Koufax’s pitching performance from 1961 to 1966 was spectacular, earning him the title of the greatest left-handed pitcher of the twentieth century. From 1962 to 1966 he averaged 22 wins, 7 losses and had an earned run average of 1.99. During this period he pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game, and won three Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher for the season.
Throughout this time Koufax suffered from traumatic arthritis, causing acute inflammation and severe pain. To relieve the pain, he routinely rubbed capsaicin, a hot pepper derivative, into his elbow. The damage to his elbow led to his retirement at the peak of his career when he was thirty years old. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at age 36 and 20 days.
He refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. This decision won him great respect from both players and fans.
Quotes from two baseball greats that faced Koufax attest to his pitching skills.
“I knew every pitch he was going to throw and still I couldn’t hit him.”…Willie Mays.
“I can see how he won 25 games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”…Yogi Berra.
Leavy, Jane. 2002. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York.
Sandy Koufax. 2008. Wikipedia.