Sandy Koufax 1960 Los Angeles Dodgers Signed Game Worn Home Jersey
The historic six-season burst of glory that defined Sandy Koufax’s career—a 22-win average, three Cy Youngs, one MVP, two championships—all of it took root in his momentous, cusp-of-greatness 1960 campaign.
At first, the eventual “Left Arm of God” was still widely viewed as a hot-tempered bonus baby who couldn’t harness his immense talents and seemed destined to languish in mound mate Don Drysdale’s shadow. Koufax blamed his limited appearances; Dodger General Manager Buzzie Bavasi blamed Koufax’s erratic performances. The situation finally came to a head in May when Koufax confronted Bavasi inside one of the L.A. Coliseum’s tunnels during pre-game warm-ups. Depending on the story version, Koufax either begged to be traded or threatened to quit baseball altogether, and Bavasi either denied the trade request or offered to buy Koufax’s bus ticket. “Trade him to us,” Giants superstar Willie Mays, who happened to overhear the spat, told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. “He’s got a fastball you can’t see.”
A few days later, however, Koufax hurled a masterful one-hitter. And by season’s end, despite a paltry 8-13 record and 3.91 ERA, he had crept onto the pitching leaderboards. Koufax paced the N.L. in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.13), and he was runner-up in the categories of total strikeouts (197) and hits per 9 innings (6.84). What’s more, for the only time in his career, he ranked first in pitcher fielding percentage (1.000), committing zero errors on the year.
Nonetheless, the future looked dicey. For Bavasi and the Dodger faithful, it was a toss-up as to whether Koufax’s flashes of brilliance meant he’d actually reach his full potential. Even Sandy himself was wracked with doubt and self-loathing—not unlike Marlon Brando’s washed-up boxer in On the Waterfront, who famously lamented, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
Koufax vacillated between toiling away as a second-tier veteran and just throwing in the towel to go pursue his side-business in electronics. “He had a year of college,” Dodger teammate Ed Roebuck recalled in Jane Leavy’s 2002 bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy. “He wasn’t as hopeless as the rest of us. He was either going to become a real good pitcher or quit. He couldn’t cope with mediocrity. He wouldn’t stand for it.”
And quit Koufax did—symbolically, at least. As Leavy describes:
After the Dodgers’ final game in 1960, he tossed his gloves, his spikes, and his dreams into the trash bin, keeping one mitt in case he wanted to play softball in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Nobe Kawano, the clubhouse man, watched as he threw his career away. “If you want to quit, go ahead,” Kawano said. “But I wish you’d leave your arm.” When the clubhouse emptied and only the season’s dirty laundry remained, Kawano retrieved Koufax’s gear from the trash, packing it away to be shipped to Florida for spring training.
Fortunately, Koufax did decide to suit up once more in ’61. Thus began the best flurry of mound excellence since Dizzy Dean dazzled back in the 1930s. Koufax then retired in his prime after the 1966 season, only to become, at 36, the youngest-ever inductee to the Hall of Fame.
So exceedingly rare are Sandy Koufax’s game garments that this offering—from the key turning point in his brief yet epic career—represents the only Koufax jersey that our firm’s executives have handled in their more than decade-long auction history. Likewise, the third-party authentication company MEARS has never given its stamp of approval to any other Koufax gamer (of the three prospects ever submitted, all three were summarily rejected).
Now publicly available for the very first time, this all-original, completely unrestored jersey entered the hobby about 30 years ago directly from a San Francisco Giants scout (whose other personal keepsakes at the time included a Willie Mays Adirondack bat and an Ed Roebuck early-1960s road jersey). Every correct marker is present for the type and year: Koufax” and “60” chain-stitched in Dodger blue on the left front tail; “Dodgers” and “32” in felt lettering/numerals across the chest; “32” in felt numerals (minor surface pilling) on the
reverse; three appropriate tail tags with laundry instructions, “SET 1 1960,” and size “44”; and, in an ironic touch of Cooperstown destiny, the “Rawlings Hall of Fame Flannel” tail label.
Preservation-wise, the lightly worn jersey shows a peach-hued discoloration along the right collarbone and light toning on the left shoulder. There is a scattering of small holes and tears ranging from infinitesimal to negligible to, in a couple of instances, slightly under dime-sized. However, these unobtrusive flaws are isolated primarily to the upper torso, with no impact to the felt characters. Koufax’s vintage felt-tip autograph appears on the right front tail, measures a dramatic 5-1/2” in length, and rates “8” in strength.