Sandy Koufax was the consummate pitcher: elegant, dominant, unsurpassed. He defined and distinguished himself by what he did on the baseball field and what he refused to do. He challenged batters and stereotypes. On the evening of September 9, 1965, he pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. Less than a month later, he achieved another kind of perfection by refusing to pitch the opening game of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Until then, he was a ballplayer, perhaps the greatest lefthander of all time. Forever after, he would be a symbol, the one thing he never wanted to be.
A year later, he was gone -- done with baseball at age thirty. No other sports hero retired so young, so well, or so completely. Opting out of celebrity, refusing to cannibalize himself for profit, he is described by one former Dodger "as the most misunderstood man in baseball." Part biography and part cultural history, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy gets as close to the legend as he will allow.
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No immortal in the history of baseball retired so young, so well, or so completely as Sandy Koufax. After compiling a remarkable record from 1962 to 1966 that saw him lead the National League in ERA all five years, win three Cy Young awards, and pitch four no-hitters including a perfect game, Koufax essentially disappeared. Save for his induction into the Hall of Fame and occasional appearances at the Dodgers training camp, Koufax has remained unavailable, unassailable, and unsullied, in the process becoming much more than just the best pitcher of his generation. He is the Jewish boy from Brooklyn, who refused to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur, defining himself as a man who placed faith over fame. This act made him the standard to which Jewish parents still hold their children. Except for his autobiography (published in 1966), Koufax has resolutely avoided talking about himself. But through sheer doggedness that even Koufax came to marvel at, Jane Leavy was able to gain his trust to the point where they talked regularly over the three years Leavy reported her book. With Koufax′s blessing, Leavy interviewed nearly every one of his former teammates, opponents, and friends, and emerged with a portrait of the artist that is as thorough and stylish as was his command on the pitching mound.About the Author:
Jane Leavy is an award-winning former sportswriter and feature writer for the Washington Post. She is the author of Sandy Koufax and the comic novel Squeeze Play, called “the best novel ever written about baseball” by Entertainment Weekly. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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