Monday, June 6, 2011

#429 Bobby Thomson

On September 9, 1965 the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax and Bob Hendley of the Cubs squared off in Dodger Stadium. The result was a remarkable game that ended in an hour and forty three minutes with Koufax having pitched his fourth no-hitter and only perfect game while Hendley had allowed only one hit to go with an unearned run. The game set records for fewest combined hits (1) and fewest base-runners (3).

Around an inning-by-inning account of that amazing game author Jane Leavy weaves the story of Sandy Koufax' life and career. Sandy Koufax A Lefty's Legacy was written without his cooperation but Leavy was still able to throughly explore one of baseball's more interesting superstars. 

Leavy was able, through scores of interviews, to examine a guy who was (and still is) a very private person who made his living at the position that least lends itself to privacy. It's hard to hide when you are standing alone on a pitching mound and every eye is focused on you. She deals with his Jewish religion and the way that played into his career, his relationship with black teammates with whom he felt a bond, his time spent in the television industry as an NBC broadcaster and many other subjects. 

I found it hard to put down and it increased my admiration for a player who has always been among my very favorite athletes. I especially liked how she wove in Vin Scully's play-by-play account of the final inning of the game. Great stuff.

Sandy Koufax struck out 2396 hitters in his brilliant career. The very first was Bobby Thomson on June 24, 1955 in the fifth inning of a Dodger 8-2 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. Koufax entered the game in relief of Johnny Podres and immediately loaded the bases on a single, an error and a walk. He them fanned Thomson and got Joe Adcock to ground into a double play. 

Of course Thomson is best remembered for his "Shot Heard 'Round The World", the homer off Ralph Branca that sent his New York Giant club to the 1951 World Series. When Thomson was fanned by Koufax in '55 the two opponents were heading in opposite directions on the ladder of baseball fame. Thomson had a couple of seasons as a regular still to come but his days as an All Star outfielder were in his past. We know where Sandy Koufax went.

My copy of Bobby Thomson's '59 Topps looks decent from the front. OK, maybe it does have a pink frame, but I like how his lopsided smile accentuates the off "centeredness" of the card. What looks crummy is the oily appearing stain that mars the back. I have a few like this and not surprisingly they all came from the same eBAY lot. Luckily it was a very inexpensive lot.

The Last Boy is Jane Leavy's latest baseball bio. It's on my shelf at the moment, awaiting my attention. It's received good reviews and I'm looking forward to it. 

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