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Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy Hardcover – September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060195339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060195335
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sportswriter Leavy describes her book as not so much a biography of a ballplayer as a social history of baseball, with the former star pitcher's career as the barometer of change. While both a preface and an introduction spin Leavy's storytelling wheels, a compelling, literary social history does indeed get rolling. Koufax refused to participate in the project, so Leavy has spoken to hundreds of people with something to share on the former Brooklyn/L.A. Dodger Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, childhood friend and Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon and even the old Dodgers equipment manager among them and their testimonies make for a rich baseball pastiche and an engaging look at the game's more innocent period. Koufax capped off his first year by watching the 1955 World Series against the hated Yankees from the bench, and following the Dodgers' historic victory headed from Yankee Stadium to class at Columbia University, where he studied architecture (in case the baseball thing didn't work out). Even when Leavy's historical anecdotes are quaint, they prove timely: she details Koufax holding out for a better contract with fellow star pitcher Don Drysdale in '66, paving the way for free agency. While Leavy's interest in Koufax's Jewish heritage at times seems to border on the obsessive, she delivers an honest and exquisitely detailed examination of a complex man, one whose skills were such that slugger Willie Stargell once likened hitting against Koufax to "trying to drink coffee with a fork."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This highly anticipated book affords a lucid examination of arguably major league baseball's all-time greatest southpaw pitcher, from his bonus baby days with the world-champion Brooklyn Dodgers to his receipt of three Cy Young awards as the game's top moundsman. But Leavy's (Squeeze Play) story is far richer than simply a tale of the promising youngster who finally struck gold. Calling on her hundreds of interviews, she offers a richly drawn account of an often misunderstood yet greatly celebrated athlete. Leavy also captures a not-too-distant era in American life when the scourge of anti-Semitism never lurked far beneath the surface. Koufax comes across as a boy from Brooklyn who was comfortable with his secular brand of Jewishness but didn't need to wear it on his sleeve. He was also a naturally gifted celebrity athlete, blessed by unique musculature, long fingers perfectly suited for power pitching, and movie-star looks. At the same time, the battles Koufax endured, with his own youthful problems and his manager, made him more determined to excel in the fashion that he would, particularly in five golden years, 1962-66, when he shone as baseball's finest. Offering an apt analysis of Koufax and pitching partner Don Drysdale's role in challenging baseball's antiquated reserve clause, this biography also dispels the notion that its subject, once out of baseball, proved a tormented soul. Highly recommended.
R.C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Jane Leavy is the author of the New York Times bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy and the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called "the best novel ever written about baseball." She was a staff writer at The Washington Post from 1979 to1988, first in the sports section, then writing for the style section. She covered baseball, tennis, and the Olympics for the paper. She wrote features for the style section about sports, politics, and pop culture, including, most memorably, a profile of Mugsy Bogues, the 5'3" guard for the Washington Wizards, which was longer than he is tall.


Before joining the The Washington Post, she was a staff writer at womenSports and Self magazines. She has written for many publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, The Village Voice, and The New York Daily News. Leavy's work has been anthologized in many collections, including Best Sportswriting, Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference, Child of Mine: Essays on Becoming a Mother, Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball, A Kind of Grace: A Treasury of Sportswriting by Women, and Making Words Dance: Reflections on Red Smith, Journalism and Writing.


She grew up on Long Island where she pitched briefly and poorly for the Blue Jays of the Roslyn Long Island Little League. On her parents' first date, her father, a water boy for the 1927 New York football Giants, took her mother to a Brooklyn College football game. She retaliated by taking him to Loehmann's after the final whistle. It was a template for their 63-year union. As a child, Jane Leavy worshipped Mickey Mantle from the second-floor ballroom in the Concourse Plaza Hotel where her grandmother's synagogue held services on the High Holidays.


Jane Leavy attended Barnard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she wrote her master's essay (later published in The Village Voice) on Red Smith, the late sports columnist for The New York Times, who was her other childhood hero.


She has two adult children, Nick and Emma Isakoff, and she lives in Washington, DC, and Truro, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Author Jane Leavy has written the ultimate biography of Sandy Koufax.
Barry Sparks
Even though he is not a public personality, according to Leavy, he is currently, very happy and he is always there for his friends.
David E. Levine
The book captures the spirit of its time, shows a great knowledge and love of the game of baseball.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"On the mound tonight for the Los Angeles Dodgers ... number 32 ... the great left-hander... Sandy Koufax".

