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Showing 1-10 of 124 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 249 reviews
on May 2, 2017
Wow. What a story. I was eleven when Koufax retired. We were DIE-HARD Cardinal fans so essentially I couldn't stand him. Glad I read this book. What an incredible athlete AND person. This book is fantastic in the way in tells the story of his life and weaves it in with the account of his masterpiece on the mound.
The story of Koufax's early career was unknown to me. I had no idea he spent the early years on the bench because Walter Alston wouldn't pitch him.
I recommend this book for an fan of the game of baseball.
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on February 7, 2015
As my teenage years coincided beautifully with Sandy Koufax's best years, it was a treat to read the 'behind-the-scenes' details this book provides that were simply not available to fans back then.

This book captures elegantly the Koufax aura that existed at the time; young fans like myself were in awe of him; older fans realized how rare was his talent; and even his contemporaries on the diamond still carry memories of his incredible impact.

I personally went to buy Koufax's 1966 biography, which Sandy kindly autographed for me at Shillito's department store in Cincinnati, then went to see him beat the Reds that night in what turned out to be his final start in Cincinnati. I couldn't have known, until reading this book, just how tender his arm must have been on that September day, or that he knew even then that he was planning to retire only a month later. I still have the book, with his kind note addressed to me on the inside cover.

But beyond personal reasons, I liked the book for its interesting account of Koufax the man, breaking down the myth of the reclusive former superstar, while capturing the essence of his fun-loving and kind nature.

The book also revealed the intensely competitive nature of Koufax the athlete. Like many athletes of his day, he sacrificed his body, playing through intense pain in order to keep himself, and the Dodgers, in the game - or in the World Series. But in his case, the results had so much more of an impact on the game than any other single player in the lineup possibly could have.

All of this and more comes out in this very inside look at a man who gave baseball all he had, then proceeded to live out the rest of his life with the same intensity, returning to the sport when it suited him simply because he loved the game, the players and being able to satisfy some of the public curiosity that inevitably would build up over years and decades. He liked being out in public, but he liked his privacy, just as we all do.

Finally, for those who remember the role his Jewishness played in the public perception of him, we find in this book some very rich anecdotal material about this side of Sandy Koufax. The book would not have been the same without it, and the topic is well-covered. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this unusual man's life and career accomplishments.
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on January 14, 2017
I must admit I like my biographies to be traditional. I like page 1 to say he/she was born here on this date and the last page to say he/she died here on this date.

That was not the case with this book but it didn't matter.

The author did a magnificent job of gracefully weaving the story of Koufax's life into the story of his 1965 perfect game. The rehashing of the time periods being covered at first seemed forced and too long but as you got used to the style they became an integral part of the story, creating a backdrop for the period of the subjects life that she was dealing with.

This is not a tell-all because frankly there is not much to tell. Koufax appears to be as amazing off the Dianomd as on and that comes through loud and clear.

It's a quick and complete read and I can't recommend this book more. It is a must biography not just among sports figures but among men (and women).
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on November 7, 2010
I was born four years after Koufax hung it up for good so never had the opportunity to see him pitch. While I have always been a Yankee fan, there was an aura I'd hear baseball fans, players, commentators and family members talk about when Sandy Koufax came up in a conversation. As a youngster, you'd hear aboutthe greatest lefty ever and the best 6 year stretch that any pitcher ever put together. Those little tidbits, plus some old film, his oft-cited reclusiveness and his decision not to pitch in the 1st game of the 65 WS because of Yom Kippur were the essence of my knowledge about #32.

I finally decided to read Jane Leavy's book when I bought her recent bio on Mickey Mantle. I'm certainly glad I decided to read about the great Koufax. This book was pure baseball nirvana for me. Leavy structure is to intersperse each objective and insightful chapter on the life and career of Koufax with a chapter that covers each inning of his only perfect game (one of his three no-hitters) against the Cubs in 1965. That game might have been the best pitched baseball game ever when you consider it was the cleanest baseball box score in history -- 1 run, 1 hit and 1 error.... for BOTH teams. Perhaps because of Koufax's brilliance and aura, I never realized that the Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley lost this duel 1-0, giving up a solitary hit (it didn't factor in the run) and losing as the result of an error and a few stolen bases that led to the run.

