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My evening with Sandy Koufax
World Net Daily ^ | December 21, 2006 | Larry Elder

Posted on 12/21/2006 7:05:19 AM PST by rhema

When you greatly admire a famous person, someone once said, avoid meeting him. Otherwise, prepare yourself for disappointment. Whoever said that never met Sandy Koufax, the great former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the seventh grade, at age 12, I entered a poetry contest held at my Los Angeles junior high school. I wrote about my favorite player:

Koufax is on the mound,
The game has just begun.
He gets a sign from the catcher
And, zoom, strike one.

Not exactly Robert Frost, so I'll spare you the rest of the poem. But after winning, I immediately sent the poem to Sandy Koufax. I never expected to hear back, but he sent me a postcard-sized picture of himself, with his elegant signature.

At an American Friends of the Hebrew University black-tie function honoring the current owners of the Dodgers, the McCourts, I sat at a table in a large ballroom at a Beverly Hills hotel. Vin Scully, the brilliant Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster, emceed the event. He ran down the list of attendees, among them Sandy Koufax. Sandy Koufax?!

When Koufax arrived in the major leagues in 1955, never having spent one day in the minor leagues, he found it difficult to control his pitches. Some days he threw accurately; other days he threw so erratically that the ball could hit the batter in the head or sail over the backstop. But the Dodgers recognized his brilliance and stuck with him.

Then it clicked.

From 1962 to 1966, the southpaw pitched so brilliantly as to kiss the face of God. The left-hander won the Cy Young Award – baseball's highest pitching honor – in 1963, 1965 and 1966. (In those years, one award was given to baseball's best pitcher, unlike now, when baseball awards a Cy Young to the best pitcher in each of the two leagues.) Koufax recorded the lowest earned run average (ERA – the number of earned runs scored against him per game by the opposition) for an astonishing five consecutive seasons, from 1962 to 1966. He threw 11 shutouts in 1963, amassing 40 during his career. Koufax led the major league in strikeouts four times, including a then-record 382 strikeouts in 1965. His career strikeouts totaled 2,396, and three times he fanned 300 or more batters in a season. In his five final seasons, his win-loss record was an astonishing 111-34. During the 1965 World Series, he refused to pitch on Yom Kippur, demonstrating that the High Holy Days meant more to him than a World Series game.

In those days, pitchers pitched. Modern pitchers now pitch "deep into the game," walking off the mound to hand the ball in the sixth or seventh inning to a "middle reliever," who, in turn, hands the ball off to a "closer." When the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series, Koufax pitched games two, five and seven, astounding by modern standards.

Koufax pitched with grace, consistency and excellence. And by all accounts, handled himself the same way off the field. Handsome, almost regal, you simply could not take your eyes off of him as he pitched. He was the first major league pitcher to hurl four no-hit games, including, in 1965, a perfect game – no runs, no hits, no walks, no errors. Twenty-seven batters up, and 27 batters down, a feat pulled off only 17 times in the major leagues since 1880.

The Dodgers played the Baltimore Orioles in the 1966 World Series, defying the odds-makers by losing in four straight. Koufax battled arm problems throughout his career, though in 1966 he went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA. But by the time of the World Series, Koufax simply ran out of gas.

After the Dodgers' 1966 World Series defeat, I picked up the local newspaper and read the shocking headline – Koufax To Retire. At age 31, the prince walked off the mound, never to return. I cried for two days.

Now, 40 years later, Koufax and I actually occupied the same space in the same hotel ballroom! I asked renowned Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan, seated at my table, "Is there anyway you can find Sandy Koufax, and ask him if I can go over to his table and shake his hand?"

Cowan left for a few minutes, then he came back and tapped my shoulder, "Done." We grabbed a photographer and approached Koufax's table. The Pitcher stood up. I told him the story of my poem, reciting the first stanza. "Mr. Koufax," I said, "you inspired me as a child, through your class, dignity, consistency, excellence and humility. And you inspire me to this day. It is an honor to shake your hand." He smiled and agreed to take a picture with me.