These were the energizing words coming over the airwaves that I lived for as a teenager in the mid-60s. I was a Dodger fan. More specifically, a Sandy Koufax fan. I never saw him pitch, but rather relied on the Voice of the Dodgers, Vin Scully, to paint in my mind's eye the picture of my hero at work. So, on September 9, 1965, it was after "lights out" at a private boarding school north of Los Angeles, and I was under the covers with my transistor radio surreptitiously glued to the final inning of Sandy's perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.

Consciously or not, former sportswriter Jane Leavy has constructed SANDY KOUFAX: A LEFTY'S LEGACY much the same as Ed Gruver's year 2000 book, Koufax. In each, the author alternates multiple chapters about Sandy's upbringing, professional career, and post-retirement with chapters that are a batter by batter account of Sandy's greatest diamond triumphs - at one inning per chapter. In Gruver's story, it was the last game of the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins when Koufax pitched with only two days rest, and clinched the Fall Classic with grit and a fastball. In Leavy's, it's the Perfect Game pitched against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium, when Sandy's performance touched the truly sublime.

Based on a wealth of interviews with her subject's friends and former fellow players, Leavy's book provides much more information about Sandy's life and meteoric career than does Gruver's.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on September 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sandy Koufax was a shooting star. A brilliant, explosive wonder, he appeared on the baseball scene of the mid-60's virtually without warning, dominated the game as no lefty ever had and, after a short, extraordinary brilliance, was gone in an instant, leaving behind a grateful, awed and largely befuddled multitude.
Koufax is an extremely private man. He had no role in the preparation of this book. However, Jane Leavy appears to have interviewed virtually everyone who ever knew or worked with Koufax to any significant degree and, through painstaking research has penned the definitive-though totally derivative-biography of Koufax we are likely to ever see.
Unfortunately-and this is no criticism of Leavy, just a reflection of the enigma that is Sandy Koufax-in the end the only truly salient fact that emerges is that Koufax remains as much a mystery today as he was in his prime. Leavey may have conducted over 400 interviews and provided an avalanche of detail, background and speculation but the fact is that Koufax himself remains unavailable, unassailable and, in the final analysis, apparently unknowable. One of his former teammates once observed that "Sandy Koufax is the most misunderstood man in all of baseball". Leavy has, through this entertaining and valiant effort, established that fact to be as true today as it was 35 years ago.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Ehrlich on November 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was a fan of Koufax when he played, but more of a fan of him as a unique human being. Ms. Leavy tells the story of a great pitcher by using the perfect game he pitched in 1965 as the illustration of a great pitcher's skills. However alternating chapters told the story of his rise to greatness both on pitching skill level and on a human scale.
Koufax was a great pitcher but more important a great person. The most revealing fact is that Sandy was not aloof, distant and enigmatic as portrayed by other wrriters. He just eschewed publicly airing his life. He was a great friend, a fair and decent person, and not one to make baseball his whole life.
Ms. Leavy's book is a great read, in fact I could not put it down. I resisted reading it, seeing it as another baseball book, but it was captivating. Sandy Koufax was unique among pitchers but also unique among famous athletes; humble, caring, considerate of fans. I read Gruber's earlier work and this one is much better.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gary Delsohn on November 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sandy Koufax was my first athlete hero and I have waited a long time for a definitive bio of him. This is as much of an appreciation of the former Dodger great as it is revealing biography, but it's a wonderful book that I recommend highly. There is a great deal of insight into Koufax and what made him such a pitching marvel. Without saying so directy, we see how even Dodger management didn't know what to make of his being Jewish and I conclude from reading this book that Walt Alston and the Dodgers didn't deserve Koufax. .... Sandy was a tough, competitive as hell pitching God who simply was a nice guy and valued his privacy and ordinariness as much as his career, if not more. He really was and is a class guy who stands out among our star ball players almost as much for that characteristic -- and I say almost -- a he did for his awesome abilities. Organizing the book around his perfect game aganst the Cubs was a masterstroke and if you're a baseball fan and would like to read about an athlete who was also a truly good guy, you'll love this book. The writer did an excellent job with a very difficult subject. Along with Hank Greenberg, Sandy is the Jewish Jackie Robinson and you'll enjoy reading this as much for social commentary as you will for the baseball it captures.
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