Much of what Leavy covers was new to me --- from Koufax love of basketball, the lack of trust and outright mis-use (or no use) by Walter Alston, Dodger manager, for the first 6 years of Koufax's career, to his family background and the role of Judaism in his life. In the day of 24 hour sports cycles, coddled athletes, primadonnas and performance enhancing drugs, --- and leaves me with an even fonder appreciation for this baseball legend. The only thing that I truly regret after finishing this book was never having a chance to watch #32 pitch at the ballpark.
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on May 19, 2017
One of the best pitchers to ever take the mound...bar none. Ms Leavy does a good job covering things you don't hear about too much....it did lean heavily on the Jewish connection a bit too much for my taste but hey....there just aren't too many out there to start with so the trumpet blowin' can be understood. Good easy baseball read. Recommend.
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on October 12, 2013
Excellent biography of an outstanding pitcher. All of the biographical details are here, of course: how this Jewish kid from Brooklyn made it to the majors, to become one of the most dominant, though not durable, lefty pitchers ever. How he walked away from the game, after the 1966 season, at age 30. How he and fellow Dodger pitching star, Don Drysdale, jointly held out before the start of the 1966 season, which led, in part, to the rise of the baseball players' union.

But Leavy's book goes way beyond the typical sports bio and really examines Koufax's role in the American Jewish community and how he changed what it meant to be Jewish by refusing to pitch Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. She also examines how Koufax remains the iconic ballplayer, even to this day.

Interwoven throughout the book is an inning-by-inning account of probably the most famous game Koufax pitched, the Sept 9, 1965 perfect game against the Cubs (in which Cub pitcher Bob Hendley himself gave up only one hit).

This was a treat for me because, even though I'm a lifelong Cub fan, I am too young to remember this. I enjoyed seeing some of those Cub players I know only from baseball cards come to life, players such as young Cubs catcher Chris Krug who made the key error for the Cubs in that game. However, in his post-baseball career, he went on to become a landscape architect and, in fact, designed the famed Field of Dreams in Iowa.

Leavy did a good job of showing how quiet and introspective Koufax was and is, how he shunned publicity and never really fit in as a ballplayer because, in part, he read too much. For instance, Leavy says, after his baseball career ended, Koufax is "as well travelled as he is well read."

One interesting thing I learned is that, in middle age, Koufax somewhat resembled author Phillip Roth. Leavy talked of how Roth believes that a serious reader is a person "who thinks not only about they read but about they are going to read." For Koufax, Leavy suggests, everything was of interest to him except Koufax himself.

Excellent baseball biography!!
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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). I still can imagine that smooth delivery and the baseball doing amazing things.

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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on August 23, 2004
The Koufax story, as we remember it, and as author Jane Leavy depicts it, has some of the trappings of a medieval morality play. A 1954 Brooklyn boy improbably becomes a "bonus baby" with his hometown Dodgers. So wild and unpredictable a hurler, his manager dreaded to use him. He labors six years but never loses faith. Suddenly, in 1961, the fidelity of this Dodger Job is redeemed. He rolls off six years of impeccable performance that earn him a berth in the Hall of Fame. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything, including premature retirement when a left arm becomes irreparably damaged. And then he disappears to a privacy of his own doing.

This is an interesting work that features memory and impression over sabermetrics. Koufax did win eleven games in 1958; he was not exactly a stiff before 1961. And if one looks at the stats closely, he was not that far from his peers even at his best: in his memorable six-season span, 1961-1966, he bested Juan Marichal in wins by a slim 129-124 margin and Don Drysdale by 129-111. [Marichal would win another 113 after Koufax retired.] Thus, the difference between Koufax and his peers like Marichal, Bob Gibson, and Drysdale must lie elsewhere than in sheer statistics. Jane Levy seeks to find that "otherness," focusing upon the atmosphere of postwar Brooklyn, the influence of Judaism upon the pitcher, and the mixed emotions of Koufax and his admirers alike when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Leavy captures what stats guru Bill James uses as the ultimate criterion for admission to the Hall of Fame: his contemporaries thought of Koufax as the best at his position.

Koufax's career covered twelve years, much shorter than Marichal's or Warren Spahn's. In retrospect, however, he seemed to have pitched in two different eras of the game. In those grainy black and white films of the 1955 World Series, when Dodger outfielder Sandy Amoros started the mother of all double plays near the left field foul line, a very young Koufax watched from the Dodger bench. He was there the next year to see Larsen's perfect game; he moved with the team to Los Angeles; he pitched in the Coliseum with its "Wally Moon home run porch" and was a member of the 1959 World Series Championship team, posting an 8-6 season record. Aside from winning big in the 1960's, he and Drysdale attempted the first "collective bargaining" strategy and started the ball rolling for Curt Flood and Marvin Miller.

