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On This Date in Sports: October 14, 1965: Koufax in Game 7

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Pitching on two days rest, Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches a three-hit shutout in Game 7 of the World Series. The Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 for their third World Championship since 1959. Koufax became the first player to win the World Series MVP twice, as he also had a shutout in Game 5, finishing 2-1 in the series after skipping Game 1 to observe Yom Kippur. 

Ever since the original Washington Senators moved and became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, they had been a team on the rise. The Twins had back-to-back 90-win seasons in 1962 and 1963, but took a step backward in 1964, posting a record of 79-83. In 1965, the New York Yankees’ dynasty came to a crashing end as they suffered their first losing season in 40 years. This opened the door for a new contender to win the pennant. The Twins, managed by Sam Mele, walked through that door and won the pennant with a record of 102-60 as shortstop Zoilo Versalles was named American League MVP. 

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers bounced back from a disappointing 1964 season, which saw them finish at 80-82.  The 1965 World Series was the first to feature teams that had losing records in the previous season. However, the Dodgers were no strangers to the Fall Classic, sweeping the New York Yankees in 1983. The Dodgers posted a record of 97-65, beating the San Francisco Giants by two games as Sandy Koufax won the Cy Young for the second time. 

When the World Series began at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, Sandy Koufax was unable to pitch. He was home observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which is the holiest day of the year. Starting instead for the Dodgers was Don Drysdale. The Twins had Jim “Mudcat” Grant get the start. During the season, he was the first black pitcher to win 20 games in the American League. Ron Fairly gave LA the lead with a home run in the second. Don Mincher answered in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. In the third inning, the Twins got a three-run home run from Zoilo Versalles to take the lead. The Twins added three more runs as Earl Battey had a two-run single, and Frank Quilici had a single to score a fifth run inning the inning. Versalles drove in another run in the seventh as the Twins took the opener 8-2. 

Sandy Koufax took the mound for Game 2 and was opposed by Jim Kaat, the quick fielding lefty for the Twins. Both pitchers were outstanding, as no runs were scored in the first five innings. In the sixth inning, the Twins broke through as Tony Oliva had an RBI double and scored on a single by Harmon Killebrew. Johnny Roseboro singled in a run for the Dodgers to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Twins got a third run in the seventh, as reliever Ron Perranoski uncorked a wild pitch. In the eighth Kaat, an excellent hitting pitcher knocked in a pair of runs, as the Twins won the game 5-1. 

Down 2-0, the Dodgers sought the refuse of Dodger Stadium as Claude Osteen took the mound against Camilo Pascual. In the fourth inning, the Dodgers got on the board with a two-run single by Johnny Roseboro. The Dodgers added to the lead with a double by Lou Johnson in the fifth inning. Maury Wills added an RBI in the sixth as the Dodgers won the game 4-0. Osteen allowing just five hits. 

Don Drysdale and Mudcat Grant faced each other again in Game 4. Drysdale was much sharper on his home mound, as the Dodgers scratched out runs in the first two innings. In the fourth inning, Minnesota got on the board with a home run by Harmon Killebrew. The Dodgers answered with a home run by Wes Parker. After a home run by Tony Oliva in the sixth, Los Angeles answered again, as Ron Fairly singled in a pair of runs and later scored on a hit by Lou Johnson. Johnson later added a home run, as the Dodgers won 7-2 to even the series at two games apiece. 

Sandy Koufax and Jim Kaat opposed each other again in Game 5. The Dodgers jumped on Kaat right away as Maury Wills led off with a double and scored on a single by Jim Gilliam. Gilliam later scored on an error, as the Dodgers sought to take control of the series. The Dodgers added two more runs in the third, as Lou Johnson had an RBI single and scored on a double by Ron Fairly. The Dodgers would add three more runs, winning 7-0 as Koufax allowed four hits and struck out ten batters.

Back in Bloomington, the Twins now faced elimination with Mudcat Grant pitching on two days’ rest. Claude Osteen got the start for the Dodgers, who were seeking to win a World Championship. The Twins scored first as Bob Allison hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning. In the sixth inning, Grant boosted the lead with a three-run home run following an intentional walk to Frank Quilici. Ron Fairly hit a home run in the seventh, as the Twins won 5-1 to force a seventh game. 

The drama was set with Jim Kaat and Sandy Koufax, each starting on two days’ rest. After three scoreless innings, the Dodgers got the first run of the game on a home run by Lou Johnson to lead off the fourth inning. Ron Fairly followed with a double and scored on a single by Wes Parker to send Kaat to the showers. The Dodgers would not score again, as Sandy Koufax dominated, allowing just three hits while striking out ten batters as the Dodgers won 2-0 to capture the World Championship.