Dodgers Take Seventh Game, Series
BLOOMINGTON – Amazingly, for a series in which the nation discovered how deep the religious convictions ran in Sandy Koufax, by October 14, millions had forgotten that Sandy was Jewish. Weeks before the first game of the 1965 World Series, the left hander had decided that he would forego his start in Game 1 against the Twins to observe Yom Kippur, the most sacred holiday on the Hebrew calendar. The move prompted an outpouring of endless respect from across the globe, but in baseball terms, Dodger skipper Walter Alston was a bit concerned.
With Koufax out of consideration for the opener, it was thought that he would not be able to start three games in the series. That role was to fall onto the other golden boy of Los Angeles, Don Drysdale.
In what was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, Drysdale lost Game 1 at Metropolitan Stadium to Mudcat Grant. The right hander was blown out of the box after a 6-run third inning, mostly in thanks to Dodger errors and a home run by Zoilo Versalles. The second game found Koufax returning, with Twins ace Jim Kaat in his way of a momentum swing. Though they matched each other pitch-for-pitch until the sixth inning, Minnesota would finally got to Sandy, and later triumphed, as Kaat completely shut down the already anemic Dodger offense.
When the scene shifted back to Los Angeles, third stringer Claude Osteen was given the ball for the boys in blue, as well as the pressure to get his team back into the series. Osteen pitched a beautiful 5-hit shutout, ousting the efforts of Camilo Pascual, the Minnesota ace whose tenure dated back to the Washington days of the mid-1950s. Game 4 saw Drysdale redeem himself with an eleven strikeout performance against his Game 1 counterpart, Grant. Though a determined Kaat returned for the Twins in the fifth game, Koufax nearly mirrored Drysdale’s performance of the day before with ten strikeouts. In the locker room, after winning the 7-0 shutout, an exhausted Koufax told broadcaster Vin Scully that he felt like he was 100 years old.
With a Game 6 loss back in Minnesota, Alston was faced with a difficult decision. Being Drysdale’s turn in the rotation, he was an obvious choice. Though, Koufax pitched well in both of his starts, even though he won one of them. Additionally, Sandy had only two days rest, and Alston wondered whether his fatigue would be an issue in a cliching seventh game. In the end, Dodger coach Danny Ozark would approach Koufax at his locker at Metropolitan Stadium on the eve of the last contest. Though it was to be his third start in eight days, Koufax would start for his team. If he got into trouble, Drysdale and Perranoski would be available in the bullpen.
Game 7 started without much fanfare from Scully or Ray Scott regarding Koufax’s decision to observe Yom Kippur, thereby missing the first game of the series. The pregame show simply matched pitcher against pitcher. Koufax would once again face Jim Kaat. With clear skies and temperatures in the 50s, the game got underway in an ominous tone that had nothing to do with the weather. Koufax walked the first two batters, prompting Drysdale to start limbering up in the Dodger pen. With Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro calling for the curveball in those first at bats, Koufax had shook him off again and again. A meeting at the mound found Koufax confessing that his elbow was too sore to throw anything but fastballs. And that was what he did. Cushioned by a two-run homer off the bat of left fielder Sweet Lou Johnson in the fourth, Koufax pitched brilliantly, allowing one hit through the first five innings.
With the afternoon sun waning, Koufax continued his dominance into the ninth. Mounting strikeout after strikeout, he had notched up eight by the beginning of the final frame. Pitching against the heart of the Minnesota order, Koufax had officially entered his 360th inning of the season. Tony Oliva grounded out to third. Killebrew laced a solid single to leftfield. Earl Battey struck out looking. Minnesota’s final opportunity rested on the shoulders of Bob Allison, a formidable slugger who had two batting titles, six home run titles, four All-Star game selections and a Rookie of the Year award under his belt. After a foul, strike and two balls, Allison swung feebly through Koufax’s last fastball of the year.
With the quiet of the lefty’s dominance still hanging over Metropolitan Stadium, the fans orderly filed out. The scoreboard thanked them for being the best fans in the world. Koufax, along with the rest of his teammates walked towards the dugout without any theatrics. When Vin Scully wrapped his arm around Koufax in the club house, he reminded Sandy of his comment after his Game 5 win that he felt like a hundred years old. When Scully asked him how old he felt now, Sandy smiled tiredly and said: “Well, Vinnie, I feel like I’m a hundred and one”.