1965: Koufax's Perfect Game

By Chris Rewers on Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cubs have now played 7,162 games since they were last no-hit - the longest such streak among the 20 major league teams that were in existence at that time. On Sept. 9, 1965, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax pitched his fourth career no-hitter and made it a perfect game, retiring all 27 Cubs he faced in the Dodgers' 1-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.

sandykoufax.jpg

Koufax's gem was selected in a 1995 poll of members of the Society for American Baseball Research as the greatest game ever pitched.

Anytime a pitcher loses a 1-0 game, it is usually referred to as a "tough-luck" loss - but "tough luck" doesn't adequately describe the fortunes of four losing pitchers in baseball history. To wit:

* On Oct. 2, 1908, Ed Walsh of the White Sox struck out 15 and tossed a four-hitter but lost 1-0 to the host Cleveland Naps when their ace, Addie Joss, needed just 74 pitches to complete a perfect game.

* On May 2, 1917 at Weeghman Park (now Wrigley Field), Jim "Hippo" Vaughn of the Cubs held Cincinnati without a hit for 9 1/3 innings. Through nine innings, he struck out 10 and had not allowed a baserunner past first base. Vaughn, however, allowed an unearned run and a hit in the 10th. His counterpart, Fred Toney, tossed a 10-inning no-hitter.

* On May 26, 1959, Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix hurled 12 perfect innings against host Milwaukee. Haddix lost his perfect game in the bottom of the 13th when the leadoff hitter reached on an error and later in the inning lost his no-hitter and the game courtesy of a Joe Adcock RBI double.

The Cubs starting pitcher opposing Koufax that night in 1965 was journeyman left-hander Bob Hendley. The 26-year-old Hendley was in the fifth season of an undistinguished major league career. He won just 48 games in the big leagues and finished the 1965 campaign with a 4-4 record. But Hendley surrendered just one hit against the Dodgers - one of 74 complete-game one-hitters by Cubs pitchers since 1900 - and lost. Hendley permitted just two baserunners.

Current Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo, who played third base that night for the eighth-place Cubs, has told the story that the Cubs were masochistically looking forward to facing Koufax because a scouting report said that Koufax was tipping his pitches out of the stretch.

The problem was that no Cubs reached base; Koufax worked out of a windup the entire game.

After Don Young popped out to open the game, the Cubs' next hitter, Glenn Beckert, ripped a line drive down the left-field line that was barely foul. Beckert took a called third strike on a Koufax curveball.

When Beckert returned to the dugout, he was approached by his roommate, Santo.

"Rooms, what's he got? Santo asked.

"We've got him tonight," Beckert responded. "He's not throwing anything."

Beckert gets red-faced when asked about it today.

"A perfect game is a lot to throw!" Beckert told WGN-TV's Bob Vorwald. "Santo tells that story all the time, but I can't get out of it. It's the truth."

Hendley surrendered the game's only run in the fifth inning. Lou Johnson walked on a 3-and-2 pitch and advanced to second on a Ron Fairly sacrifice bunt. Hendley, who fielded the bunt, may have had a play at second but dropped the ball before recovering to throw out Fairly at first.

On the first pitch to the next hitter, Jim Lefebvre, Johnson took off for third. Cubs catcher Chris Krug's throw sailed well over the head of a leaping Santo at third and into left field, allowing Johnson to come around to score.

Hendley carried a no-hitter into the seventh before surrendering a two-out bloop double to right by Johnson.

Koufax struck out the side in the eighth and had 11 strikeouts as he strode to the mound in the ninth to face the bottom of the Cubs order.

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was on the call:

"Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the 9th, nineteen hundred and 65, he made the toughest walk of his career, I'm sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game. He has struck out 11, he has retired 24 consecutive batters, and the first man he will look at is catcher Chris Krug, big right-hand hitter, flied to second, grounded to short. Dick Tracewski is now at second base and Koufax ready and delivers: curveball for a strike.

"0-and-1 the count to Chris Krug. Out on deck to pinch hit is one of the men we mentioned earlier as a possible, Joey Amalfitano. Here's the strike one pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike two. And you can almost taste the pressure now. Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too as he backs out, heaves a sigh, took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate.

"Tracewski is over to his right to fill up the middle, Kennedy is deep to guard the line. The strike two pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball one. Krug started to go after it and held up and Torborg held the ball high in the air trying to convince Vargo but Eddie said nossir. One-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. It is 9:41 p.m. on September the 9th. The 1-2 pitch on the way: curveball, tapped foul off to the left of the plate.

"The Dodgers defensively in this spine-tingling moment: Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg. The boys who will try and stop anything hit their way: Wes Parker, Dick Tracewski, Maury Wills and John Kennedy; the outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairly. And there's 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. Twenty nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine paid.

"Koufax into his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball, fouled back out of play. In the Dodger dugout Al Ferrara gets up and walks down near the runway, and it begins to get tough to be a teammate and sit in the dugout and have to watch. Sandy back of the rubber, now toes it. All the boys in the bullpen straining to get a better look as they look through the wire fence in left field. One-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. Koufax, feet together, now to his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball outside, ball two. (Crowd boos.)

"A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts. The pitch was outside, Torborg tried to pull it over the plate but Vargo, an experienced umpire, wouldn't go for it. Two-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. Sandy reading signs, into his windup, 2-2 pitch: fastball, got him swingin'!

"Sandy Koufax has struck out 12. He is two outs away from a perfect game.

"Here is Joe Amalfitano to pinch hit for Don Kessinger. Amalfitano is from Southern California, from San Pedro. He was an original bonus boy with the Giants. Joey's been around, and as we mentioned earlier, he has helped to beat the Dodgers twice, and on deck is Harvey Kuenn. Kennedy is tight to the bag at third, the fastball, a strike. 0-and-1 with one out in the ninth inning, 1 to nothing, Dodgers. Sandy reading, into his windup and the strike one pitch: curveball, tapped foul, 0-and-2. And Amalfitano walks away and shakes himself a little bit, and swings the bat. And Koufax with a new ball, takes a hitch at his belt and walks behind the mound.

"I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.

"Sandy fussing, looks in to get his sign, 0-and-2 to Amalfitano. The strike two pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike three!

"He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin' up.

"So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the 9th, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch, a fastball for a strike! He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that's gone unnoticed. Sandy ready and the strike one pitch: very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That's only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off -- he took an extremely long stride to the plate -- and Torborg had to go up to get it.

"One-and-1 to Harvey Kuenn. Now he's ready: fastball, high, ball two. You can't blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while Kuenn just waiting. Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike two!

"It is 9:46 p.m.

"Two-and-2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch:

"Swung on and missed, a perfect game!"

(38 seconds of cheering.)

"On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that 'K' stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X."

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