Oh, by the way, former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech. I barely remember a word he said.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; US: California
KEYWORDS: baseball; koufax; ladodgers; larryelder; sandykoufax
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1 posted on 12/21/2006 7:05:19 AM PST by rhema
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To: Caleb1411; BluesDuke

2 posted on 12/21/2006 7:07:01 AM PST by rhema ("Break the conventions, keep the commandments." -- G. K. Chesterton)
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To: rhema
What a great story.

Koufax retired before I became a baseball fan, but his numbers speak for themselves.

As for the Al Gore quip at the end, I'd bet hardly ANYONE ever remembers anything he says. Ever.

3 posted on 12/21/2006 7:10:36 AM PST by TravisBickle (This space left unintentionally blank.)
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To: rhema

I was in high school when Sandy pitched for the Dodgers and he too was my favorite player at the time and the Dodgers were my favorite team. He teamed up with Don Drysdale to make up the best one-two punch for starting pitchers. The only other pitcher who came close to him at the time was Bob Gibson.


4 posted on 12/21/2006 7:12:53 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: rhema

When he was at the top of his game, I never saw a better pitcher. As a Giants' fan, it pains me to say that.


5 posted on 12/21/2006 7:13:22 AM PST by stop_fascism
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To: rhema; BluesDuke

Sandy Koufax is a GREAT MAN!


6 posted on 12/21/2006 7:14:20 AM PST by beyond the sea ( All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.)
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To: rhema

Great story.


7 posted on 12/21/2006 7:15:50 AM PST by Rummyfan (Iraq: Give therapeutic violence a chance!)
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To: rhema

He made every pitch as if it were the last ball he would ever throw.


8 posted on 12/21/2006 7:17:38 AM PST by flushed with pride (Information overload equals pattern recognition.)
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To: rhema
Oh, by the way, former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech. I barely remember a word he said.

Meeting Sandy Koufax is like dining on a gourmet meal by one of the world's greatest chefs. Listing to Al Gore is like the bowel movement that takes place a few hours later.

9 posted on 12/21/2006 7:22:04 AM PST by Vigilanteman (Are there any men left in Washington? Or are there only cowards? Ahmad Shah Massoud)
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To: rhema
I'll never forget the time when I was driving home lstening to a game on the radio. Koufax struck out the side with nine pitches. Amazing.

Greatest pitcher of all time. Too bad his career was cut short.


10 posted on 12/21/2006 7:28:33 AM PST by Donald Rumsfeld Fan ("Fake but Accurate": NY Times)
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To: longhorn too
The only other pitcher who came close to him at the time was Bob Gibson.

Being an LA boy I hate to bring this name into it, but to not do so would to not be honest. Maracial was also in the same league as Koufax, Gibson and Big D. However, the Roseboro incident was an indication of the man's lack of character and class.

11 posted on 12/21/2006 7:29:08 AM PST by Michael.SF. (It's time our lawmakers paid more attention to their responsibilities, and less to their privileges.)
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To: rhema
Several years ago Koufax' biographer author discovered the only known recording of Vin Scully's great radio call of the 1965 Koufax perfect game. When I heard it in 1965 it was the single most electrifying sporting event I had ever experienced (the losing pitcher pitched a one-hitter!).

Does anybody know if this recording ever has been made available to the public? The author used it to write her biography, but the recording seems to have vanished...
12 posted on 12/21/2006 7:29:14 AM PST by nvskibum
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To: longhorn too
Agreed.

I grew up in Joisey and was a rabid Yankee fan but in High School and College I followed Koufax's career.

I was/am a numers freak and ate up the box scores whenever he pitched. In that era TV commentators didn't have the computer lookups to analyze his pitching performance with up to date stats against a particular batter but it was more fun to keep his book by hand!

13 posted on 12/21/2006 7:31:19 AM PST by Young Werther
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To: rhema

"Oh, by the way, former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech. I barely remember a word he said."

***

I myself would DELIBERATELY try to forget whatever Al Bore had to say. :)

Thank you for posting this. Koufax was a great pitcher and he had (has) class.


