Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy (P.S.) Info

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Reviews for Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy (P.S.):

4

Sep 28, 2018

I enjoyed reading about Sandy Koufax. The height of his career from 1962 to 1966 that saw him lead the National League in ERA all five years, win three Cy Young awards, and pitch four no-hitters including a perfect game. Almost immediately after he disappeared from the game. He kept a low-profile except for his induction into the Hall of Fame and occasional appearances at the Dodgers training camp, Koufax has remained unavailable, unassailable, and unsullied, in the process becoming much more I enjoyed reading about Sandy Koufax. The height of his career from 1962 to 1966 that saw him lead the National League in ERA all five years, win three Cy Young awards, and pitch four no-hitters including a perfect game. Almost immediately after he disappeared from the game. He kept a low-profile except for his induction into the Hall of Fame and occasional appearances at the Dodgers training camp, Koufax has remained unavailable, unassailable, and unsullied, in the process becoming much more than just the best pitcher of his generation. He is the Jewish boy from Brooklyn, who refused to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur, defining himself as a man who placed faith over fame. This act made him the standard to which Jewish parents still hold their children. Except for his 1966 autobiography, Koufax has kind of remained silent about himself throughout the years. I found myself immersed in his story and enjoyed it very much. I recommend this one to anyone who loves baseball or a good sports biography. Thanks! ...more
4

Jul 04, 2019

I don't know the contours of his character as well as I have in some biographical subjects, but I'm sure the author got as much out of her subject as she could. She certainly made up for it in my other criteria for biographies, how well does the author conveyed to the reader the flavor of the times. I think she could have written a book on the transition in the mid-1960s by itself, and it would have been less frustrating for her than trying to draw information out of this reluctant superstar.
4

Jan 17, 2008

This one surprised me. Harper Coliins' cheap packaging and the uninspired title (A Lefty's Legacy?) screamed formulatic hagiography. You know the genre: lots of stats, cheesy writing, exclamation points...

Instead this is as subtle, probing, smartly written as any biography could be. Jane Leavy is a skillful researcher with a relentless drive to get at her subject from every angle. And she knows how to tell her story. She is a masterful writer, able to draw us in to her quest. We are led to This one surprised me. Harper Coliins' cheap packaging and the uninspired title (A Lefty's Legacy?) screamed formulatic hagiography. You know the genre: lots of stats, cheesy writing, exclamation points...

Instead this is as subtle, probing, smartly written as any biography could be. Jane Leavy is a skillful researcher with a relentless drive to get at her subject from every angle. And she knows how to tell her story. She is a masterful writer, able to draw us in to her quest. We are led to discover aspects of this man through a process that mirrors her own.

As others have noted this is more than a simple biography of Koufax. It really uses Koufax as a lens to do some significant social history. In the process we are led through some critical reflections on Jewish identity, baseball, physiology, American values, etc.

Truly one of the most compelling things I have ever read. It really deserved a better title, and pages that don't yellow on teh edges after just three years. ...more
4

Apr 27, 2018

Non-fiction about the legendary Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax. It is told in alternating chapters of one of his best pitching performances and biographical insights. The author sets the record straight regarding several myths. It harkens back to an earlier age in baseball, prior to free agency, when bonus babies were required to remain on the major league team even if it would have served everyone better to go through the learning experiences in the minor leagues. It covers a wide range of Non-fiction about the legendary Dodgers’ pitcher Sandy Koufax. It is told in alternating chapters of one of his best pitching performances and biographical insights. The author sets the record straight regarding several myths. It harkens back to an earlier age in baseball, prior to free agency, when “bonus babies” were required to remain on the major league team even if it would have served everyone better to go through the learning experiences in the minor leagues. It covers a wide range of topics, including his Jewish faith, friendships with other players, integrity, and accomplishments. It raises questions of how much better he could have been if not mishandled by the Dodgers early in his career. It sheds light on decisions such as the joint hold-out with Don Drysdale and why he retired when he did. I was astounded at the extremes he endured to deal with the pain in his arm, near the end of his career, while still managing to attain spectacular results.

The author weaves together many interviews from players, fans, and management to provide a fascinating picture of an interesting man. This is not a typical biography, as in it does not follow a linear progression through his life, but instead contains social commentary about the times and stories from his life that highlight his personal qualities. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Recommended to baseball fans interested in learning more about the life of Sandy Koufax. ...more
3

May 25, 2010

I was very let down by this book. Sandy Koufax was a great pitcher, an inspirational human being, and is a hero to many people (including myself). But this book is just a big heaping mess of hero-worship (hagiography). It was a one-dimensional look at a man who is very complex and enigmatic.

I thought the structure of the book was interesting, alternating the innings of Koufax's perfect game with more biographical chapters. But thats about it. I know there's some other Sandy Koufax literature I was very let down by this book. Sandy Koufax was a great pitcher, an inspirational human being, and is a hero to many people (including myself). But this book is just a big heaping mess of hero-worship (hagiography). It was a one-dimensional look at a man who is very complex and enigmatic.

