Ten days until Thanksgiving…
This is the 40th post with the exact title “Monday Musings.” Do any of you get tired of a specific post title or concept? Please let me know.
I have to report that I don’t miss Twitter. It’s amazing how quickly I went from checking my feed 5-10 times a day to almost not remembering that I was ever on the platform. “Social media” is not for me and, once again, is a phrase that I believe is an oxymoron. Yes, some might say this blog is part of “social media.”
On this day in 1966, still a few weeks shy of his 31st birthday, Sandy Koufax announced his retirement. When I first became a baseball fan around the age of 8 or 9 Koufax quickly became one of my heroes although he had already retired.
With the modern age of baseball analysis, of which I am a founding “father,” it has become fashionable to discount Koufax’s accomplishments, at least somewhat, because of the fact that Dodger Stadium was an extreme pitchers park during his heyday. Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. In the five seasons that Koufax pitched with that venue as his home park, he had a 57-15 record with a 1.37 ERA in home games. On the road his record was basically the same, 54-19, but his ERA was more than a full run per game worse at 2.57. Koufax led the NL in ERA all five seasons he pitched in Dodger Stadium. That’s an impressive accomplishment almost regardless of home venue.
BIll James, the father of modern baseball analysis, once wrote (I wish I could find the exact reference in my library) that Koufax was better than his otherworldly W-L records because he seemed to pitch better when he received little run support and had an incredible record in such games…the Internet isn’t all bad. I found this data here although I’m not sure of the time period:
When the Dodgers scored 5 runs or greater Koufax was: 23-0
When the Dodgers scored 4 runs Koufax was: 12-1
When the Dodgers scored 3 runs Koufax was: 9-3
When the Dodgers scored 2 runs Koufax was: 9-4
When the Dodgers scored 1 run Koufax was: 8-8
This is incredible, when the Dodgers scored one, two, or three runs in a game Sandy Koufax’ record was 26-15. He was given only one run to work with in more starts than any other total.
Koufax retired early because he had developed severe arthritis in his pitching elbow. He actually pitched his last two seasons with the condition. In order to continue pitching Koufax used Empirin with codeine for the pain, which he took virtually every night and often during the game. He received numerous injections of cortisone. He also took Butazolidin for inflammation, applied capsaicin-based Capsolin ointment before each game, and soaked his arm in a tub of ice afterwards. (By the way, Butazolidin is used to treat inflammation in thoroughbred horses and its use must be publicly noted. It is no longer allowed for use in humans except very rarely as a treatment for ankylosing spondylitis because no other treatment is available.) When Koufax was asked at his retirement press conference why he was retiring, this was his answer:
“I don’t know if cortisone is good for you or not, but to take a shot every other ballgame is more than I wanted to do. To walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ballgame because you’re taking painkillers, I don’t wanna have to do that.”
Of course, Koufax’s regimen to keep pitching ties right in with the decision to play Tua Tagovailoa in a game that his team would have won without him less than a month after he had ankle surgery. Teams put enormous pressure on their players to play, almost regardless of circumstance, and players are tremendous competitors who want to play. Fans and other laypeople have no understanding of the intensely competitive nature of successful athletes.
In closing I present a picture of Sandy Koufax from MLBShop:
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