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Article:Sandy Koufax' Disastrous Last Start

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by Harold Friend

Few individuals knew it at the time, but on Oct. 6, 1966, Sandy Koufax started the final game of his career.

The highly favored Los Angeles Dodgers had dropped the first game of the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles, but Dodgers' fans were not overly concerned because Koufax was starting the second game against young Jim Palmer. Koufax won 27 games during the season, and completed 27 of 41 starts. The Orioles entire staff had "only" 23 complete games.

Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer Matched Zeros

Twenty-five of Koufax' first 28 pitches were strikes. Koufax and Palmer matched zeros until Baltimore batted in the top of the fifth inning.

Boog Powell led off with a sharp, opposite-field single to left, bringing up Davey Johnson, who fouled out to catcher Johnny Roseboro on a failed sacrifice attempt for the first out.

Koufax then induced Paul Blair to hit an apparently harmless fly ball to center field, which was patrolled by the speedy Willie Davis.

Almost No Day Games

It is important to note that the Dodgers almost never played day games at home. Los Angeles outfielders rarely saw fly balls in the sun when playing at spacious Dodgers Stadium. This was 1966, and the first World Series night game was years away.

The fans gasped in horror when they realized that Davis was having trouble seeing Blair's fly ball in the sun. It got worse for them and their team when the ball hit Willie's glove and fell to the ground, allowing Powell to get to third and Blair to second.

Catcher Andy Etchebarren, who was known for his defense, not his lack of offense, was the batter. Koufax reached back and fired.

The Orioles' rookie barely ticked a Koufax fast ball, lifting a fly ball to -- you guessed it -- Willie Davis.

Right. The fly ball hit Davis' glove and fell to the ground.

Boog Powell scored from third with the only run that Jim Palmer would need. Trying to head off Blair at the plate, Davis fired the ball wildly near the dugout level seats behind third base for this third error on two fly balls.

Koufax struck out Palmer for the second out, but Luis Aparicio singled home Etchebarren with the third run of the inning. Curt Blefary ended the inning with a fly ball that Ron Fairly caught.

Koufax and Davis in the Dugout

Davis left the field to a chorus of boos. He tipped his cap and ran into the dugout. Koufax rushed over to the distraught center fielder, put his arm around him, and escorted him into the runway leading to the clubhouse.

Some might speculate that if Davis had made the plays, the Dodgers would have won the game, which is extremely unlikely. Jim Palmer pitched a four-hit shut out, and Koufax did yield an earned run in the sixth inning, the last inning of his career, when Frank Robinson, who had tripled, scored on a Boog Powell single.

Offensive Futility

The Dodgers' offense set records for futility against the young Orioles' pitchers. The Series moved to Baltimore, where the Orioles, behind 21-year-old Wally Bunker shut out the Dodgers,1-0, to take a three game lead. The next day, the Series ended with the Dodgers being shut out for the third consecutive game, again by a score of 1-0.

It is almost axiomatic that pitching wins championships, but the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers, even with the great Sandy Koufax, still needed at least one run to win a game.

References:.

1966 World Series

By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times.. (1966, October 7). Willie Davis: A World Series Goat :ORIOLES WIN, 6-0, ON DODGER ERRORS Take 2-0 Lead in Series as Losers Make 6 Misplays, With 3 by Willie Davis Orioles Triumph, 6-0, on Palmer's 4-Hitter. Koufax Is Defeated. New York Times (1923-Current file),1. Retrieved March 3, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 83546631).

By ARTHUR DALEY. (1967, January 4). Sports of The Times :Study in Futility. New York Times (1923-Current file),72. Retrieved March 3, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 82554597).


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