Born in Brooklyn on December 30, 1935, Sandy Koufax attended Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst. At Lafayette, Koufax played on the basketball team, earning a reputation as one of the best players in Brooklyn. He didn't play on the baseball team until his senior year, and then usually as a first baseman who would sometimes pitch in relief of another friend, Fred Wilpon, Lafayette's pitching star and later the co-owner of the New York Mets.
Koufax won a basketball scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where he planned to study architecture. In the spring of his freshman year, he became the overnight pitching sensation of the university's baseball team, striking out 34 batters in his first two games and gaining the attention of sportswriters and baseball scouts throughout the country. Before long, close to a dozen major league scouts, including the Brooklyn Dodgers' Al Campanis, converged on Cincinnati and offered him contracts. Accepting the Dodgers' salary offer of $20,000 Koufax left college after his freshman year for Ebbets Field.
The Dodgers owners, as Koufax biographer Jane Leavy has noted, were overjoyed, regarding "the signing of a Jewish ballplayer the way others regarded the coming of the messiah. The Dodgers were so desperate for a Jewish presence, given the demographics of Brooklyn ... Koufax was a marketing godsend." The team's owner, Walter O'Malley, proclaimed him "the great Jewish hope" of the franchise, telling a reporter: "We hope he'll be as great as Hank Greenberg."
Sixty years later, try explaining to someone under age 40 about the miracle that was Sandy Koufax and you'll likely wind up at a loss for words. He was, for a generation of Baby Boomers, the greatest pitcher they ever saw, a hurler whose dominance from, say, 1962 to the premature end of his career following the 1966 season, would be used as the yardstick for measuring every dominant pitcher since then. His 111-34 record over that span has not been matched since, and made even more incredible by the realization that in two of those seasons (1962 and 1964) injuries kept him on the sideline for significant periods, barely preventing him from achieving five consecutive 20-win seasons. He instead had to settle for chronological win totals of 25, 26 and 27, five consecutive ERA titles and three Cy Young Awards at a time when there was only one winner for MLB each season. It's probably just a coincidence that MLB started giving the award to American League and National League winners in 1967, the first year after Koufax retired. Yeah, right...
One of the most historically significant Brooklyn Dodger jerseys ever offered for sale, this 1956 home flannel was worn by Hall of Fame Dodger great Sandy Koufax at the dawn of his epic career. This remarkable, museum-quality treasure is the hobby’s only fully authenticated, original, unaltered home jersey worn by Koufax in the hallowed confines of Ebbets Field. An example of his 1955 Brooklyn road jersey recently sold at auction for $573,600. Classic Dodger Blue felt script adorns the front with Koufax's legendary No. 32 on the back. Just as vivid is the red felt numbers on the jersey front. The jersey shows ideal game use with some light unobtrusive areas of soiling on the back tail and a vintage replacement of a single button has been administered. There are no significant structural faults that detract from the majestic display quality of this astonishing artifact. The Rawlings “Hall of Fame” Flannel tag appears on the front-left tail with adjacent size “44” tag directly above embroidered Dodger blue stitched "Koufax." A washing instructions tag and adjacent “Set 1 1956” flag tag are stitched inside the front tail. Koufax’s autograph graces the front of the shirt with his inscription “1956 Brooklyn Dodgers.” All things considered this jersey ranks among the finest baseball garments of its era. Includes a LOA from MEARS (Graded A9). LOA from PSA/DNA (auto.).
PROVENANCE: This 1956 Koufax home jersey was acquired about 20 years ago from Chuck Poehler, owner of Los Angeles based sporting goods manufacturer Goodman & Sons. When the Dodgers moved West in 1958, Nobe Kawano, the famed Dodgers Equipment Manager, made an agreement to store much of the team’s equipment brought from Ebbets Field in the Goodman & Sons warehouse. Shortly after it was acquired from Poehler in the late 1970’s it was purchased by a prominent East coast collector who has owned it for most of the last 20 years.