I thought the structure of the book was interesting, alternating the innings of Koufax's perfect game with more biographical chapters. But that’s about it. I know there's some other Sandy Koufax literature out there. Maybe they do a better job of living up to the subject.
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4

Apr 06, 2020

Sandy Koufax: A Leftys Legacy by Jane Leavy was written in 2003.

This was an exceptionally well written and interesting book about, arguably, the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history. Koufaxs prowess as Americas greatest Jewish athlete also added a significant and compelling angle to the biography as well. Koufax was a fiercely competitive man and multi-sport athlete who succeeded at everything he tried athletically. In the early years he struggled mightily with his control but he was a Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy was written in 2003.

This was an exceptionally well written and interesting book about, arguably, the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history. Koufax’s prowess as America’s greatest Jewish athlete also added a significant and compelling angle to the biography as well. Koufax was a fiercely competitive man and multi-sport athlete who succeeded at everything he tried athletically. In the early years he struggled mightily with his control but he was a bonus baby. So he was guaranteed two years at the Major League level before he could be demoted to the minors and he needed every last pitch of these two years to prove he belonged. In his fourth year he became virtually unbeatable as he learned to locate his pitches. He set the major league record for most no-hitters and set individual game and season strikeout records as well. He did this in less than ten years as a starting pitcher.

The suffering Koufax went through with his black and swollen arm in the final years of his career makes for dramatic reading. The painkillers were eating a hole in his stomach and he was urged not to throw any pitches between his scheduled starts. These final years were also, despite his deteriorating arm condition, some of his (and baseball’s) best pitching seasons as well.

Days after the end of the ‘66 season Koufax called a press conference to announce his retirement. The Dodger’s management and ownership were apoplectic. Koufax had even told a sports writer eighteen months before when he would retire and asked him not to write about it until he made the announcement. This was a classic Koufax moment — he was going to go out on his own terms. He was only thirty years old.

Leavy is a gifted storyteller. The only criticism of the book, and it is a significant departure from most biographies, is that Sandy Koufax reads like a series of self contained chapters that are not in chronological order. This might be because Leavy is an award winning journalist and not a historian by trade. So there are a few redundant events that re-occur in multiple chapters.

4 stars. Highly recommended and a must read for any baseball fan. Admittedly I have always been a Dodgers fan but I think you could be a Giants fan and appreciate the excellent writing in this one. ...more
1

Feb 11, 2014

A Leftys Legacy
Anyone who spends more than ten minutes with me knows that I am a huge baseball fan. I love the game; the history, the stories, the smell of fresh cut grass, that moment of mystical silence when the catcher has given the signal and the pitcher has accepted it, followed by that magical moment when the field of potentiality is wide open and anything can happen. The pitcher winds up, muscles rippling in weird physiologic perfection that is almost alien. That being said; I read a lot A Lefty’s Legacy
Anyone who spends more than ten minutes with me knows that I am a huge baseball fan. I love the game; the history, the stories, the smell of fresh cut grass, that moment of mystical silence when the catcher has given the signal and the pitcher has accepted it, followed by that magical moment when the field of potentiality is wide open and anything can happen. The pitcher winds up, muscles rippling in weird physiologic perfection that is almost alien. That being said; I read a lot of baseball books, which brings me to Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, by Jane Leavy.

Let me state upfront: I am in the minority. I did not enjoy this book. As I closed the final page, I was left sadly unfulfilled and disappointed. I probably wouldn't have even finished this book, had it not been for that pesky New Year’s resolution I made; to finish books that I start, even if I don’t like them, and then figure out and articulate my reason for said displeasure.

The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but then again, the subject matter is Sandy Koufax, a left handed pitcher who is arguably one of the best players the game has ever seen; the youngest player ever elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first 3-time Cy Young winner in baseball history and the only one to win 3 times when the award was for all of baseball, not just one league. He was the first major leaguer to pitch four no-hitters (including the eighth perfect game in baseball history), amongst many other accolades. These things are barely—(if at all) mentioned in the book. In The Glory of Their Times—(possibly one of the best baseball books ever written), Harry Hooper says, “…and that Koufaux. You name a better left hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat.”

I was excited to read the book, so when I got to a page numbered xviii in the Preface, with this quote, “Hi, Ms. Leavy, this is Sandy, uh, Koufax. I don’t really have any interest in this project…” I was on alert, but I wasn't sure what to make of it. Perhaps Sandy would come around and ultimately embrace the project, participating fully and sharing little known stories of the game. Alas, that was not to be. What the line meant, was exactly what it said. Ms. Leavy goes on to justify the 269 page book, by interviewing 469 friends and acquaintances of Sandy Koufax, making some observations about the game, social history and civil persuasions of the era; all which can be found in any Google search or Wikipedia entry.

Sandy Koufax is well known for not pitching the first game of the 1965 World Series due to the fact that it fell on Yom Kippur. This monumental act, which transcends the field, making Sandy Koufax as big on the field as off, receives approximately one paragraph—unless you include the comments from two random Rabbis’.

