Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Koufax Amazing Perfect Game

TRIVIA QUESTION:  When Sandy Koufax tossed his fourth no-hitter, whose record did he break for the most no-hitters thrown by a major league pitcher?  

Tony Conigliaro was beaned by the Angels Jack Hamilton in an incident which basically ruined a career about to happen. Tony C. would eventually get traded to the Angels where he had one more really good season.

The fact Sandy Koufax pitched one of the most perfect of Perfect Games on September 9, 1965 overshadowed another brilliant pitching performance the very same night. The opposing pitcher; Bob Hendley. The game itself was voted the greatest game ever pitched by SABR in 1995.
The Dodgers were on their way to the National League Pennant and a World Series win over the Minnesota Twins. The Cubs were on their way to an eighth place finish, 25 games back of Los Angeles. Koufax was putting the finishing touches on his best year to date. Hendley, a journeyman was two years away from being out of baseball. 

Hendley ended up 4-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 1965. Koufax finished 26-8, 2.04 with a record 382 strikeouts. He too would be out of baseball soon, calling it a career after perhaps his greatest season, 1966 due to arm trouble. 
The Cubs were loaded with good and up and coming players mixed with aging stars. The infield of Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger and Ron Santo would be among the finest of the era. Add Billy Williams and it was a line-up to be reckoned with. The pitching wasn't bad with rookie Ken Holtzman and some aging stalwarts in Dick Ellsworth, Larry Jackson and Ted Abernathy. All of them had something left in the tank.

The Dodgers had pitching, speed, defense and absolutely no hitting. Lou Johnson led the team with 12 homers along with rookie Jimmy Lefebvre. Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam were the only hitters at .280 or better and Ron Fairly led the team with 70 RBI. Wills had 94 steals. Koufax and Don Drysdale won 49 games between them.

The Dodger plan that season; a walk, a steal, a sacrifice and a sacrifice fly equals one run and the pitching made it stand up. A run without an official at bat was their moniker.

This night however belonged to Koufax, Hendley and L-A's Sweet Lou Johnson who was a Cubs rookie back in 1960. He would be a hero in the World Series later in the year with a pair of homers. This night he proved how valuable he was to the Dodgers.
Koufax didn't allow a baserunner and struck out 14 Cubbies including the side in the ninth. The game holds the record for fewest base runners in a perfect game (both teams), with two. It is the only complete 9 inning game in Major League Baseball history where the winning team sent fewer than 27 batters to the plate, since the Dodgers did not bat in the ninth playing at Dodger Stadium.

Both pitchers were throwing no-hitters until the 7th inning when Johnson doubled with two out. He was left stranded there but by then the damage had already been done. The Dodgers scored in the fifth without the aid of a hit and the run was UNearned. The Dodgers led 1-0 in this amazing game.

In the fifth, Johnson (there is that man again) drew a lead off walk. Fairly, batting fifth in the line-up laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Sweet Lou to second. Johnson then tried to steal third and he did, but catcher Chris Krug's throw went wild and Johnson came home to score the only run of the game. 

Hendley and Koufax continued their mastery through the rest of the game with Hendley allowing just the one hit, and the one walk (both to Johnson) and there was only one error in the game (Krug's). 

With their last gasp the Cubs sent Krug, Joey Amalfitano and Harvey Kuenn to the plate in the ninth. Koufax got all three swinging. In fact he struck out the last six men he faced including Santo, Banks and Byron Browne (the last five swinging). In all just over 29,000 fans saw the game of their lives and even though Los Angeles fans were known to leave early, few left before the final out.  Ironically the two pitchers would face each other five days later with Hendley winning 2-1.
Krug, born on Christmas Day and a Los Angeles native, only played in 19 more big league games after the 1965 season. Hendley went 9-8 in the balance of his career closing it out in 1967, Koufax premature end to a career came after the '66 season in which he went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA. Lou Johnson continued to play until 1969 finishing with the Cubs, Indians and Angels with 48 career homers and a .258 average.
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