Amazingly during his Brooklyn high school days Koufax was not considered prospective baseball material, and certainly not a pitcher. His sport, ironically, was basketball, and on February 10, 1953, Koufax and his Lafayette High School five [which included a scrappy Alan Dershowitz] embarrassed a New York Knicks team paced by Harry "The Horse" Gallatin and Al McGuire. He might never have attempted organized baseball were it not for a serendipitous encounter with one Milt Laurie, Braves' prospect turned truck driver. Laurie was impressed with the speed of Koufax's delivery, if not his control, and eased him into the world of Brooklyn amateur baseball. Later, at the University of Cincinnati, baseball coach Ed Jucker [yes, that Ed Jucker, better known for his coaching on hardwood floors.] complained that none of his catchers would go near Koufax for fear for life or limb. It is unclear who among the Dodger organization first caught sight of Koufax-though Walter Alston had seen him play basketball at Cincinnati-Al Campanis appears to have spearheaded the recruiting and signed the lefty.

Koufax, as Leavy observed, came to the Dodgers at roughly the same time as Alston. The latter's conservative and basic outlook on the game was never quite at peace with the unpredictable Koufax. Their relationship was tense. Leavy overstates the case when she argues that Alston was flat out afraid to use him-Koufax started 25 games in 1958-but she is correct that the Dodger organization did not know how to manage him. As a result, Koufax developed his unique windup and delivery pretty much on his own. Leavy devotes an entire chapter to his delivery, including kinetic sketches--admirable until one realizes that this very delivery nearly destroyed his left arm. When the reader considers how Leo Mazzoni has nurtured flame-thrower John Smoltz through near twenty profitable seasons, the tragedy of Koufax's shortened career comes into clearer focus.

The Koufax who emerges here is neither a philosopher nor a religious fanatic. He is a competitive but sociable Brooklynite who never totally succumbed to West Coast glitz nor corporate Dodger hubris. His reserve is a genuine humility, a reluctance to trade in on what he considered a physical ability, and should not be confused with the darker shadows of DiMaggio. He was loved by his teammates, and respected [and feared] by the opposition. Thanks to Leavy's extensive search for Koufax contemporaries, there is a plethora of anecdotal material from Ron Fairly, Ken Holtzman, Nate Oliver, Jeff Torborg, Maury Wills, Wes Parker, and Ed Vargo, to name a few. The ultimate in nostalgia is Leavy's reconstruction over nine chapters of Koufax's perfect game of September 9, 1965. Pieced together from a scouting film, a boy's tape recording of the radio broadcast, and memories of the participants, Leavy recounts one of baseball's greatest pitching duels, between the perfect Koufax and the near perfect Bob Hendley of the Cubs. It is proof positive that the Koufax era was an experience that lifted all boats in the tide of competition.
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on March 13, 2017
I read the book by this author about Mickey Mantle and it was great. So I was curious about Sandy Koufax so I got this book. And it was equally as great. If you like baseball or the Dodgers or Koufax or the era he played in I think you will really enjoy this book.
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on May 26, 2013
I was a big fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers growing up and never knew what Sandy Koufax had to endure during his early years as a Dodger. I was just a little girl during the beginning of his career, but kept a score card for every game that was played during that time.
I loved all the Dodgers and can still to this day name everyone of the players and where theyplayed.
To think that he wasn't respected by his manager is unbelievable. Just because he was Jewish didn't matter to the baseball fans of that era. I am sure that once he was given the chance to show what he could do they should have apologized to him on a national basis. No I never saw him pitch in person, but always had the greatest respect of his desire to be the best he could be. He not only was a great player, but encouraged all his team mates to be their best they could be.
Just to look at all the innings pitched and what he suffered throught to do it is amazing. My heart goes out to him and am glad that he finally earned all the respect he deserved. If I ever have a chance to met him I would just be glad to shake his hand and tell him he deserved every trophy he received.
He deserves to know that many of his fans still don't know how hard a time he had coming up as a bonus baby. I recommend this book to all Dodger fans and I am sure they will be as surprised as I was at the way he was treated. Keep writing stories like this, It it is truly amazing what one can learn. It is never to late to know what a great man he still is.
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