June 4, 1964: Sandy Koufax 'puts everything together' in third career no-hitter

This article was written by Marc Z. Aaron

The Los Angeles Dodgers (21-25, and in eighth place) came to Philadelphia to play the league-leading Philadelphia Phillies (27-15). It was a great pitching matchup: Sandy Koufax (5-4) and Chris Short (3-2, 0.64 ERA).

Both pitchers set the side down in order in the first inning. In the second inning Tommy Davis singled but was erased on an inning-ending double-play ball. Koufax looked dominant from the beginning of the game, needing only six pitches to set the Phillies down in order in the second and picking up his third strikeout. Johnny Callison, Dick Allen, and Gus Triandos had all gone down swinging.

In the top of the third, Koufax lined a single to center with two out, but Willie Davis fouled out to third baseman Dick Allen. In the bottom half, Tony Taylor went down looking, Ruben Amaro hit a popup to first baseman Ken McMullen, and Chris Short went down swinging.

In the bottom of the fourth with two out, Koufax fell behind in the count 3-and-0 to Dick Allen. Two strikes and one foul ball later, Koufax walked Allen on a fastball that was three inches below the strike zone. Koufax later commented that he shook off the curve to throw the fastball.1 Allen was erased from the basepaths when he attempted to steal on a 2-and-2 count with Danny Cater at bat. After the game Koufax said, “(Doug) Camilli had called for a curve, but I shook him off … then right in the middle of my windup I realized I had made a mistake, that Allen would be looking for the fast one. But just like you don’t stop a golf shot on the backswing, I kept right on going. There was no doubt about the call. It was a ball.”2

In the fifth inning Cater went down swinging, Triandos flied to center, and Roy Sievers fouled out to first. In the sixth Taylor hit a grounder back to Koufax, and both Amaro and Short went down swinging at the air.

After six innings there had been only three hits, one error allowing a base, and just the one walk to Allen. A real pitching duel. The Dodgers had not scored a run in 19 straight innings.

In the top of the seventh, Jim Gilliam grounded a ball up the middle and went to third on a line-drive single to right by Tommy Davis. On the next pitch from Chris Short, Frank Howard crushed his 14th home run of the season, the ball taking one hop on the arched roof of the left-field pavilion. Ken McMullen then singled to left but was out trying to stretch it into a double. Doug Camilli hit a fly ball to right for the second out. Dick Tracewski doubled to left, chasing Short from the mound. Ed Roebuck came in and got Koufax, his former teammate on the Dodgers, to ground out to short.

The Dodgers made some lineup changes in the bottom of the seventh. Wes Parker was now the right fielder and Ron Fairly came in to play first base. They replaced Frank Howard and Ken McMullen. Koufax faced Cookie Rojas and with two strikes Rojas flied out to left. Johnny Callison grounded back to Koufax and Allen hit a high chopper to Gilliam at third. Gilliam came running hard to grab it on the short hop and throw Allen out by three steps.

In the eighth Ray Culp replaced Roebuck. The Dodgers went down in order. In the bottom half of the inning Cater was out on a hard liner to right on the first pitch, and Triandos and Sievers went down swinging.

In the ninth, Tony Taylor struck out. Amaro, swinging at the first pitch, fouled out to first baseman Fairly, who caught the ball about 20 feet behind first. With two outs, Bobby Wine, batting .205 and 1-for-17 against Koufax, batted for Culp. With the count 1-and-2, Wine went down swinging. But not before he had fouled off the second pitch into the dirt. The ball bounced up and hit home-plate umpire Ed Vargo in the throat. Vargo didn’t want to hold up the game and allow Koufax to cool off, even though he was having trouble breathing.3

Final score: Dodgers 3, Phillies 0. A crowd of 29,704, the biggest of the season so far, witnessed Koufax’s third no-hitter. (The crowd for the game against the San Francisco Giants the next night exceeded the Dodgers’ crowd by 2,000.) The game took 1 hour 55 minutes to play as Koufax faced the minimum 27 batters. He threw just 97 pitches and the only three-ball count was the one to Allen that resulted in Koufax’s lone walk. Koufax struck out 12 Phillies in what was to be the only time he was to shut out the Phillies during his career. It was the 54th time he had struck out 10 or more batters. He joined Bob Feller as the only pitchers to throw three no-hitters in the twentieth century.4

Before the no-hitter the Dodgers had been defeated by the Phillies in eight of their nine previous contests.

Koufax remarked after the game, “This was the first time this season that I have been able to put everything together.”5 He was throwing differently than he had earlier in the season. He wasn’t stepping as far to the left and not throwing as much across his body. He seemed to have better leverage on his follow-through. He had his old rhythm back. The fastball was overpowering and the curve cut the corners.6

Prior to this start, Koufax came across an issue of Sport magazine that featured a photo of him during his 1963 no-hitter against the Giants. From the photo angle, Koufax was able to detect a flaw in his stride.7 He could see that he had to open up a little.8

On the bus from the stadium, Koufax remarked to pitcher Joe Moeller, “You know, I got away with a pitch. I hung a curve to Wine.”9 He faced the minimum number of batters and all he could think about was the one pitch that got away. Typical Koufax.

Don Drysdale, who lost 1-0 in 11 innings the night before, was not traveling with the team.  When he heard the announcer reporting that Koufax had pitched his third no-hitter, Drysdale asked impatiently, “But did he win?”10

 

This article was published in SABR's "No-Hitters" (2017), edited by Bill Nowlin. To read more Games Project stories from this book, click here.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and an article by Bob Hunter in the June 20, 1964, issue of The Sporting News.

 

Notes

1 John Brogan, “Sandy Shook Off Curve, Fast Ball Walked Allen,” Philadelphia Bulletin, June 5, 1964.

2 Associated Press, “Koufax Pitches His 3rd No-Hitter,” June 4, 1964.

3 Allen Lewis, “Ump Vargo Refused to Leave Contest in spite of Painful Injury From Foul,” The Sporting News, June 20, 1964. (Vargo would again be behind the plate when Koufax pitched his perfect game against the Cubs in 1965.)

4 Larry Corcoran and Cy Young accomplished the feat in the nineteenth century.

5 Associated Press, "Sandy Found a Flaw, Corrected It, and…," Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1964: B1.

6 “Koufax Pitches His 3rd No-Hitter.”

7 Jane Leavy, Sandy Koufax, a Lefty’s Legacy (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 152.

8 Sandy Koufax with Ed Linn, Koufax (New York: Viking Press, 1966), 220.

9 Leavy, 154

10 Ibid.