The Book of the Week is “Sandy Koufax, A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy, published in 2002. This is a biography of a legendary Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the Dodgers from the mid 1950’s to the mid 1960’s.
SIDENOTE: The nature of this short paperback’s structure makes it repetitive and disorganized. It appears that the author is trying to build suspense by providing an entire one-chapter-per-inning description of a historic game pitched by Koufax in September 1965, interspersed with chapters on other subjects. It doesn’t work. Perhaps the author thought the reader has the attention span of a fly, and wouldn’t be able to handle the whole game in one go. Too bad, because the content of the book is full of facts, figures and what seems to be thorough research.
Born in December 1935, Koufax’s full first name was Sanford. His initial dream was to play for the New York Knicks basketball team. He was an excellent all-around athlete. However, in college, he got the chance to pitch.
The then-New York Dodgers scout who observed Koufax saw exceptional potential, although others thought his pitching was wild and inconsistent. Even thought he had almost no experience, the Dodgers extended an offer to him, to which he committed. Koufax played his first season of professional ball in 1955. The next four seasons, he was benched most of the time, but his pitching was improving. He became a starter in 1962.
The year 1963 was the first in which the media revealed tabloid gossip on the private lives of professional athletes, including that of Koufax. Prior to that, the media merely reported on sports-related information. One nosy news outlet had a field day when it found out that Koufax was adopted. That opened the floodgates on asking personal questions of players.
Read the book to learn about the sad state of affairs in sports medicine– during Koufax’s generation– that made top athletes’ careers all too short, the painkillers used at that time, how biomechanics and arthroscopic surgery have evolved since then, a vast quantity of other information on Koufax, including how, after retirement from baseball, “He became a serious runner, a marathoner who smoked, competing in Europe, where he was least likely to be recognized.”