Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sandy Koufax Becomes The First Pitcher to Throw 4 No-Hitters September 9, 1965

On this day in Baseball History September 9, 1965: In front of a small crowd of 29,135 fans at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, Sandy Koufax throws a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs becoming the first pitcher to throw four no-hitters in the Major League Baseball History. Koufax threw no-hitters in four consecutive season: June 30, 1962 against the New York Mets 5-0, May 11, 1963 against the San Francisco Giants 8-0, June 4, 1964 against the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 and the perfect game against the Cubs 1-0. Here is the box score for the perfect game against the Chicago Cubs from the September 10, 1965 edition of the New York Times.

In achieving his fourth no-hitter, Koufax passed Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians who threw no-hitters in 1940, 1946 and 1950. Cy Young threw a no-hitter in 1987 of the then National League Cleveland team and for the Boston Red Sox 1901 and 1908.  Larry Corcoran of the Chicago Cubs threw no-hitters in 1880, 1882 and 1884. Koufax's record would stand until September 26, 1981 when Nolan Ryan of the Houston Astros would throw his fifth of his record setting seven no-hitters against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Houston Astrodome.

The book "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy weaves the biography of Koufax's live in between chapters that focuses on this game from the perspective of fans at the game, those listening at home and from players at the game from both teams. I would highly recommend to not only read about this game but to learn more about Sandy Koufax who is a very private person and is very hesitant to let too many people in his personal life.

What made the feat even more amazing was that Koufax was laboring with a left arm that would hurt him so much during the season, that he would retire after the 1966 season. Koufax would strike out 14 Cub batters to give him a league high 332 strikeouts. Koufax would finish the season with a league high 382 strikeouts. That puts Koufax as ninth All-Time in single season strikeouts and only second behind Nolan Ryan when not counting the dead-ball era pitchers on the list.

Here is the top ten pitchers on the single season strikeout list (age in parenthesis):

  1. 513 Matt Kilroy (20) Lefty 1886
  2. 499 Toad Ramsey (21) Lefty 1886
  3. 483 Hugh Daily (36) Righty 1884
  4. 451 Dupee Shaw (25) Lefty 1884
  5. 441 Old Hoss Radbourn (29) Righty 1884
  6. 417 Charlie Buffinton (23) Righty 1884
  7. 385 Guy Hecker (28) Righty 1884
  8. 383 Nolan Ryan (26) Righty 1973
  9. 382 Sandy Koufax (29) Lefty 1965
  10. 374 Bill Sweeney (26) Righty 1884

Koufax would finish the 1965 season with a record of 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA with 27 complete games in 41 games started and the aforementioned 382 strikeout with 71 walks and 216 hits allowed for a WHIP of 0.855. Koufax would unanimously win his second of three Cy Young Award trophies. That in itself is an amazing achievement since only ONE award was given to the best pitcher of BOTH leagues combined until the year 1967. For the 1967 season, there was an award given to one American League pitcher and one National League pitcher.

As I mentioned above, Koufax would retire after the 1966 season and would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 with 86.7% of the vote (344/396 ballots). That is also an amazing achievement as Leavy's book mentions in detail, Koufax had his troubles with control while playing for the Dodgers in Brooklyn. It wasn't until the team moved and was playing in Los Angeles for a few years, that something seemed to click for Koufax. His last six of a total of eleven seasons, from 1961-1966 were simply amazing. Here are his statistics from that period courtesy of Baseball Reference.com

What I find amazing is that the three no-hitter level has only been populated by five players in over 150 years of Professional Baseball. Homer Bailey, Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander all have two no-hitters each. Can either one of those players make history and join Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Jim Corcoran, Bob Feller and Cy Young with three no-hitters? Time will tell for Bailey, Lincecum and Verlander if they can join this exclusive club.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Sandy Koufax's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click here to access the No Hitter Records page from Baseball Almanac.com