For me, as a kid, it was Sandy Koufax. However, I was not unusual because, if you lived anywhere in the Los Angeles area, and a baseball fan, you followed the Dodgers. If you followed the Dodgers in the late 50s to mid-60s, it was all about Sandy Koufax.
It was a treat watching a Master of the Mound. Fastball, fastball off-speed, and a curve. It was a mind boggling arc-curve like no other.
Koufax had an arthrhitic condition, forcing him in to early retirement because, not even cortisone would allow him to pitch, again.
Koufax signed with the Brooklyn club in 1954, and according to team mate, Duke Snider had trouble throwing within the confines of the batting cage during batting practice.
Much changed for Koufax when, it was suggested he take ‘something off’ the fast ball once in awhile. That bit of advice taken, proved to be a key to turning Koufax from an out of control pitcher to a ‘control freak,’ as everything changed.
It was in 1959 that Koufax struck out 18 Cubs for a two game record of 31 ks.
I never stopped to consider that some day my allegiance might change but, sure enough I’ve been a Cubs fan since approx. 1986.
I promise to relate this in a positive way to today’s 2016 Cubs but, just give me some time to build a little momentum.
Now back to the momentum builder.
It was actually 1961 that Los Angeles Catcher, Norm Sherry gave Koufax career changing advice as referenced above. Prior to that, Koufax was somewhat wild. After the advice given, and taken, Koufax was a new dominating Pitcher.
1963 was another crowning year for Koufax’s abbreviated 12 season career. 25 ws – 5 ls causing Yogi Berra’s comment, ‘I can see how he won 25 but, what I don’t understand is, how he lost 5.’
The Koufax ERA was 1.88 in 1963 with 11 shutouts, and 308 strike-outs.
A microscopic view of the Koufax prime stats from his best years of 1962 -1966, show a 111-34 win-loss record. An ERA of 1.95, 1377 IP, 1444 SO.
Over his career, Koufax had a 2.76 ERA, 4 No-hitters, and a Perfect Game.
What might have Koufax been able to do, minus the arthritis?
Now, I shudder to think that, I get to see a once-in-a-lifetime reboot in real time.
What or who am I talking about?
The transformation of Cubs ace, Jake Arrieta from the average, and mundane to a Master of the Mound. A Cy Young winner who looks like the real thing, again.
I’m not necessarily drawing direct parallels after all, it’s a different time, and they are different pitchers.
It’s the feeling you get as a fan from this kind of experience.
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