In reading the book, I felt like Ms. Leavy had been given a book contract, signed on the line that was dotted and subsequent to that, received a ‘no interest’ clause from Sandy Koufax himself; because his voice is strangely absent in a book titled; Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy. Maybe she paced around her kitchen, nervously chewing pencil erasers. What could she do? She had a contract; she had to write a book—any book. I, of course have no proof that such a thing occurred, but, it would seem a plausible explanation.

I bleed Orange and Black, which almost necessarily dictates that I am NOT a fan of the Dodgers. However, I am a fan of baseball, and I think one of the greatest players who have ever graced the game, Sandy Koufax deserved better. I would be willing to eat my hat over it.
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4

Dec 02, 2015

I enjoyed Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax primarily because a lot the story takes place away from the playing field. She examines all facets of his life as well as the the social histories surrounding it making it a compelling read.
I am surprised by the negative reviews and I am surmising that it is because the majority of people expected a baseball biography. I purposely read this book because it is not a ghost written sports autobiography. Leavy even cites this genre in the book as an I enjoyed Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax primarily because a lot the story takes place away from the playing field. She examines all facets of his life as well as the the social histories surrounding it making it a compelling read.
I am surprised by the negative reviews and I am surmising that it is because the majority of people expected a baseball biography. I purposely read this book because it is not a ghost written sports autobiography. Leavy even cites this genre in the book as an example of how Koufax did not go seeking fame and money, even after his playing career had ended.
People I talk to who saw Koufax pitch remember the domination and then call him a recluse. Leavy refutes this common misconception. Koufax remains loyal to his friends and teammates but does not seek the limelight. He may be quiet but not a recluse. This image adds to the myth that was the pitcher Sandy Koufax.
I am glad I picked up this book because beforehand I mainly knew the pitcher as the man who refused to pitch on Yom Kippur. At least now I can say I have learned about other aspects of his life. ...more
3

Oct 29, 2014

This would have been a lot better book if the author, Jane Leavy, had more focus on Sandy Koufax instead of her repeated asides, tangents and pages about Koufax fans that were scattered throughout the book.

Koufax's story is compelling and the author does include some good perspectives, my favorite is dispelling the commonly held notion(including myself) that Koufax was a wild, unpredictable pitcher early in his career who could could not be counted on. Leavy showed that instead Koufax's often This would have been a lot better book if the author, Jane Leavy, had more focus on Sandy Koufax instead of her repeated asides, tangents and pages about Koufax fans that were scattered throughout the book.

Koufax's story is compelling and the author does include some good perspectives, my favorite is dispelling the commonly held notion(including myself) that Koufax was a wild, unpredictable pitcher early in his career who could could not be counted on. Leavy showed that instead Koufax's often uneven performance was the result of poor managing, Koufax would pitch a complete game shutout and then not be used for the next three weeks and when used would be bounced between bullpen and rotation. Another great perspective was about how Koufax should be viewed in history, contrasting Bob Gibson's statement that Koufax's career was too short to be considered the top pitcher of his generation contrasted with Willie Mays who said Koufax shouldn't be penalized for accomplishing in five years what others took 20 years to accomplish

Leavy also explains Koufax as an introvert not as an aloof snob and traces great character, especially his refusal to commercialize on his fame. I wish there was more time and emphasis on his faith and refusal to play on Yom Kippur even when it fell during the World Series which showed great character that we see far too seldom ...more
1

May 14, 2014

Gave up after twenty pages -- listening to everyone who grew up on Koufax's block talk about how wonderful the "old neighborhood" was made me want to throw up. It was like a circle-jerk.
2

Dec 16, 2013

In an effort to catch up with the multitudes of fascinating gaps in my reading, every year as Spring Training begins, I start a baseball book. This one by Jane Leavy, on one of my all-time favorite figures in baseball, has been sitting on my shelves for 5 years now and I took to it. What happened? The most frustrating of reading experiences.

I only give this book a reasonable rating based on the subject matter itself. In the venerable world of sports writing there are definitely the good and the In an effort to catch up with the multitudes of fascinating gaps in my reading, every year as Spring Training begins, I start a baseball book. This one by Jane Leavy, on one of my all-time favorite figures in baseball, has been sitting on my shelves for 5 years now and I took to it. What happened? The most frustrating of reading experiences.

I only give this book a reasonable rating based on the subject matter itself. In the venerable world of sports writing there are definitely the good and the bad, and without having read any of her other work how Koufax allowed Ms. Leavy to create this is beyond me. It's obvious her efforts were well intentioned and she was thorough and fair in her research and interviews with the many people surrounding the career of Sandy Koufax. All that effort makes the book quite well-rounded in perspective. Frankly it's the language, voice and structure that makes for almost intolerable reading. Furthermore, it's as she lifted the conventions of Ken Burns films and just applied them to the page in the way of setting up a chapter's era.

The result is horsey, unoriginal, and uninspired writing on a story that begs for better.

