COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – A decade may never have seen such a surplus of pitching talent at the major league level like in the 1960s. But few teams had a duo to match the Dodgers' – with future Hall of Fame members Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
Heading into the spring of 1966, National League batters had to be hoping the joint holdout of Koufax and Drysdale would last well into the season. But 45 years ago this week, on March 30, 1966, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley -- himself a future Hall of Famer -- and the twosome came to an agreement – unleashing the two All-Stars on NL batters.
What was a pitcher at the time worth coming off a unanimous Cy Young Award? Koufax was said to receive a one year contract for $115,000 after pitching 336 innings, striking out a then-record 382 batters, winning 26 ball games and holding opponents to a 2.04 ERA in 1965.
What was a pitcher worth at the time worth coming off a season in which he placed fifth in the MVP voting? Drysdale was said to receive a contract worth $105,000 after pitching 308 innings, striking out 210, winning 23 ball games and a 2.78 ERA. Drysdale was also a force at the plate with an average of .300 and seven home runs.
Does having two pitchers like this account for a World Series title? It did in the year of 1965, and the Dodgers had to like their chances for the ’66 season when future Hall of Famer Don Sutton joined the already formidable rotation as a rookie.
The Dodgers made it to the World Series relying heavily on their pitching, however they failed to score any runs in the final three games of the Fall Classic en route to getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles.
Koufax retired after the season in which he posted a career low ERA of 1.73. He once again won the Cy Young Award and was runner up in the MVP voting. He became the youngest person ever inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972 at the age of 36.
Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times went as far as proclaiming, “With the Babe Ruth Yankees, Sandy Koufax would probably have been the first undefeated pitcher in history.”
Drysdale went on to pitch another solid two seasons before following Koufax’s path into early retirement at age 33 following the 1969 season. The other half of the formidable twosome was known as an intimidator. He hit 154 batters in his career, setting the NL record. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and passed away on July 3, 1993.
“The trick against Drysdale,” said Hall of Fame slugger Orlando Cepeda, “is to hit him before he hits you.”
Kevin Stiner is the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum