• U.S.

Baseball: Sad Day for Sandy

2 minute read

Los Angeles fans were ready to forgive and forget. So what if the Dodgers tied for sixth place last year. That was a fluke. Now Johnny Podres was fogging in fastballs the way he used to in the old Brooklyn days. Leftfielder Tommy Davis, whose batting average plummeted to .275 last year, was hitting like Babe Ruth in the Grapefruit League. Maury Wills was stealing every base in sight, tied down or not. And how about Sandy Koufax? “My arm feels perfect,” proclaimed Lefthander Koufax, who celebrated by pitching two complete games and striking out 15. Bookmakers installed the Dodgers as 2-1 favorites to win the National League pennant.

They should have known better. Most people who play Russian roulette have better luck than Koufax. In 1962 he was laid up with a circulatory ailment called Raynaud’s Phenomenon. It might have affected any of ten fingers, but it settled in the left index finger, the one that controls the curve. So much for that season. Sandy won 25 games in 1963, figured to do even better last year, when he picked up his 19th in August. If only he hadn’t jammed his left elbow sliding into base.

In Florida last week, Koufax got up one morning to find that his left arm was stiff and swollen. General Manager Buzzie Bavasi packed him off to Los Angeles for X rays. The verdict: at 29 he has a “traumatic arthritic condition” in his pitching elbow that flares up under “repeated stress”—throwing a baseball, for instance. Koufax cannot pitch the Dodgers’ season opener, and there is no telling when he will be back in action—if at all. There is, of course, no cure for arthritis. Said Bavasi: “I am resetting the club right now, with the idea that Sandy won’t be with us.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com