�����Philip Swanstrom Shaw
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5

Dec 11, 2012

A great book about a great pitcher and a good guy. Koufax was so much better than anyone else in the league there's only ever been one pitcher that has approximated his success over a shot time period. Well written in a clever format. If you like baseball, and like the Koufax era, you'll enjoy this book.
4

May 24, 2019

The date is September 9, 1965. Vin Scully the famous Dodger sportscaster said it best, "On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the city of the Angels, Los Angeles, California, and a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years. And now he capped it. On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game.(p.251) This is the story line that Jane Leavy's book Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy The date is September 9, 1965. Vin Scully the famous Dodger sportscaster said it best, "On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the city of the Angels, Los Angeles, California, and a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years. And now he capped it. On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game.(p.251) This is the story line that Jane Leavy's book Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is about. The no hitter between the Dodgers and the Cubs is related in ten chapters that alternate with biographical material of how Sandy Koufax became a great Major League Baseball player. Leavy does a great job bringing out the man who was more then just a pitcher, through interviews with former coaches, players and even fans. I sat the edge of my seat reading between chapters on how his no hitter would end. Sandy Koufax had one of the most spectacular careers that ended to short in the history of the game. Baseball fan or not the book is worth reading. ...more
4

Dec 12, 2010

Jane Leavy has written a fine work on Mickey Mantle recently. She authored this work in 2002. It is a fascinating examination of one of the best pitchers that I have ever watched (on TV only, I'm sorry to say).

The book begins with Koufax working with the Dodgers in 1997. The book goes back and forth in time--and it doesn't seem distracting to me. The perfect game that Koufax authored against the Cubs cuts in and out as Leavy relates the early years and developing career of Koufax. We get a Jane Leavy has written a fine work on Mickey Mantle recently. She authored this work in 2002. It is a fascinating examination of one of the best pitchers that I have ever watched (on TV only, I'm sorry to say).

The book begins with Koufax working with the Dodgers in 1997. The book goes back and forth in time--and it doesn't seem distracting to me. The perfect game that Koufax authored against the Cubs cuts in and out as Leavy relates the early years and developing career of Koufax. We get a better picture of why he retired and what he did after his retirement, including his quiet involvement with baseball thereafter.

Many interviews enrich the narrative, as we get a sense of what people thought at each stage of Koufax' career. We also get a sense of the pitcher as a person--and, for the most part, he comes off pretty well.

In short, a nice sports biography, with considerable emphasis on Koufax the person rather than just Koufax the pitcher.

Some pluses: a nice interview that Sports Illustrated carried out with Leavy; Koufax's pitching statistics from his all too brief career (on page 276).
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3

Feb 22, 2013

Starting tonight after work - perhaps. Something light after "Canada".

And done in a couple of days. It'a an enjoyable "puffy" kind of look at a short-term great pitcher. No mysteries about Koufax are cleared up, such as whether or not he's a closeted gay man(not that there's anything wrong with that). She never mentions it. I was never a big fan because he was in the National League and because of my Red Sox I was American League all the way. Still, I have to admit that by reading this I'm more Starting tonight after work - perhaps. Something light after "Canada".

And done in a couple of days. It'a an enjoyable "puffy" kind of look at a short-term great pitcher. No mysteries about Koufax are cleared up, such as whether or not he's a closeted gay man(not that there's anything wrong with that). She never mentions it. I was never a big fan because he was in the National League and because of my Red Sox I was American League all the way. Still, I have to admit that by reading this I'm more of a fan now. I remember in 1963 at boarding school there was an underclassman named Richard Sherman(Jewish) who was a huge Koufax/Dodger fan. I never got that whole connection either, between Sandy and his Jewish roots and his Brooklyn fan base. Come to think of it there were plenty of things I didn't get back then. Oh well... As for his place in MLB pitching history he's right up there of course. Nobody dominated like he did but it was for such a short period of time. Warren Spahn(a lefty) won 200 more games than Koufax and Steve Carlton must be considered too. My own personal favorite pitcher is Nolan Ryan(7 no-hitters but no perfectos due to his wildness). No doubt this is partly because he was on the staff of the two Strat-O-Matic teams I had that won championships. He "pitched" a no-hitter in one of those playoff runs. ...more
5