14 posted on 12/21/2006 7:31:55 AM PST by fatnotlazy
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To: rhema
My favorite Koufax story:

The night Koufax pitched a no hitter against Philadelphia, Drysdale had left the game early to take the train to NYC, as he was pitching the next night against the Mets. The Dodgers of that era were known for two primary things: Great pitching and a weak offense.

Drysdale upon arriving in NYC was mobbed by reporters:

"Did you hear the news? Koufax pitched a no hitter against the Phillies." he was asked.

Without pause, Drysdale deadpanned: "Did he win?"

15 posted on 12/21/2006 7:34:28 AM PST by Michael.SF. (It's time our lawmakers paid more attention to their responsibilities, and less to their privileges.)
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To: Michael.SF.

Marichal was a good pitcher also and I can remember that high leg kick of his, but even before the Roseboro incident I didn't like him. You know baseball used to be fun to watch, now I can't go more than a couple on innings.


16 posted on 12/21/2006 7:38:50 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: rhema
The writer failed to mention that Koufax and Drysdale both pitched in the day when pitchers also batted. There were seasons when both of them were pitching magnificently and batting respectably as well!
17 posted on 12/21/2006 7:40:09 AM PST by TChris (We scoff at honor and are shocked to find traitors among us. - C.S. Lewis)
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To: rhema

No question about it. He was SIMPLY THE BEST ever!!


18 posted on 12/21/2006 7:40:31 AM PST by stockstrader ("Where government advances--and it advances relentlessly--freedom is imperiled"-Janice Rogers Brown)
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To: Young Werther

I was a Yankee fan also back in the 50's and 60's with Mantle, Berra, Richardson, Kubek, Skowron, Mcdougal, Maris etc.


19 posted on 12/21/2006 7:40:47 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: Donald Rumsfeld Fan

Do you know why his career was cut short? Was it an injury?


20 posted on 12/21/2006 7:47:05 AM PST by kailbo
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To: stop_fascism

I was at the game in '63 when he no-hit you guys. Just a dominating performance. Known for his fastball but actually got more K's with his overhand curve that just fell off the table as it crossed the plate. Barry Zito's curve is the closest to Koufax's but he throws it more 3/4 giving it more left to right break. Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson, Spahn......brings back memories and reminds me why today's game doesn't really impress me much.


21 posted on 12/21/2006 7:51:29 AM PST by vigilence
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To: longhorn too
but even before the Roseboro incident I didn't like him.

One does not need to like someone to respect his talent. The only Giant I "liked" was McCovey, he seemed to me a 'gentle Giant'. But man, how he could clobber the ball against the Dodgers.

22 posted on 12/21/2006 7:51:39 AM PST by Michael.SF. (It's time our lawmakers paid more attention to their responsibilities, and less to their privileges.)
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To: TChris

National League pitchers still bat...some of them occasionally even get a hit.


23 posted on 12/21/2006 7:52:28 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: kailbo

Bad Elbow. He used to soak it in ice after every game and I remember the Docs giving him Cortisone shots .

Willie Davis's 3 errors in Center field didn't help Koufax in the last game of 66.


24 posted on 12/21/2006 7:53:32 AM PST by mortal19440
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To: kailbo

Arthritis. I think it was already a serious problem the last season or two he was still pitching.


25 posted on 12/21/2006 7:54:02 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: longhorn too

Has anyone asked Yogi Berra his reaction to the death of Joe Barbera (co-creator of Yogi Bear)?


26 posted on 12/21/2006 7:55:11 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: longhorn too
When Mantle was interviewed following the Dodgers four game sweep over the Yankees in 1964 he said "when Koufax is right.....no one can hit him"

Koufax won two of the four in the sweep.


27 posted on 12/21/2006 7:55:21 AM PST by Donald Rumsfeld Fan ("Fake but Accurate": NY Times)
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To: longhorn too
... now I can't go more than a couple on innings.

Games now take forever ... EVERY batter steps out of the box after EVERY pitch ... drives me crazy.

28 posted on 12/21/2006 7:55:36 AM PST by bimbo
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To: Michael.SF.

Don't forget about Say-hey.


