It Was Forty Years Ago Today...
In the "Best of George Lederer," I bring you another anniversary special from his archives. Here is the article exactly as it appeared in the Long Beach newspaper the following day.
NO HITS, NO WALKS, NO NUTHIN'
Perfect Game for Koufax!
By GEORGE LEDERER
Sandy Koufax pitched his fourth annual no-hitter Thursday night and this one was the best. It had to be. It was perfect.
The great representative of the Arthritis Foundation set down 27 Cubs in an hour and 43 minutes for a 1-0 Dodger victory.
But it wasn't easy, by any means.
The Dodgers were held to one hit by loser Bob Hendley.
But they didn't need a hit for the run. Lou Johnson produced it in the fifth inning on a walk, a sacrifice, a steal and an overthrow of third base by catcher Chris Krug.
It was as unearned as Hendley's defeat.
The end of a three-game losing streak for Koufax came in dramatic fashion before a crowd of 29,139.
Koufax found his fast ball and the Cubs never saw it. Sandy struck out 14, the last six in a row. He ran the count full on only one hitter and Billy Williams flied out on that occasion to end the seventh inning.
It was the 10th perfect game in baseball history and only the second in National League regular season play since 1900. Jim Bunning of the Phils pitched the first one in the "modern" era against the Mets, June 21, 1964.
Koufax, the first to pitch four no-hitters in the majors, had no choice but to describe this one as his greatest.
"The one against the Phillies last year was the best of the first three, but this one had to be the topper."
It was the topper in every respect. There were only three groundouts and Koufax said, "This indicates I had good stuff. I had a good fast ball, especially late in the game. I felt loose and my control was better than it had been all year."
Koufax gave little indication at the start that this, his sixth try for win No. 22, would make history.
His first pitch was a curve that bounced off the plate and rolled to the backstop.
Glenn Beckert, the second batter, hit a line drive down the left field line that was foul by six inches.
Rookie outfielder Byron Browne lined sharply to Willie Davis in center to end the second inning.
And Koufax admitted his "heart skipped a beat when (Wes) Parker had to scoop up Maury's (Wills) low throw" after Chris Krug's ground ball in the sixth inning.
After that, Koufax said he had his best stuff.
"In the last couple of innings I just tried to keep the ball away from everyone. They had their big guys coming up, Santo and Banks, the guys who could beat me.
"Sure, I knew about the no-hitter. You always do. All you have to do is look at the scoreboard. Then, along about the seventh inning, you begin to think - well, maybe there's a chance.
"I never thought about the perfect game. Naturally, I tried not to walk anybody. After all, I had only a one-run lead.
"It's great to have a tight game early. It makes me bear down more. But later on, it's nice to have a four or five-run lead."
This was the tightest of Sandy's quartet of gems.
The first was against the Mets, June 30, 1962, and the score was 5-0. No. 2 was 8-0, against the Giants, May 11, 1963. Last year, on June 4, it was 3-0 against the Phillies. Last year's was the only one on foreign soil.
Only Cy Young and Bob Feller had pitched three no-hitters since 1900. Both are in the Hall of Fame, waiting to answer Sandy's resounding knock on the door.
The only other triple no-hit pitcher was Lawrence J. Corcoran, who did it for the Cubs in 1880, 1882 and 1884.
Sandy's last three no-hitters were caught by different catchers. John Roseboro caught the first two, Doug Camilli the one against the Phils and Jeff Torborg Thursday.
Torborg, a sophomore, was far more nervous than Koufax. He was still shaking in the clubhouse.
"I kept telling myself when (Harvey) Kuenn stepped up - 'only three more pitches.' Then, I realized how long that would be. Wow, three more pitches! I thought it would never end."
Torborg confirmed that Koufax' best pitch early was his curve "and later on, when he loosened up, his fast ball was great. He was exceptionally fast when he wanted to be. He started with (Ernie) Banks in the fifth inning. He struck him out on a fast ball that was unbelievable."
Banks was a three-time strikeout victim and Billy Williams and Hendley went down swinging twice.
The last six strikeouts were against Santo, Banks, Browne, Krug, Joey Amalfitano and Kuenn.
Koufax made seven pitches to Krug, starting the ninth. Amalfitano, who had a 4-for-6 pinch-hitting record against the Dodgers, batted for shortstop Don Kessinger and fanned on three pitches. Kuenn, batting for Hendley, struck out on five.
"I pitched to Kuenn with everything I had left," said Koufax. "They were all fast balls."
Kuenn also made the final out in the 1963 no-hitter against the Giants. The last time he grounded to Koufax.
For the first time in his no-hitters, Koufax said "there was no reaction from our bench or from their players during the game. Nobody said a word about it. I don't know why. In all the others, they did.
"It's a shame that Hendley had to get beat that way. But don't misunderstand, it was great from my standpoint."
Koufax acknowledged that "our hit was a blooper (by Johnson)." It came with two out in the seventh inning, after Santo had made a good play in spearing Jim Gilliam's high bouncer to third.
Johnson's hit fell about 40 feet behind first base and Ron Fairly grounded out to end the inning.
Johnson was the lone Dodger base runner. He drew his walk on a full count to start the fifth inning and Fairly bunted him to second. Johnson took it from there. He stole third on his own and continued home on Krug's throw into left field.
"I had a big lead," said Johnson, "and I jumped an extra three steps. Only Beckert was paying attention to me, but he was too late. I knew I could make it. I'd have died if Jimmy (Lefebvre) had fouled off that pitch."
Lefebvre said he was tempted to swing at it. "It was a fat one, right down the middle."
Manager Walter Alston took the whole thing in stride.
"I told you Sandy would be a pretty good stopper. And don't forget to mention our hitting."
Although there were only 29,000 people in the ballpark "and a million butterflies" as Vin Scully so beautifully called it, I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands who now claim they were there. I had always thought the low turnout for a Koufax start in a pennant race in September was owing to the Watts riots the previous month, but the Dodgers drew 53,581 and 48,576 vs. the Giants on the Monday and Tuesday before Sandy's perfecto. The crowd dipped to 21,918 for a Houston Astros game the following Sunday, but it never fell below 30,000 the rest of the year (a period which included a ten-game final homestand against the Cardinals, Reds, and Braves) and exceeded 55,000 for all three World Series games vs. the Minnesota Twins.
Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the fans in attendance that night, but it sure is fun to relive the game 40 years later. Thanks, Sandy. Thanks, Dad.