Jan 30, 2013

So I reread the book after fifteen years and it got better, Maybe it's nostalgia or my old age, but I loved the book. Leavy was hampered by the fact that Sandy made it abundantly clear in a polite way that he would not participate in the biography, but invited her to talk to his friends and teammates. She does a wonderful job of presenting his unparalleled five year prime supremacy of any pitcher in baseball.(Some may differ and offer Pedro Martinez). Hall of Famer Bob Feller said in 1995 that So I reread the book after fifteen years and it got better, Maybe it's nostalgia or my old age, but I loved the book. Leavy was hampered by the fact that Sandy made it abundantly clear in a polite way that he would not participate in the biography, but invited her to talk to his friends and teammates. She does a wonderful job of presenting his unparalleled five year prime supremacy of any pitcher in baseball.(Some may differ and offer Pedro Martinez). Hall of Famer Bob Feller said in 1995 that Sandy was the best he ever saw. Casey Stengel said. "forget Walter Johnson, the Jewish kid has him beat." And she does a fascinating job of interspersing quotes from teammates and friends while at the same time chronicling his perfect game of September 9th, 1965 against the Chicago Cubs via intermittent short chapters of that game. It was perhaps one of the greatest regular season games ever pitched. Sandy threw a perfect game and Bob Hendley threw a one hitter. Joey Amalfitano, raised in the same Bensonhurst neighborhood as Sandy, had the unenviable job of pinch hitting against him late in the game. After Sandy threw a 100 MPH fastball, Amalfitano turned to plate umpire Ed Vargo and said, "That ball sounded inside" and Vargo laughed. Casey Stengel said something similar in the 1963 world series when he said, "umpires often can't see where Koufax pitches go, so they have to judge from the sound of them hitting the catcher's glove. He's very tough on those hard of hearing".But we do learn a lot about the "mysterious" legend of the game even without Koufax's own words. Leavy refutes the allegations that he was aloof, strange, or didn't really love the game itself. Don Sutton called him a "clinical introvert" but pointed out that the difference between solitude and loneliness. Sometimes people misunderstood someone who is simply quiet for being aloof. Sutton called his unwillingness to trade his privacy for commercial gain(as did Drysdale and especially Dimaggio) as evidence of an ethical life. As Vin Scully said, "He was a minimalist." Leavy makes a persuasive case that Sandy lived his life the way he wanted-as a non conformist. He had ideals born of his modest Bensonhurst neighborhood. He didn't reach for celebrity, fame, or even material possessions. He was fiercely competitive, but that was his inner self commanding perfection. It was not an "other directed" need. How else can you explain Sandy continuing to pitch in 1962 with a crushed artery in his palm until finally the finger split? How else can you explain a man who had traumatic arthritis in his elbow so that his UCL would swell his arm like a balloon and yet keep pitching from the onset in mid season 1964 through 1966. I can't get over the pain he endured(nor could his appalled teammates who witness an arm in full hemorrhage). He took codeine, cortisone, drugs so strong they were used on horses to kill pain, and regularly applied Capsolin to his arm to keep it hot and loose. That substance was made of hot pepper and was so potent that Lou Johnson once wore Sandy's sweatshirt, which was laced with the Capsolin, and broke out in boils, sweats, and ultimately vomited. That is the extent of his competitiveness that Koufax endured pain that modern pitchers would never consider. So while he was shy and comfortable reading at home with a glass of wine listening to classical music, he was still loyal to his teammates and friends whenever an occasion warranted his appearance to celebrate their accomplishments or team reunion. So while Maury Wills, one of his closest friends on the team, continued to say in 2002 "There was so much depth there, and complexity too. He is still a mystery to a lot of us, Leavy does a great job in making him understandable. I loved he chapter on being Jewish and how his roots and ethnicity never left him. He accepted the burden of high expectency placed upon him as a role model for Jews. He did so because he knew that his community felt pride because of him and that this pride made for a bond that was shared by all Jews. It was part of the reason he had a real friendship with black teammates or even opposing black players. He understood the racism they experienced because he had experienced anti-semitism as well. One of the best lines in the book is from Minnesota catcher Earl Battey who paid Koufax a compliment. Says Battey, "I accused him of being black. I told him he was too cool to be white." It's wonderful to still be able to see Sandy in the front row of Dodger Stadium as I write this review. He is a hero to many and Leavy's book explains why in so many ways that he is worthy of our admiration. PS The cover photograph is worth the price of the book. ...more
5

May 06, 2019

Where to begin with Sandy Koufax? Which mark is bigger, the one he left in terms of wins and losses, strikeouts, clutch games and no-hitters? Or the one he left as a person, an individual who stuck to his way of going about his life?

No other baseball immortal in memory retired so young, so well, or so completely, writes Jane Leavy in the preface to this energetic biography. He may be the last athlete who declined to cash in on his fame. He has refused to cannibalize himself, to live off his Where to begin with Sandy Koufax? Which mark is bigger, the one he left in terms of wins and losses, strikeouts, clutch games and no-hitters? Or the one he left as a person, an individual who stuck to his way of going about his life?

“No other baseball immortal in memory retired so young, so well, or so completely,” writes Jane Leavy in the preface to this energetic biography. “He may be the last athlete who declined to cash in on his fame. He has refused to cannibalize himself, to live off his past. He remains unavailable, unassailable (and) unsullied.”

Immortal? For lots of reasons. If the stat sheet didn’t glow, nobody might care how Koufax lived his life and went about his work. But the pitching record is crammed with “wow” numbers and amazing feats—six straight All-Star appearances, four no-hitters, one perfect game, twice the World Series MVP—and despite the fame he moved through the world in a very private way.

Was Koufax simply inscrutable? Merely aloof? Or just an athlete who wanted to define his own terms? Yes. Did Koufax’s character contribute to his success on the mound? It had to—right? Koufax was as tenacious about maintaining his privacy as he was about striking out good hitters.

