“Pitching is the art of instilling fear”…Sandy Koufax

Early Professional History

Koufax joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and immediately was part of a World Championship team. Team success may have come fast, but as an individual pitcher, Koufax compiled a 54 win, 53 loss records for the next 7 years. He was average at best. He credited Dodgers catcher Norm Sherry and others with changing his pitching delivery, which improved his control, and changing his grip on his curveball to make it break away from the hitters. Over the rest of his career, Sandy Koufax dominated the pitching mound for five consecutive seasons with his explosive fastball and sharp breaking curveball. From 1962 thru 1966, Koufax won five consecutive ERA titles and compiled an unheard of record of 111-34, a winning pct of .766. He was picked for six straight All-Star games. Koufax led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts for three consecutive seasons. In 1963, he hurled 11 shutouts and had a record of 25-5, pct of .833, he seemed unbeatable in the mid-1960.

Sandy Koufax dominated the World Series games with his curve as he struck out 15 New York Yankees in game one. He came back to win game four with a 2-1 victory and helped the Dodgers sweep the Yankees in four games. In 1965, he won his second Cy Young Award, as he went 26-8 and set the Major League record by striking out 382 would-be hitters. Koufax also pitched his fourth career no-hitter and had 8 shutouts. (www.baseballhistorian.com)

Because of the no hitters and his domination, collectors pay big premiums to own jerseys, gloves, or caps worn by Koufax. Hobbyists covet any documented example. We have examined Koufax game used equipment for MEARS and have spoken with other hobbyists that have authentic items in their collections, but none own a game used bat. Pitching made Koufax famous, but hitting was also part of the game during Koufax’s time. During his career, Koufax batted in 397 games in 776 at bats, managed 75 hits, 2 HR’s, 28 RBI’s, and compiled a .097 Batting Average. To compile those stats, Koufax ordered bats from Louisville Slugger. Although all of the fore-mentioned collectibles are rare, a Koufax bat is the rarest of all Koufax game used items.

Review of the Louisville Slugger bat records confirm that the company manufactured a grand total of 19 bats which were sent to Koufax. Dave Bushing has never owned or inspected a Koufax bat before examining the Marshall Fogel example. No Koufax bat has been graded and none appear in the Official MEARS Bat Census (copyright). Therefore, as of today’s date, this is the only known Koufax to be examined or graded by MEARS, thus making it a true hobby rarity.

Koufax’s Bat History 1955-1963

According to the Louisville Slugger player personal bat records, Sandy Koufax ordered his first bat on 9-22-55. The records indicated the date ordered, model, length, weight, and wood (A=ash). The order appeared in the records as:

9-22-55 K55 35” 33 oz A1 World Series

Then, from 1956 to 1963, the majority of the bats ordered by Koufax were for World Series or All Star Game use. On 7-5-63 Koufax ordered his first regular season bat. The bat orders appeared in the records as:

10/1/56 K55 35” 33 oz A1 World Series (A1= one ash bat)
9/28/59 K55 35” 33 oz A1 World Series (A1= one ash bat)
7/06/61 K55 35” 33 oz A1 World Series (A1= one ash bat)
7/06/62 K55 35” 34 oz A1 All Star Game (A1= one ash bat)
2/13/63 K55 35” 34 oz A1 All Star Game (A2= two ash bats)
7/05/63 K55 35” 34 oz A1 Regular Season(A1= one ash bat)
9/25/63 K55 35” 34 oz A1 World Series (A1= one ash bat)

1964 No Hitter Season History and Louisville Slugger Bat Records

The Marshall Fogel game-used MEARS A10 Sandy Koufax bat was manufacturered for use during the 1964 season. According to www.baseballreference.com, Koufax still dominated during the 1964 season. Some of his season highlites included:

» April 14, 1964: Sandy Koufax throws his 9th complete game without allowing a walk as he beats St. Louis 4–0 in his only start as an Opening Day pitcher.

» April 18, 1964: Sandy Koufax fans the side on nine pitches in the 3rd inning, becoming the first National League pitcher to do it twice (and matching Lefty Grove).

» June 4, 1964: Sandy Koufax becomes the 4th pitcher to hurl three no-hitters by blanking the National League-leading Phillies 3–0 at Connie Mack Stadium. Koufax strikes out 12 and walks one.

The Baseball Almanac recounted the no hitter:

“Sandy Koufax nearly had his first perfect game here as he faced the minimum twenty-seven batters, had no errors, but walked one batter in the fourth inning on a 3-2 fastball that many historians considered a strike.

