Wendel: The breakthrough of Sandy Koufax

From SABR member Tim Wendel at The National Pastime Museum on April 27, 2015:

Growing up, Sandy Koufax could throw with plenty of velocity. As he recounts in his autobiography, Koufax, when snowball fights would break out in his old neighborhood in Brooklyn, he would duck into a well-protected place and “pepper the other kids and they couldn’t come close to reaching me. Very useful.”

Yet after breaking in with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, Koufax seemed destined to be another hard-throwing prospect who never panned out. For those first half-dozen seasons in professional ball, his record was rarely above .500, and his ERA never fell below a mediocre 3.88. He was on the verge of becoming another Steve Dalkowski.

“Of course, this was well before radar guns,” catcher Norm Sherry remembers. “But Sandy easily threw above 100 miles per hour. The key for him, you could say his career really, was him realizing that he didn’t have to throw all that hard to be effective.”

Sherry says that before Koufax ever gained command of his pitches, “he’d just rear back and fire that thing. He really didn’t have an idea of where the ball might be going.”

That all changed one day in the spring of 1961. The Dodgers had a “B” game in Orlando. A bare-bones squad, which included Koufax and Sherry, was due to take the flight from Vero Beach. The roster got even shorter when one of the other pitchers missed the plane.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/koufax

Originally published: April 27, 2015. Last Updated: April 27, 2015.