Jane Leavy’s biography, written with Koufax’s awareness but without his direct involvement, is remarkable. Leavy writes that Koufax made it clear that he didn’t want the book to be written “but if it was going to be done, he wanted it to be done right.” Koufax gave friends approval to talk and verified some biographical details. But Koufax got Leavy to agree not to bug his close relatives. “You don’t need to know everything to write the truth,” writes Leavy. “You just need to know enough.”

Well, Leavy spoke to 469 people and it’s hard to imagine there’s another truth out there. Leavy covers all the basic details of Koufax’s family, youth, and early days in sports as a budding basketball player (yes, basketball) and all his struggles for his first few yeas as a big-league pitcher. Crammed with telling details and colorful anecdotes, Sandy Koufax is as much about the player as the era. It’s also about one pitcher working to figure out the art of pitching and then perfecting everything that goes into it—preparation, technique, mental attitude. Everything.

It’s about the move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, about the rise of players standing up for their share of baseball revenue (Koufax and fellow Dodger Don Drysdale raised a ruckus before the whole battle over free agency), and about one man maintaining his personal integrity from start to finish. Even the Jewish community wanted to claim Koufax as the “Chosen One” but Koufax, as in all aspects of his life, had things to say (or not say) about being pigeonholed in any aspect of his private life.

"Sandy Koufax-A Lefty’s Legacy" recounts the highlight-reel games and provides ample, gritty detail on the deterioration of Koufax’s elbow—along with Koufax’s stoic battle to pitch through the pain until he could pitch no more.

The world of sports, in my humble opinion, could use a few more unique forces like Sandy Koufax. Perhaps no one anecdote illustrates Koufax’s reluctance to do the autograph circuit (where he could make a fortune to this day). Occasionally, Koufax signs stuff—he does so every year at the annual dinner held to raise money for indigent ballplayers who came of age before free agency. The lines at Koufax’s table are long.

"What is this impulse, this need for a shred of greatness, a name scrawled on a sweet spot?” asks Leavy. “Koufax doesn’t get it. The need mystifies him; he is dubious about his ability to fill it. But he does the best he can, within the bounds of taste and decorum, bringing dignity to this most undignified pursuit—the sycophantic elevation of one human being over another and the exploitation of that difference for material gain.”

If we had more athletes (and celebrities of all sorts) who better understood that distinction, the world would be a better place. Leavy's biography is a home run.
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4

Feb 09, 2020

(3.5 stars)

I'm old enough to remember the last few seasons of Sandy Koufax's spectacular, injury-shortened pitching career, so reading anything about him is a bit of an exercise in nostalgia for me. And so it was just fine for me that Jane Leavy's book about Koufax is simply drenched in nostalgia. It's certainly a bit hagiographic as well, which was also okay with me. Not that I idolized Koufax as much as some of my baseball fan friends -- or for that matter as much as at least 99% of the folks (3.5 stars)

I'm old enough to remember the last few seasons of Sandy Koufax's spectacular, injury-shortened pitching career, so reading anything about him is a bit of an exercise in nostalgia for me. And so it was just fine for me that Jane Leavy's book about Koufax is simply drenched in nostalgia. It's certainly a bit hagiographic as well, which was also okay with me. Not that I idolized Koufax as much as some of my baseball fan friends -- or for that matter as much as at least 99% of the folks Leavy talks to and quotes in this book -- but I was more than ready to be convinced by Leavy that Koufax truly was a unique type of athletic star. He didn't just retire at the height of his success, and more or less shun celebrity, but in Leavy's account, he also "refused to cannibalize himself, to live off his past. He remains unavailable, unassailable, [and] unsullied."

Because Leavy mostly presents Koufax as a relic from a bygone era, an exemplar of virtues like decency and integrity, its interesting to think about the "Legacy" that's promised by the book's subtitle. It's not a legacy on a grand scale, in the sense of influencing the game of baseball or the culture at large. Certainly, in the nearly two decades since Leavy wrote the book (in 2002), the cult of celebrity in the sports world (as in the rest of the world), the need for everyone to cash in to the max on their fame, has only grown. No, it seems like what she's after in describing Koufax's legacy is what he gave to so many individuals -- his Brooklyn boyhood friends, his Dodger teammates, and the innumerable fans who admired and were inspired by him.

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3

Nov 17, 2018

As a baseball fan I have high expectations when it comes to engaging in text surrounding the game. This book just really didn't work for me. It took the story of a pitcher by the name of Sandy Koufax, who only had a twelve year career with the Dodgers, and really gave detailed descriptions of things that just weren't important to me as a reader. This was problematic in my opinion because as Sandy had such a short career in baseball, there was no way Leavy was going to have an entire story to As a baseball fan I have high expectations when it comes to engaging in text surrounding the game. This book just really didn't work for me. It took the story of a pitcher by the name of Sandy Koufax, who only had a twelve year career with the Dodgers, and really gave detailed descriptions of things that just weren't important to me as a reader. This was problematic in my opinion because as Sandy had such a short career in baseball, there was no way Leavy was going to have an entire story to tell over about 300 pages of writing, especially if he isn't even going to write about Sandy's childhood that much. I mean, come on! It's a biography, there should've been more information about the man's life rather than his charitable events that he does today and his little golf tournaments that he plays in. I lnow a lot of people who play golf that are retired and participate in charitable events, so I don't want to hear that kind of stuff when I'm reading a biography. Tell me about how he "got there" in "the spotlight" abd about his success as a Jewish athlete in America, you know, instead of just rambling about his little injuries and post baseball life. I must say I enjoyed the chapters surrounding his perfect game against the Cubs, however, as Leavy did a good job bringing Snady's historic game to life on the pages. Overall, not my favorite. ...more
5