The curveball was described as devastatingly awesome and Sandy Koufax struck out twelve – including every batter, but Cookie Rojas, at least once!

Ninth inning play-by-play: Sandy Koufax struck out Tony Taylor looking with a 2-2 count for the first out. Ruben Amaro came to the plate swinging and on the first pitch hit a pop-up behind first base that was easily caught by Ron Fairly for the second out. Bobby Wine was called on to pinch hit and he fouled off a pitch, which hit the umpire, Ed Vargo, in the throat.

The game was delayed for a few moments and Koufax did not appear to be bothered as he tossed four more pitches to Wine who struck out swinging for the final out!”

» August 16, 1964: Sandy Koufax (19-5) pitches a 3–0 win against St. Louis, but he will miss the rest of the season because of a elbow injury suffered when he slid back into 2B against Milwaukee on August 8. In the nightcap, Curt Simmons matches Koufax with a 4–0 shutout of the Dodgers. Card CF Curt Flood has eight straight hits in the doubleheader split.

Koufax Creates the K112 Model

During the 1964 season, Koufax batted in 29 games, 74 at bats, 7 hits, one RBI, and compiled a .095 Batting Average. Koufax needed a bat and this examined example was most likely used during this season to compile these numbers.

From Koufax’s first season in 1955 through 1963, his model bat did not change much. He ordered a standard K55 model measuring 35” and weighing from 33 to 34 ounces. During the 1964 season, Koufax requested a new bat be made with some special modifications. The actual Louisville Slugger bat record entry reads:

“Make Model C117L barrel, S2 Handle = K112”

The C117 model was the choice of Joe Cronin. The model was assigned to Joe Cronin on 7/27/33 when he requested a new model bat to be manufactured with a medium barrel with large handle, creating the C117. The “L” designation indicated that the C117 model be made with an even larger knob, hence “L” = large knob.

S2 handle originated from the Vern Stephens model, which was a favorite of stars such as Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews.

When the C117L was combined with the S2, Sandy Koufax had created his very own model, the K112.

Therefore, the K112 model was made exclusively for Sandy Koufax and the rarity of the model factored into the final grade.

1964 Louisville Slugger Shipping Records

3/17/64 K112 35” 33 oz A6 Regular season (A6= six ash bats)
7/01/64 K112 35” 33 oz A1 All Star game (A1= one ash bat)

The period of the label placed the bat in the 1961-64 label period and the model, K112, narrowed it to the 3/17/64 order. Below are the rest of the orders used to compile all 19 bats ever order by Koufax during his Major League career.

1965-66 Louisville Slugger Shipping Records

10/1/65 K112 35” 33 oz A1 World Series (A1=one ash bat)
7/7/66 K112 35” 33 oz A1 All Star Game (the A1 is not noted in the records, a blank space appeared.)
10/3/66 K112 35” 33 oz A1 World Series (A1=one ash bat)

The Marshall Fogel MEARS A10 1964 Sandy Koufax Bat

The Marshall Fogel Sandy Koufax bat was issued during the 1961-64 label period. Due to the fact it was not factory stamped with All Star or World Series, the bat had to have originated from the 3/17/64 order sent to the Dodgers for Koufax. The 3/17/64 date was early enough in the season that the bat would have been available for use by Koufax on June 4th, 1964. Also, due to the fact that Koufax only had one more bat sent to him, his 1964 All Star Game bat ordered on 7/1/64, it is most likely that this bat is one of the 6 bats that he would had available for him to use during his 1964 No Hitter.

The Model number K112 appeared on the knob, which again was in accordance with the 3/17/64 Louisville Slugger entry.

“KOUFAX” appears in block letter last-name-only on the barrel. Block letter last-name-only stampings were very common for the era and similar examples such as “SPAHN, “SEAVER”, and “FORD” have been examined by MEARS. When the last-name-only appears on the barrel in block letters, this practice is in accordance with the procedures implemented by Louisville Slugger for non-contract users of Louisville’s bats. Since pitchers were not marketable like hitters, contracts were not offered by Louisville Slugger. The signature barrel stampings were reserved for contract only players. Louisville Slugger did notice the demand for bats to be made for pitchers and serviced the orders. But, differentiated the product by changing the barrel signature stampings to block letter last-name-only.

The absence of the factory markings “All Star Game” denotes this bat was issued for use during the regular season.

Additional manufacture characteristics were charted and the bat was found to weigh 33.5 ounces and measure 34 ¾.” Both are within the acceptable variance of the documented 3/17/64 factory record of 35” and 33 ounces.