29 posted on 12/21/2006 7:56:01 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: kailbo

He had arm problems off and on and got to the point that he needed surgery to continue his career but at 31 he decided against it. Plus, he took offense at some of the things being said about his ancestry by team officials so he walked away. Years later he quietly came back to coach some of the youngsters and, according to Lasorda, was pitching batting practice and no one could hit him. Amazing guy. Did things his way without allowing others to dictate his life to him.


30 posted on 12/21/2006 7:56:55 AM PST by vigilence
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To: longhorn too
I remember my first Yankee Game. Our Cub Scout Troop made the trip and were seated in the left field bleachers. The grass was sooo green! There were alot of balls hit to us during batting practice. I came close to getting one of those souvenirs but alas.....

In college I dated a girl from Upper Montclair. I picked her up at her house and she was late dressing so I was ushered into the Sitting Room to wait. Her Dad introduced me to their dinner guests. Mr and Mrs Berra and their friends Mr & Mrs Rizzuto. I said Hello and thanked them for that wonderful bowling alley.

31 posted on 12/21/2006 8:02:27 AM PST by Young Werther
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To: Young Werther

Phil Rizutto was a little before my time, didn't he play shortstop or second base.


32 posted on 12/21/2006 8:07:26 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: rhema
I saw Koufax strike out 18 in a game at the Coliseum in 1959 when I was a kid. And I remember listening to Vince Scully call his perfect game where the other pitcher threw a 1-hitter (the Cubs?). The one hit had nothing to do with the run the Dodgers got in that game. As I remember it was a walk, a stolen base and an error or two.

Maybe it's the nostalgia for the past, but baseball did seem to be better, "back in the day".
33 posted on 12/21/2006 8:18:21 AM PST by hanamizu
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To: rhema

Saw Roberto Clemente hit a line drive HR to RF off Koufax at Chevez Ravine in 1962 .Ball left the field like a lightning bolt .


34 posted on 12/21/2006 8:20:10 AM PST by Renegade
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To: rhema
When my wife and I were first married, we took a trip up to Montreal. I made sure that I stayed up late one night so that I could hear my Phillies play the Dodgers. I remember it well because Sandy pitched a no hitter that night.
35 posted on 12/21/2006 8:21:09 AM PST by ditto h
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To: longhorn too
ShortStop.

My Dad bought our first TV in 1948 for my Mom who was convalescing after the birth of my brother. We were the toast of the town, (well neighborhood) and my young uncles who lived next door soon discovered the Yankees who were one of the first to televise their home games, "High from the Top of the Empire State Building!"

I guess this is where my fanhood came from.

Of course there were no instant replays or fancy angles but the Mick's and Yogi's homeruns were still outstanding!

36 posted on 12/21/2006 8:23:53 AM PST by Young Werther
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To: rhema
..1963, Dodger Stadium, 55,000 fans, doubleheader with the Cincinnati Reds... My first major league baseball game.

Sandy Koufax shut out the Reds (with Frank Robinson and a rookie named Pete Rose).

The sound of the ball hitting John Roseboro's mit was so loud, you could hear it all over the packed stadium.

Koufax was simply dominating.

37 posted on 12/21/2006 8:25:40 AM PST by WalterSkinner ( ..when there is any conflict between God and Caesar -- guess who loses?)
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To: Verginius Rufus
Has anyone asked Yogi Berra his reaction to the death of Joe Barbera (co-creator of Yogi Bear)?

Yes they did. I think he said:

"Joe Barber? Was he the guy up on 59th street, next to the deli? He used to cut my hair. Nice guy I always liked him. He was cartoon guy to? Well, it just goes to show you, like they say: Sometimes you don't know anything until you know it. You know?"

38 posted on 12/21/2006 8:28:57 AM PST by Michael.SF. (It's time our lawmakers paid more attention to their responsibilities, and less to their privileges.)
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To: Young Werther

Wasn't his nickname the "Scooter". Do you remember when CBS owned the Yankees back in the early 60's. Ole Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese did the games every Saturday. Sometimes I think old Diz had one two many Falstaff's.


39 posted on 12/21/2006 8:29:01 AM PST by longhorn too
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To: kailbo
"Do you know why his career was cut short?"