Aug 20, 2018

I was just a kid when Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher of his era. I am told I was taken to see him pitch a night game against the Mets, although I recall the game, not the lean, fireballer on the mound. But I have since come to know his legacy and impact on the game.

I've been meaning to read Jean Leavy's thoughtful biography since it was released in 2002 and am glad I finally got to it. COnsidering Koufax didn't actively participate, this is a well-handled look into the life and events I was just a kid when Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher of his era. I am told I was taken to see him pitch a night game against the Mets, although I recall the game, not the lean, fireballer on the mound. But I have since come to know his legacy and impact on the game.

I've been meaning to read Jean Leavy's thoughtful biography since it was released in 2002 and am glad I finally got to it. COnsidering Koufax didn't actively participate, this is a well-handled look into the life and events that shaped him. In some ways, he's a living Rorschach test as people see what they want in him, but the accomplishments more than speak for themselves.

It's a good look at what baseball was like in the 1950s and 1960s, as it began to morph just as he was exiting. He was overlooked and underused early on, delaying his evolution, but once he got regular work, he quickly dominated the game in an era when there were many excellent pitchers and batters at work.

There were dozens of people interviewed providing a well-rounded look at the athlete, which made for entertaining reading. ...more
5

Apr 10, 2014

This is a very interesting book that tells the story of the great Sandy Koufax from the beginning. It tells a story that you wouldn't expect would come from such a dominant pitcher in baseball's history. The main subject is about the fantastic pitching ability of Sandy and how he was able to perfect his craft in a way that was ahead of the science of the sport of baseball. Most observations have been about the key points in Sandy's mechanics and how they all work together to create an end This is a very interesting book that tells the story of the great Sandy Koufax from the beginning. It tells a story that you wouldn't expect would come from such a dominant pitcher in baseball's history. The main subject is about the fantastic pitching ability of Sandy and how he was able to perfect his craft in a way that was ahead of the science of the sport of baseball. Most observations have been about the key points in Sandy's mechanics and how they all work together to create an end result that blew everyone away. It also tells a great a story of how to overcome adversity and become a legend in the world. This book deals a lot with anti-Semitism in America and how it affected baseball and its few Jewish players.
My experience with the book was great! I loved it because I learned so much, not only about Sandy Koufax but about how to better my own pitching mechanics. I think the author wrote the book with an end to beginning feel because she wanted to start the book off with memories and stories of how Sandy was so great and then she could go into depth on how he got to the top. The language that the author uses is very passionate. It is as if she is writing with all the awe and amazement that comes with seeing Sandy for the first time. Also the author not only writes with her point of view but with the points of view of the many players that Sandy played with and against all throughout his life. Everyone that is quoted in the book is talking about Sandy in a positive and amazed way.
"Koufax's fastball inspired scientific debate, pitting the empiricism of the batting eye against scientific principle. The laws of physics and logic dictate that an object hurtling through space must lose height and momentum. Anyone can make a Whiffle ball rise, sure. But a man standing on a fifteen-inch-high mound of dirt throwing a five-ounce horsehide sphere downhill? 'Rise, my butt,' Roseboro, the skeptic says." This passage is important because it shows that Sandy Koufax was able was able to perfect his pitching in such a way that it defied physics and caused arguments in the scientific world of baseball. Also he made even the most sane and perfect sighted men go crazy whenever he pitched and all you could do was say, wow, let me see that again!
"Jackie Robinson, then in his final season, clashed with Alston on many subjects, including Koufax. Villante, who was affiliated with the Dodgers throughout the fifties and sixties , said, 'The one thing about Jackie was, no matter who the hell you were, Jackie appreciated talent. If you were good, he was on your side. I think he saw that in Sandy... Jackie always thought Alston was dumb. And the very fact that Sandy would every so often show this terrific flash of brilliance and pitch a terrific game and not pitch again for thirty days would add to Jackie saying how dumb this guy was.'" This passage shows significance to me because even though Sandy wasn't at peak performance yet and even though no one high up in the Dodger's organization trusted him enough to pitch regularly, a baseball great believed in him and protected him and pushed him to achieve the greatness he knew he had in him.
I loved it because I got to learn so much about one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pitchers of all time. It was really interesting to see how Sandy developed himself into the pitching phenomenon that he was and also into the great, honest and kind man that everyone looked up to. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone that has any desire to learn about Sandy Koufax, to further their general knowledge of the time of baseball displayed in the book, or someone who wants to read about the story of a person who fought a hard battle against religious adversity and would like to learn how to overcome their own.
What I have learned from this book is that anyone can achieve something if they put their mind to it and have the strong will to compete for the their goal and get on top. This book shows you that even through the toughest times of adversity; the strong will excel and rise above those that torment him. This book deals a lot with anti-Semitism in America and how it affected baseball and its few Jewish players. The consequences of this book are aimed more toward the people that taunted and belittled Sandy Koufax and his fellow Jewish, black and Hispanic ball players because they showed that the hateful words had little effect on them and they rose to become some of the best, if not the best, players at their position. Even though Sandy was looked down upon by the Dodgers' manager and fans, he kept with his craft and perfected it so when he got his chance he would show everyone that they were wrong and that he couldn't be pushed aside. These issues do not affect my life personally now or probably not even in the future but that doesn't mean it doesn't affect other people today or affect them in their futures. I wish people wouldn't disparage others because of how they look or because of what they believe in because in the end the people they make fun of are usually on a higher level than they are whether it's in a particular sport or occupation. They are always on a higher level than they are in a humanity stand point.

