Sandy Koufax Baseball Cards

55T-KOUFAXIn Jane Leavy’s brilliant biography of Sandy Koufax, Al Campanis, who scouted Koufax for the Dodgers, said “There are two times in my life the hair on my arms has stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the second time, I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball.”

Koufax’s twelve-year career followed the trajectory of a shooting star, flashing brilliantly before flaming out.

After excelling in both baseball and basketball at the University of Cincinnati, Sandy signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1955, made his major league debut. Despite pitching in only 12 games, he appeared on his rookie card, the 1955 Topps card #123. The Brooklyn Dodgers won their only title in ’55 without Koufax pitching in their World Series victory over the Yankees.

PS-KOUFAXKoufax struggled in his first six seasons but Topps produced cards of him each year. His 1957 Topps card (#302) appears in the short-printed middle series and is relatively difficult to obtain.

In his early years with the Dodgers, the velocity on Koufax’s pitches was blazing but his control around the plate left a lot to be desired. So much so, that he seriously contemplated retiring after the 1960 season. It’s a good thing he didn’t. Had he quit baseball, fans would have been deprived of seeing the greatest five-year pitching run in history. In his last five seasons, Koufax had a Won/Loss record of 111-34, leading the league in Earned Run Average every single year.

Koufax won the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young Award in 1963, 1965 & 1966 when he led the league in Wins, Strikeouts and Earned Run Average. In those days, separate Cy Young Awards weren’t given out for each league, making the accomplishment even more impressive.

In 1963, Koufax was voted as the National League Most Valuable Player for the regular season and also captured the World Series MVP. He even broke Babe Ruth’s single season record for most shutouts by a lefthand pitcher.

Koufax won three World Series titles for the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first in 1959 while pitching as both a starter and reliever. In 1963 Sandy won Games 1 (striking out a 15, then a World Series record) and Game 4 in a four-game sweep of the Yankees.

In 1965, Koufax dominated the Twins, winning Game 5 with a four-hit shutout and Game 7 with a 3-hit shutout. Koufax 66T-KOUFAXmay actually be remembered more for something he didn’t do than something he did when he wouldn’t pitch Game 1 of the ’65 World Series because it fell on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Unfortunately for Koufax, pitching in pain soon became part of his routine. In 1965 despite excruciating elbow pain, he set the single season strikeout record with 382, won the pitching triple crown, the Cy Young Award, the MVP of the World Series and the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Oh and I forgot to mention, he pitched his fourth no-hitter in four seasons (and his only perfect game) beating the Cubs and Bob Hendley (who had the misfortune of giving up only one hit in the loss).

In 1966, Koufax was advised by the Dodgers’ team doctor to retire for medical reasons. Instead, Koufax posted one the finest pitching seasons in baseball history; 27 wins, a 1.73 ERA, 317 strikeouts and 27 complete games, all with a perpetually inflamed elbow.

Koufax retired at the age of 30 after the Dodgers were swept in the 1966 World Series. His last trading cards were produced by Topps in 1967. Koufax is the only player to appear on three cards the year after his retirement. He’s pictured on 1966 Topps National League Strikeout Leaders Card with Jim Bunning and Bob Veal, the 1966 Topps National League Pitching Leaders with Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and Gaylord Perry and the 1966 Topps National League ERA Leaders with Mike Cuellar and Juan Marichal.

BELL-KOUFAXTopps also included Sandy in their catch-all Who Am I? set in 1967. Koufax is one of four baseball subjects to appear along with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. George Washington, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill are three other members of the 44-card set.

As a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 1960s, Koufax appeared on several regional sets issued in LA. Two of the more valuable ones are the Bell Brand Potato Chips cards produced in 1958 and 1960 through 1962 and the Morrell Meats Dodgers cards issued in 1959, 1960 and 1961. Koufax’s card is the most valuable in all of these sets.

To this day, Koufax’s skill and grace make him a huge fan favorite. Koufax is still the youngest player ever to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His brilliance is mirrored by Bobby Orr and Gale Sayers (icons in their respective sports) whose careers also ended far too soon.

If you have any Sandy Koufax baseball cards (produced between 1955 and 1967) to sell or any items on our baseball buy list, PLEASE CONTACT Mark Rubin at 914-725-2225 or via email at mark@amerlegends.com. A quick phone call is all it takes to get started.