Bull Pennings: The Koufax files

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

GLENDALE, Ariz. – From the cutting room floor, the Sandy Koufax stuff that didn't fit into the column:

Talking about how much he's enjoying these Dodgers during his stay in camp this spring, the Hall of Famer reeled off a great line:

“If everybody stays healthy and everybody lives up to their expectations here, this is a great ballclub. There are a lot of talented people in this camp.”

Pause. Grin.

“The best team money can buy.”

Koufax, 77, still loves to talk pitching, loves to teach and seems to relate well to today's players. So why hasn't he made a regular habit of coming to spring training?

More on Spring Training
Related links
More on Dodgers
More MLB coverage

“Everything on the field is always fun,” he says. “I'm not sure what happens with the other … people following you home, whatever. The kids are great. It's fun. I've been impressed. There are a lot of talented people here.”

Free agent starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has told people this spring that even people in South Korea know of Koufax.

“Probably Chan Ho Park spread that,” Koufax quips.

He's so unassuming, yet to know that his fame extends across international borders?

“I don't think about that,” he says. “That has nothing to do with how I live my life.”

The rhythm of spring training is vastly different today than when Koufax was playing, both on and off the field.

“There are so much more … you look at the weight room,” Koufax says. “A heavy bat was the weight room. There was nothing like that. I think we threw more, I'm not sure we were in as good a shape. We threw and we ran, that's what pitchers did.

“A lot of what goes on here is more protection, trying to get strong enough not to get hurt. Throwing is still throwing. But you have to keep people healthy.

“An organization is 150 people. My first year (1955, at 19 years old), there were 600-and-some-odd people in camp. If 100 go down, you sign another 100. Survival of the fittest. Here, you're trying to keep everybody the fittest.”

Koufax's thoughts on modern pitch counts?

“It's the same thing,” he says. “It's protection. You're protecting your assets, of which you don't have that many.”

Since his shocking and premature retirement in 1966 because of an arthritic elbow, Koufax has been around the Dodgers off and on. He has never worn another uniform. Given their new and deep-pocketed ownership, is this the best he's felt about them?

“I think they're trying to make things better,” he says. “You go to spring training, there's always energy. Nobody goes to spring training figuring they're going to lose.”

Having retired early with a bad elbow, how is it now? Does it give him any pain?

“You haven't seen me throw anything, have you?” he asks.

Does it ache?

“No."

He says ball movement remains the single most important aspect of pitching. And Clayton Kershaw is his favorite pitcher. “He's a special guy on the mound and off the mound,” Koufax says. “He's a good guy.”

Many Dodgers fans are hoping the lefty Kershaw and right-handed Zack Greinke will become a modern-day version of the lefty Koufax and right-handed Don Drysdale, the Dodgers' dominant one-two punch in the 1960s. Koufax's thoughts on that?

“I hope so,” he says. “At least, in our good years. And if Josh Beckett gets back to where he was a few years ago, this becomes an awesome staff.”

Kershaw flew to spring training a year or two ago and happened to be sharing the same plane as Koufax. He emerged telling people he learned more about pitching in two hours of sitting next to Koufax than he had ever learned before.

“That's nice of him,” Koufax says. “But he knew a lot going in. If you hang around intelligent people, you look smart.”

Sunblock Day? Probably, yes. But when it's in the 40s at 9 a.m. and when you still need a jacket during the workout from, roughly, 10 a.m. until noon, it's hard to remember sunblock.

Likes: Watching the fans watch Sandy Koufax at Dodgers camp. Few people I've seen carry the aura Koufax has. So graceful, so regal. The only guy I can recall that made players swoon like Koufax was a few years ago when Muhammad Ali visited the Angels. … Watching the Dodgers interact with Koufax. They are in awe. … Vin Scully gets all the love, all of it deserved, but the Dodgers' Spanish language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin is absolutely fabulous, too. What a sweetheart of a guy. He's been broadcasting the club since 1959. ... The Oscars on Sunday night. My personal movie ratings: 1. Silver Linings Playbook. 2. Lincoln. 3. Argo. 4. Zero Dark Thirty. … Daniel Day Lewis has to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abe Lincoln, doesn't he? And my vote for Best Actress would go to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings. She was absolutely fabulous in Winter's Bone, too. ... The cheese enchiladas at Tee Pee, the classic Mexican joint in Phoenix. Oh, and the margaritas, too. Figured I'd better have one of those Friday on National Margarita Day. ... Best Coast's The Only Place. Good disc.

Dislikes: That Ernie Harwell is no longer with us to deliver the annual poetic opening to spring training games that he would read on the air each February before the Tigers' first game, which follows as my Rock ‘n' Roll Lyric of the Day. …

Rock ‘n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

“For, lo, the winter is past

“The rain is over and gone

“The flowers appear on the earth

“The time of the singing of birds is come

“And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land”

-- Song of Solomon, 2:12

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre

mlb Video

December 19, 2014
Justin Upton traded to Padres (2:18)
December 17, 2014
Boomer & Carton: Chase Headley will start at 3B
(4:14)
December 11, 2014
Jim Rome: Dodgers' overhaul
(2:13)
December 10, 2014
John Smoltz on the Doug Gottlieb Show
(7:06)

Latest

Most Popular

CBSSports.com Shop

College Bowl Bound

Free 2-Day Shipping over $100!
Use code 2DAY100
Get their favorite team
Shop Now