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5

Dec 17, 2019

Ended the mystery for me of his role as a cultural icon. As insightful but more satisfying than the Richard Ben Cramer Joe D bio about the other midcentury baseball enigma.
5

Mar 30, 2017

How great can a sporting biography be when it concerns such a humble recluse of an athlete and person as Sandy Koufax is? Well, it can be pretty darned good, especially if Jane Leavy is writing that book! Feast your eyes on Sandy Koufax: A Leftys Legacy and be rewarded with the authoritative biography of one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era.

At times, the reader is convinced of Koufaxs greatness, especially in his final 6 years in the major leagues. Other times, the reader (especially How great can a sporting biography be when it concerns such a humble recluse of an athlete and person as Sandy Koufax is? Well, it can be pretty darned good, especially if Jane Leavy is writing that book! Feast your eyes on “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” and be rewarded with the authoritative biography of one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era.

At times, the reader is convinced of Koufax’s greatness, especially in his final 6 years in the major leagues. Other times, the reader (especially those who did not live through his era) can’t help but feel, “Can Sandy really be considered one of the best pitchers of all time? He had 6 magnificent years that were preceded by 6 average years… and then he retired at the top of his game before even reaching 200 career wins. Was Koufax really that great?” Koufax even confirms these feelings by admitting: “The older I get, the better I used to be”, as most legacies are such enhanced by time and sportswriters who have fond memories of what they only think they remember of an athlete. Well, let’s just say that even with all my own personal doubts, I came away mostly convinced by Leavy and her numerous interviewees who actually witnessed Koufax in his prime that YES, indeed, Koufax should be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers ever. Possibly the only aspect other students of the game need to reconcile in their own minds when evaluating Koufax is this: is it better to have a short career with a dominant prime or a long career with above-average statistics that allows them to be on the all-time leaderboards? ...more
0

Oct 19, 2014

As much as I enjoy reading, I was shocked that I had never seen this app until very recently. I began to write a review on the book I am finishing as we speak, but thought I would prefer to cut my teeth on a book that I loved (Levy's "A Lefty's Legacy") as opposed to one I just enjoyed.

As a huge baseball fan, I yearn to have seen the game played at it's peak of popularity, a time when the United States' sports appetite was not as divided as it is now. Levy vividly recreates the brief career of As much as I enjoy reading, I was shocked that I had never seen this app until very recently. I began to write a review on the book I am finishing as we speak, but thought I would prefer to cut my teeth on a book that I loved (Levy's "A Lefty's Legacy") as opposed to one I just enjoyed.

As a huge baseball fan, I yearn to have seen the game played at it's peak of popularity, a time when the United States' sports appetite was not as divided as it is now. Levy vividly recreates the brief career of one of the sport's best pitchers and interesting personalities. My favorite biography of all time. The characters are deftly drawn and I found myself debating Koufax's decision not to start the first game of the World Series from his perspective; quite an achievement seeing as how I am not religious at all.I will not go into much detail about the manner in which the story us retold; suffice to say, one of Koufax's no-hitters K is featured prominently.

You know the question..."If you were stranded on a desert island and allowed only three books, what would they be?" Well, I am afraid I cannot answer that Levy's book would be one of the three. But that is only because I am truly thinking about minimizing my boredom while on this desert island. Therefore, not only would the quality of the books I brought matter but also the length. That is the only reason this phenomenal book would not be brought with me. An excellent read. ...more
4

Nov 30, 2010

In-depth, lively, and intelligent memoir of the almost immortal southpaw pitcher, Sandy Koufax, who retired from the game at the peak of his powers. But his left arm was also pretty much shot. Many familiar names--Frank Howard and Ken McMullen to name two--from the baseball world crop up for me. Interestingly, the private Koufax didn't supply the biographer with any new material. Enjoyable read for all baseball fans that gives you a new appreciation for Sandy Koufax's unique athletic talents.

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