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On This Date in Sports: September 9, 1965: Pitching Perfection

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Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers becomes the first pitcher to throw four No-Hitters, during his career. Koufax had thrown Ho Hitters in 1962, 1963, and 1964, this time he tops himself by pitching a Perfect Game, with 14 strikeouts. Bob Hendley of the Chicago Cubs nearly matches Koufax, allowing one hit and taking the loss as the Dodgers win 1-0 at Dodger Stadium. 


Sandy Koufax was born on December 30, 1934, in Brooklyn. Better known for basketball, Koufax played baseball at Lafayette High School where he was a teammate with Fred Wilpon. After playing as a walk-on at the University of Cincinnati, Sandy Koufax was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Since he signed for $6,000, he was declared a bonus baby and sent directly to the majors, forcing the Dodgers to demote Tommy Lasorda.


Without pitching in the minors, Sandy Koufax was a project when he made his debut in 1955. Splitting his time between the bullpen and the rotation, Koufax had mediocre numbers over his first five seasons. After posting a record of 8-13 in 1960, Koufax contemplated quitting the game, as he requested to be traded. When he came to spring training in 1961 a scout discovered a hitch in Koufax’s delivery. That season saw Sandy Koufax have a breakout season, winning 18 games while playing in his first All-Star Game. He also set a National League record with 269 strikeouts.


In 1962, Sandy Koufax led the National League with a 2.54 ERA, on June 30th, he tossed his first No-Hitter blanking the expansion New York Mets 5-0 at Dodger Stadium. In 1963, the year he won the first of three Cy Young awards, Sandy Koufax who was also named MVP with 25 wins, a 1.88 ERA, and a record 306 strikeouts tossed his second No-Hitter against the San Francisco Giants on May 11th, in an 8-0 win at Dodger Stadium. The third No-Hitter was on the road in 1964, with the Dodgers beating the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 at Connie Mack Stadium.


The 1965 season may have been the best of Sandy Koufax. He won the pitcher’s Triple Crown for the second time in three years, and won his second Cy Young with 26 wins a 2.04 ERA, and 382 strikeouts, which again set a major league record. Managed by Walter Alston the Dodgers were on the way to the World Series for the second time in three years holding a record of 79-61, while the Chicago Cubs were buried in the second division at 65-76 under Lou Klein.


Sandy Koufax set the tone early, striking out two batters in the first inning. Both Koufax and Bob Hendley were perfect through the first three innings. Koufax had four strikeouts, while Hendley was completely dependent on his fielders. In the fifth inning, Bob Hendley issued a leadoff walk to Lou Johnson. Ron Fairly bunted him over to second. Johnson then stole third, he would come into score on a poor throw by Cubs’ catcher Chris Krug.


Stakes with the lead, Sandy Koufax continued to dominate as he carried the perfect game into the seventh inning, meanwhile, Bob Hendley had not allowed a hit, meaning two pitchers were going for history as the game reached the seventh inning. Hendley’s No-Hit bid when Lou Johnson had a two-out double. It would be the game’s only hit. Sandy Koufax meanwhile finished strong, striking out the final six batters to complete the perfect game, including Harvey Kuenn to end the game. 


Sandy Koufax would win a third Cy Young in 1966 and stunned the baseball world by retiring at the top of his game. His record of 382 strikeouts was topped by Nolan Ryan in 1973. Ryan would also top Koufax with seven no-hitters. The first of Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters was caught by Jeff Torborg, who was behind the plate for the Sandy Koufax perfect game.