, it was more of the same. Koufax developed the perfect delivery, one that gave him the most power on his pitches. Furthermore, the southpaw only developed two pitches, a curveball and fastball, but he threw them very well. The Dodgers drafted Koufax out of college, and he had to be excused from class one time to celebrate with the team. His teacher did not believe he was part of the team.
Koufax’s career did not begin well. He spent years pitching at erratic times from the bullpen, not getting a shot at starting for a long time. After all of his failures, the nickname of “bonus baby” began to look worse and worse. (The Dodgers gave Koufax such a large signing bonus that he could not be sent to the minor leagues after getting drafted.) After a few up-and-down tries at the starting rotation, he finally joined for good, pitching alongside Don Drysdale. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
I give Sandy Koufax – A Lefty’s Legacy 3.5 balls out of four. It’s a very good book and not long, perfect to pick up for a few minutes every night before heading to sleep or reading on a day when you feel like doing so. Leavy writes so well and tells such a good story about an interesting life that this book comes highly recommended.