You can come to either conclusion. Sandy Koufax had two careers, each lasting six years. In his first half, he was just a hard thrower. Thatís all. Hardly even a pitcher. Just one of those guys who clubs used to round out a rotation. After these six seasons he was unremarkable in every other way, with a 36-40 record.
And anybody who says that thereís no pitching today because there are so many teams that the minor leagues are depleted blah blah blah...itís the same as itís always been. Clubs get one or two really good pitchers and have to fill in for the other days. How often do you get teams with three or four front-line starters like the Braves of the 90s, the Orioles of the 70s? For some teams, their time is now, and over the past few years! But thatís a different thread.
Anyway, legend has it that in 1961 the Dodgers were in Vero Beach for spring training, and catcher Norm Sherry says to Koufax, ďCome on, letís have some fun today. Ease up a little on the fastball, and letís mix in some curves and breaking stuff.Ē For the rest of the National League, that was the beginning of Sandyís reign of terror. The man was nigh unhittable, and the next six years he dominated like probably no one else ever has. He went 129-47, running off seasons of 18, 14, 25, 19, 26 and 27 wins. He became the first man to have 3 seasons with over 300 strikeouts, and won five ERA titles (three years it was under 2.00)--and brought his otherwise bloated career era down to 2.76. He had two 18-strikeout games, and dominated the World Series in 1963 and Ď65.
Those six seasons were phenomenal, and Sandy was untouchable then, with the wickedest fastball and the wickedest curve most people have ever seen. And the frightening part is that he wasnít throwing as hard as he used to. He belongs just on the basis of those six years, regardless of how bad he was in his first six.
"Someone asked me if I took steroids. I said, 'No. I had a contract with Wheaties.'"