He needed ulnar collateral ligament replacement, what we now call Tommy John surgery, before it was available.

I recently read "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy. A great read.
40 posted on 12/21/2006 8:29:53 AM PST by riverdawg
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To: Michael.SF.

I loved Marichal's high kick, but you're right - beating Roseboro over the head with a bat... not very sporting.

As good as Drysdale, Gibson and Marichal were, Koufax was the best of that very impressive era.

Hm. All National Leaguers...


41 posted on 12/21/2006 8:34:49 AM PST by karnage
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To: bimbo
Games now take forever ... EVERY batter steps out of the box after EVERY pitch ... drives me crazy.

Agreed.

IMHO, baseball needs a shot clock like basketball and football. I think 30 seconds would be generous.

Baseball also needs a defined number of time outs.

42 posted on 12/21/2006 8:41:36 AM PST by upchuck (How to win the WOT? Simple: set our rules of engagement to at least match those of our enemy.)
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To: TChris
"... Koufax and Drysdale ... were pitching magnificently and batting respectably as well!"

Koufax wasn't a very good hitter, even for a pitcher. He worked at it, though, and got better over time. Drysdale, on the other hand, was an excellent hitter (especially for a pitcher) and was occasionally used as a pinch hitter. He hit 7 HRs one season - '65, I think.

In the Leavy biography of Koufax, it's revealed that baseball wasn't even Koufax's best sport in high school - basketball was. He got a college scholarship in basketball, but after one or two years quit and signed a bonus contract to play professional baseball.
43 posted on 12/21/2006 8:52:03 AM PST by riverdawg
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To: flushed with pride
There are lots of great players in baseball...from Kirk Gibson to Lou Gehrig...from Yogi Berra to Babe Ruth. But when you come down to wanting to watch a person play...inning after inning...there is only Sandy Koufax. For whatever length of career that he appeared...he probably made each single inning count more than any baseball player that ever breathed. Koufax demonstrates the preciseness of his professionalism and was an absolute gentleman on and off the field. We can give alot to Yogi....we can dream of the youthful Ty Cobb on the bases...we can see Reggie Jackson in October as Mr. Baseball...but for greatness...there is only Koufax.
44 posted on 12/21/2006 9:09:56 AM PST by pepsionice
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To: nvskibum

I wonder if the Museum of TV & Radio in NYC might have it. They seem to have EVERYTHING.


45 posted on 12/21/2006 9:11:14 AM PST by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
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To: rhema

Koufax was retired before I was *born* and he's still one of my favorite players of all time. The tapes I've seen of his curveball are absolutely breathtaking - there's nothing else I've ever seen that comes close.

Incidentally, my all-time favorite, Jim Palmer, beat Koufax in Koufax's last game.


46 posted on 12/21/2006 9:14:14 AM PST by ravensandricks
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To: TravisBickle
Oh, by the way, former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech. I barely remember a word he said.

A great article till I read that line. I hate Algore so bad that the mere mention of his name drives my stomach upset.

47 posted on 12/21/2006 9:16:01 AM PST by RetiredArmy (I don't march to other people's opinion of me or my beliefs. I march to my beliefs and heart.)
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To: longhorn too

I lived in Tucson during those days. I always had KTUC (I think that was it) on my radio. That was the Dodger's station. I listened all the time. Koufax was great. I also remember when they batted Drydale seventh.

Free agency ran me away from the game.


48 posted on 12/21/2006 9:22:37 AM PST by saminfl (,/i)
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To: TChris
here were seasons when both of them were pitching magnificently and batting respectably as well!

LOL! Koufax never batted well. I recall a game when he got a triple and the entire Dodger team was rolling on the field laughing, it was such an odd event.

49 posted on 12/21/2006 9:27:27 AM PST by Jeff Chandler (Barack Hussein Obama)
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To: upchuck
IMHO, baseball needs a shot clock like basketball and football. I think 30 seconds would be generous.

Nonsense. Baseball is perfect. Pure symmetry.

What baseball is missing are teams. Teams with players that fans can attach their loyalties to before they blow to another city.

50 posted on 12/21/2006 9:34:59 AM PST by zarf
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