Finally, the wood choice of ash, round barrel, large knob, and standard finish were examined and recorded on the MEARS patent pending bat grading worksheet.

After examining the label period and model, checking weight and length, inspecting the knob, barrel, wood, and finish, MEARS determined the bat matched the factory records of the one of the 6 bats being sent on 3/17/64 to the Dodgers for use by Sandy Koufax.

The next step of evaluating the bat was to examine player traits and characteristics. The bat was deemed to exhibit significant use. This was manifested in the form of swelling of the grain and visible ball marks. Deeply embedded stitch marks were present along with numerous surface ball marks. Further indication of extended use was the discovery of the approximate 10” handle crack.

Significant use is rarely found on a pitchers bat. Therefore, it is our conclusion that this was a bat favored by Koufax during the 1964 season and used until the cracked handle rendered it useless. Finally, it was noted the bat was signed, Sandy Koufax.

A very unique and Koufax specific marking was found on the knob and barrel. Found in marker was:


(Writing found on knob)

“Pit” was abbreviated for pitcher and 32 was Koufax’s uniform number. The 3 terms in stacked conjunction indicated to us that the bat was marked as such to identify Koufax’s bats.

(Writing found on barrel end)

32 indicating Koufax’s uniform number was found on the barrel end as well as on the knob.

Experience tells us that the ‘Pit, 32, Pit’ writing on the knob and barrel end were vintage and applied during the time the bat was used by Sandy Koufax. This was determined by the fact that the ink had faded and set into the grain of the wood. The freshly applied luster of new ink had long faded and a surface patina had formed from the ink’s repeated contact with dirt, sweat, hands, and the other elements associated with major league baseball. The indication of “Pit,” short for pitcher, was an extremely significant detail that was very important in our evaluation. The uniqueness of its addition cemented the bond of issuance to Koufax with significant game use, thus serving as a documentable player trait and allowing us to award the bat an extra point in the grading.

Final Grade

The authenticators, Dave Bushing and myself, felt that even in the absence of a letter from a player or ballboy, the bat contained all of the needed traits to warrant the grade of a MEARS A10.

Per our definition of an A10, we determined that the following clause of our definition applied:

“Player traits that are unique and specific to examined player are present. Examples include documented player uniform numbers found on knob, vintage autographs, or pine tar or handle tape patterns specific to examined player is evident and documentable. Add up to 2 full points for bats that exhibit a preponderance of traits specifically attributed to a certain player. This occurs when known specific player characteristics are abundant and easily identifiable.“

We felt justified to add “up to 2 full points” for the bat, because in our opinion, there was a preponderance of traits specifically attributed to Sandy Koufax. This opinion was formed based on the evaluation of the shipping records that determined a very small number of regular season issued bats (only 6) were ever shipped to Sandy Koufax. Also, the player identifier found on the knob, “PIT, 32, PIT,” denoting pitcher, 32 (Koufax uniform number) pitcher was a trait unique and specific to Sandy Koufax and it was highly unlikely another player would have used a bat with those notations. Finally, the bat was a model that was manufactured exclusively for Sandy Koufax (K112).

After the final examination was finalized and the worksheet completed, the final points were weighed and the final grade issued:

5 points: Base grade for matching factory records
3 points: Heavy pitchers use
0.5 points: Pinpointed factory order
0.5 points: Uniform number and Pit indication on knob
1 points: The specific model (K112) manufactured exclusively for Koufax along with all of the combined traits mentioned above warranted the addition of one extra point.

10 Points Final Grade= MEARS A10

This 1964 Sandy Koufax bat served as a great example of how the authenticators must use all of the information at their disposal to render an opinion to both authenticity and final grade. Remember, provenance cannot make an item authentic, it can only support it. Provenance was not provided, but in this instance, the uniqueness of the model, label period, and Koufax specific player characteristics with the unique customized writing on the knob and barrel served as a form of physical provenance that was provided at the time the bat was prepared for use by Koufax. Our interpretation of this knob writing acted as a form of physical provenance when found in conjunction with the unique Koufax created model number in the opinion of the MEARS graders.

The purpose of the final grade is to measure both condition (while evaluating use) and the degree of likelihood of game use by examined player. In this particular instance, we felt that the likelihood of use by Sandy Koufax was as near to 100% as any other bat examined with accompanying provenance, therefore, even without an accompanying letter, this bat could receive the grade of MEARS A10. Situations like this are rare, but exciting when they do occur. With the grading system MEARS has adopted we can intellectually take one through the grading process step-by-step, and are confident that you will agree with our conclusions.

Troy R. Kinunen