A pitcher whose blazing fastball and brilliant curve instilled fear in the hearts of professional baseball players, Sanford "Sandy" Koufax (1935-) was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was signed by his hometown team while enrolled at the University of Cincinnati.
"To win. Nothing else matters, and nothing else will do," he once said.
This man with the golden arm, often considered the greatest left-handed pitcher, signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and moved with the team to L.A. in 1958. A three-time Cy Young Award winner at a time when there was one award for both leagues (1963,1965,1966), Koufax struck out an amazing 2,396 batters in his short career.
"I used to try to throw each pitch harder than the last one," he said. "There was no need for it. I found out that if I take it easy and throw naturally, the ball goes just as fast. I found that my control improved and strikeouts would take care of themselves."
About hitting a Koufax pitch, Pirates slugger Willie Stargell said, "Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork."
Chronic arthritis forced Koufax's 1966 retirement at age 31. "I didn't regret making the decision. I regretted having to make the decision. At the time, I was risking the use of my arm, the normal use of my arm," he said. Six years later, he was the youngest player ever elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
About his career, Koufax observed, "In the end it all comes down to talent. You can talk all you want about intangibles, I just don't know what that means. Talent makes winners, not intangibles. Can nice guys win? Sure, nice guys can win -- if they're nice guys with a lot of talent. Nice guys with a little talent finish fourth, and nice guys with no talent finish last."
More BASEBALL Quotations
Fear is a powerful motivator. Use it wisely.