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Saturday, December 27, 2003

Christmas At Grandma's 

I've been in Pasco all week, spending time with my grandmother and uncle. There's not a lot going on in Pasco, so I was able to finish "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" while I was there. Some thoughts (Mariner-related and otherwise) about that fine book:

Page 34:

"In Jewish tradition, there is a luftmensch--a person with the capabilities to see things that more accustomed eyes miss. When you're different you think. Unbelonging makes you free."

Leavy quotes Herb Cohen, a boyhood pal of Koufax, describing how Koufax was different from the other kids in their neighborhood of Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn.

True Mariners fans are luftmensches of a sort. What we see, that the more accustomed eyes (Yankees fans in particular) miss, is that, despite the team never reaching the ultimate goal, we've had plenty of great memories and experiences. Furthermore, if the M's never do reach the World Series (I think they will soon), we will continue to watch and to celebrate the most majestic and beautiful sport in the world played at the highest level, and will continue to collect the fond memories. Yankees fans remember whether they won or lost. Mariners fans remember Junior's grace, Edgar's perfect swing, Randy's intimidation, and Ichiro's electricity. In prioritizing the aesthetic, we aren't burdened by wins and losses, but free to appreciate what makes baseball great.

Page 60:

Here Leavy recounts Koufax's September 9, 1965, perfect game versus the Cubs. In the second inning, Leavy contends, Koufax struck Ernie Banks out on a forkball. I haven't researched the origin of the forkball, but I'm interested to know when it was introduced. 1965 is the earliest mention of the pitch that I can recollect. If someone knows more, please let me know.

Page 65:

On the Dodgers' signing of Koufax:

"The Dodgers were...desperate for a Jewish presence, given the demographics of Brooklyn..."

This could be rewritten as
"The Mariners were desperate for a Japanese presence, given the demographics of ownership."

or as
"The Mariners were desperate for another over-30, goateed presence, given the demographics of the team."

I just wish the M's could take players based on their ability or potential rather than how well they fit the mold.

Pages 118 and 123:

You can't write a book about the old Dodgers without a couple of Red Fairly's homespun yarns:

"'This one time, Pete Richert (Dodger relief pitcher) did go out and have a good time and wasn't feeling well the next day and, lo and behold, Koufax was struggling on the mound,' Ron Fairly said. 'And Alston (Dodgers manager at the time) walked out to the mound and asked, 'Sandy, how do you feel?' And Sandy said, 'A lot better than the guy you have warming up.''"

On Koufax's high-velocity throws to first base:
"'Threw it between my legs and chipped my cup,' Fairly would remember. 'It almost killed me.'"

Way to go, Red.

Finally, Bill's father, "Buzzie" Bavasi, was Dodgers GM throughout Koufax's career and is mentioned extensively in Leavy's book. Bill himself even got a passing mention on page 257. It's interesting that Bill owes his baseball career to his dad, who was a capable GM during the time of the reserve clause, a time in which the front office landscape was completely unlike it is today. The primary duty of a GM at that time was to negotiate contracts of players who were bound to play only with one specific team, thereby giving the player only very trivial negotiating leverage. Talent evaluation was the job of the scouts and the coaching staff. In fact, Buzzie played a key role in the Koufax's lack of innings early in his career. So you can see where Bill's baffling sense of talent evaluation comes from. I just hope he doesn't keep Soriano out of the rotation.

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