Koufax achieves perfection
On Sept. 9, 1965, Cubs starter Bob Hendley was nearly unhittable.
But his opponent was future Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax – and Koufax was perfect.
In a game that was the definition of a pitcher’s duel, lasting just one hour and 43 minutes, Koufax threw the eighth perfect game in MLB history, as the Dodgers topped the Cubs 1-0 at Dodger Stadium.
It marked the fourth no-hitter of Koufax’s career, and the fourth consecutive season in which he had tossed a no-no. He became the first pitcher ever to throw as many as four no-hitters and the second National Leaguer to pitch a perfect game in the 20th century.
“I knew all along I was pitching a no-hitter, but it never crossed my mind that it might be a perfect game,” Koufax told United Press International.
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Despite suffering the loss, Hendley threw a one-hitter, limiting the Dodgers to one unearned run and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
The only run of the game scored in the bottom of the fifth. After reaching on a leadoff walk, Dodgers left fielder Lou Johnson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third and then scored on a throwing error when catcher Chris Krug’s throw went into left field.
“Wouldn’t it have been the damnedest thing,” Dodgers manager Walter Alston said, “if Johnson didn’t get that hit? Then we would’ve had two no-hitters.”
After scoring the game’s only run, Johnson was a hero again in the bottom of the seventh, doubling to break up Hendley’s no-hit bid.
“It’s a shame Hendley had to get beaten that way,” Koufax told the Los Angeles Times. “But I’m glad we got the run or we might have been here all night.”
If anything, Koufax got better as the game went on. He fanned the final six batters he faced for a total of 14 strikeouts in the game, marking the 79th time in his career and 18th time that season that he had struck out 10 or more batters in a game.
“I think the stuff I had tonight was the best I’ve had all season,” Koufax said. “I had a real good fastball, and that sort of helps your curve. I thought the fastball was really working the last three innings.”
The Cubs lineup boasted three future Hall of Famers – Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo – all of whom struck out at least once against Koufax.
Even Banks, who struck out all three times he came to bat that night, had to marvel at Koufax’s dominance.
“The man was just great,” Banks said. “It was beautiful. The first five innings he was getting the curveball over real good. Then he got tremendous momentum. I thought he’d be a little less tough, but he just kept throwing the ball right on through.”
After achieving perfection and claiming his 22nd win of the season, Koufax sat atop the MLB leaderboards in both wins and strikeouts. He would capture his second Cy Young Award and finish as the runner up for the NL MVP Award the following offseason.
Almost no one could have guessed that they were witnessing the final years of Koufax’s dominance, as the left-hander was forced to end his career in 1966 due to injury troubles with an arthritic elbow. Although the perfect game was his final no-hitter, his dominance continued into his final season in 1966, as he claimed a third Cy Young Award and finished second in NL MVP Award voting again.
In 1972, Koufax became the youngest player ever elected to the Hall of Fame.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum