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Koufax chooses faith over Dodgers, October 6, 1965

October 9, 2008 |  7:00 am


1965_october_07_runoverBy Gary Rubin
Times Staff Writer

Would he pitch?

That was the question Dodger fans were asking themselves 43 years ago on the eve of their World Series opener against the Minnesota Twins.

The "he" in this case was Sandy Koufax, who not only won 26 games for the team in 1965, but won the pennant-clinching game against the Milwaukee Braves and finished the season with a record 382 strikeouts.

There was just one problem:

Game 1 was scheduled to be played on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, considered the most important holiday among Jews.

Koufax was not only the most dominant pitcher in the game, but the most prominent Jewish athlete of his generation.

Manager Walter Alston left the decision up to Koufax, who decided his faith took precedence over the needs of his team, at least for a day.

As it turned out, Koufax’s decision not to pitch, to keep to his faith, was a watershed moment for the many Jewish fans, young and old, who saw the decision play out on the public stage.  It was a reminder that while sports is important, being true to yourself is even more important.

While Koufax spent his day in a Minneapolis synagogue, the Dodgers lost that game, 8-2.

And, when Koufax finally pitched in Game 2, the result wasn’t any better, a 5-1 loss.

But it was a happy ending for Dodger fans, as the team won the championship in seven games, Koufax pitching a pair of shutouts, including the decisive Game 7, a 2-0 three-hitter.