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Sandy Koufax on Pitching and Pain, April 10, 1969

April 10, 2009 |  8:00 am

Photograph by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times

Sandy Koufax makes the final pitch of the 1963 World Series.

Photograph by Art Rogers
 Los Angeles Times

Sandy Koufax winces in pain, but wins his fourth consecutive game, going seven for eight, May 23, 1966.

Sandy Koufax talked about a subject he knew too well--pain.

"Arms weren't made to do what pitchers are asked to do," said Koufax, the former Dodgers star who retired after the 1966 season because of persistent arm problems.

"The pitchers are dominating the hitters but because of the home run--everyone tries to put one out on you--the pitchers have to work harder to do it. You go through a whole lineup nowadays and you have to worry about the long ball with every batter."

Koufax was the only person quoted in the Associated Press story out of New York. As if another source was needed. Injuries cut short his incredible run with the Dodgers during which he pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game. He won three Cy Young Awards (1963, '65 and '66) and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1963. But the awards came at a great physical cost.

In The Times' story on Koufax's retirement in 1966, Charles Maher wisely just let Koufax talk: "I've had a few too many shots and taken a few too many pills. ... I had to take a shot every ballgame. That's more than I wanted to do. I had stomach aches from the pain pills. I'd be high half the time in ballgames from the pills. I don't want that." 

 Koufax said the Dodgers asked him after the 1968 season to consider a comeback but he turned them down. As Jim Murray put it in a 1966 column, "Baseball lost its left arm because Sandy Koufax didn't want to lose his."

Watch a Koufax video >>>

--Keith Thursby