You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we'll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1962, Sandy Koufax threw his first no-hitter.
He would finish with four no-hitters -- only Nolan Ryan had more. One of Koufax's no-hitters was a perfect game. In Koufax's first no-hitter, he struck out 13, including the side on nine pitches in the first inning. When it comes to peak value for a pitcher, few in major league history could match Sandy Koufax. Former teammate Don Sutton, a 300-game winner, said, "The most dominating pitcher I ever saw, without a doubt, without recourse, is Sandy Koufax."
In his final four seasons, Koufax won three Cy Young Awards and went an astounding 97-27. Then he retired at age 30 because of an arm injury. He remains the youngest player (36) ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He led the National League in ERA in each of his last five seasons. In 1965-66, his final two seasons, he won the pitching Triple Crown: the league leader in victories, ERA and strikeouts. In his final two seasons, he had 27 complete games each year, and he led the league in innings pitched in each season.
Koufax led the league in strikeouts four times; in 1965, he struck out 382 batters, which established a major league record. That season, he walked only 71 -- he remains the only pitcher in major league history to have a season in which he had 300 more strikeouts than walks. "Trying to hit Koufax," Willie Stargell once said, "was like drinking coffee with a fork."
Koufax was at his best in the postseason, when it mattered most. He pitched in eight World Series games, starting seven of them. He went 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA and two shutouts. He threw 57 innings, allowed 36 hits, walked 11 and struck out 61. In 1963 against the mighty Yankees, he set the record for most strikeouts in a World Series game with 15.
Koufax was a tremendous basketball player at the University of Cincinnati thanks in part to his enormous hands. In baseball, those hands allowed him to wrap his exceptionally long fingers around the ball in a way to manipulate it. His vicious overhand curveball was one of the best ever. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was one of the best, most confident hitters of all time. He hated pitchers, and there wasn't one he didn't think he could hit. I asked how he did against Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale. Robinson answered, to each one, "Oh, I hit him good." Yet when I asked about Sandy Koufax, Robinson's tone and body language changed. "No one," Robinson said, "could hit that man."
Other baseball notes for June 30
In 1912, Shoeless Joe Jackson hit three triples in one game. "His glove is where triples go to die," Ray Kinsella said.
In 1995, Eddie Murray collected his 3,000th hit. He, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols are the only members of the 3,000-hit, 500-home run club.
In 1964, Doug Dascenzo was born. He is 5-foot-7. He pitched in four games in his career. "I really was the short reliever," he said.
In 1957, pitcher Bud Black was born. On one day in 1992, his career record was 92-92, and the teams for which he played were 796-796. The ultimate .500 pitcher. I tracked that stat for months, then when it all lined up perfectly. I flew from Dallas to San Francisco to tell Black. He looked at me, smiled and said, "You flew 1,500 miles just to tell me that? Is that all you have to do with your life?"