Sandy Koufax was a talented all-around athlete from Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York. His first love was basketball, and he attended the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship. His impressive left arm, however, attracted the attention of major league ball clubs and in 1954 he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Despite his promising talent, Koufax won just 36 games to 51 losses from 1955 to 1961, and was incredibly inconsistent, blowing hitters away one game and walking runs in the next. Finally, advice from veteran catcher Norm Sherry turned Koufax around. As Koufax recounted in his autobiography, Sherry told him to “take the grunt out of the fastball.”
From 1962 to 1966, Sandy Koufax executed what are arguably the five greatest seasons by a pitcher in baseball history. His newfound control limited his walks from 4.8 per game to just 2.1. His first no-hitter on this day in 1962 saw him walk five men, but after six innings he had already struck out 12 batters. He pitched a no-hitter every year after that until 1965 and led the Dodgers to World Series wins in 1963 and 1965 and the National League pennant in 1966. He won four World Series games, with a .95 earned run average and 61 strikeouts for his postseason career. Koufax won three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965 and 1966), all of them unanimous. In 1965 he struck out 382 men, breaking Rube Waddell’s 1904 record of 350 by 32. According to longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, Koufax was so well-regarded that he would often receive a standing ovation from fans while just warming up for a game.
Sandy Koufax retired after the 1966 season at just 30 years old because of arthritis in his elbow. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
– History.com Staff