Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy (P.S.)

by Jane Leavy

Hardcover, 2010



Call number




Harper Perennial (2010), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 288 pages


In an era when too many heroes have been toppled from too many pedestals, Sandy Koufax stands apart and alone, a legend who declined his own celebrity. As a pitcher, he was sublime, the ace of baseball lore. As a human being, he aspired to be the one thing his talent and his fame wouldn't allow: a regular guy. A Brooklyn kid, he was the product of the sedate and modest fifties who came to define and dominate baseball in the sixties. In Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, former award-winning Washington Post sportswriter Jane Leavy delivers an uncommon baseball book, vividly re-creating the Koufax era, when presidents were believed and pitchers aspired to go the distance. He was only a teenager when Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley proclaimed him "the Great Jewish Hope" of the franchise. But it wasn't until long after the team had abandoned Brooklyn that the man became the myth. Old-fashioned in his willingness to play when he was injured and in his acute sense of responsibility to his team, Koutax answered to an authority higher than manager Walter Alston. When he refused to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, he inadvertently made himself a religious icon and an irrevocably public figure. A year later, he was gone -- done with baseball at age thirty. No other sports hero had retired so young, so well, or so completely. Despite Sandy Koufax's best efforts to protect his privacy, his legend has grown larger ever since. Part biography, part cultural history, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy gets as close to that legend as he will allow. Through meticulous reporting and interviews with five hundred of his friends, teammates, and opponents, Leavy penetrates the mythology to discover a man more than worthy of myth.… (more)




User reviews

LibraryThing member ehines
Better than your average player bio. But Koufax is more interesting than your average player. Definitely a bit too long on Koufax the Jewish hero, perhaps a bit too long on Koufax the Jew. And the book suffers from Koufax's failure to cooperate--lots of other people talking about Koufax, very little from Koufax himself. And unfortunately Koufax who, seemingly, people had a great need for--they had roles he needed to play--that Jewish hero, that rebel, that humanitarian, that recluse, that intellectual, that square peg, whatever. Unfortunately Koufax lost a great opportunity here to put something a bit more solid and a bit less wishful at the center of all that. Leavy would have done him proud, I think. But maybe he's just as well people have their Koufaxes and he'l keep his to himself.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stevejm51
Sandy Koufax was always a class act, and Jane Leavy explores why in her excellent book about the dominating lefty. He loved to pitch and get out hitters, but all the hoopla and fan craziness was not for him. It embarrassed him. Leavy structured the book around Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs, and it works pretty well. I didn't know that he and Don Drysdale were the first baseball players to hold out for a better contract. Though not 100 percent successful, they opened the door for others to follow. An engrossing read.… (more)
LibraryThing member homan9118
The book was alternating chapters, with one chapter being about his life story, and the next chapter being about his perfect game against the Cubs. Each chapter about the perfect game was one inning per chapter. By the time I was reaching the climax of the perfect game I was becoming more and more knowledgeable about Koufax, and found myself emotionally touched by the baseball game as I came to know more about Sandy Koufax the man. It was a good book, for sure. Leavy did a pretty good job with it, although sometimes her writing seemed kind of... awkward? It just seemed at times she would say things that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. It wasn't enough to ruin the book though, as I still enjoyed it.… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
In the years of Koufax's ascendancy, my family was still reeling from the Dodgers' desertion. So we ignored them as much as we could, which meant that apart from a vague impression of a super pitcher, I did not know much about Koufax until reading this book. An excellent account of his career and a valiant attempt to capture the essence of a complex man who tends still to be put into convenient boxes.… (more)
LibraryThing member ghr4
Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is a well-crafted biography of one of the most talented but least understood sports figures of the 20th century. Though handicapped by virtually no input from Koufax himself, Leavy, through extensive quotes and anecdotes from many of those around him over the years, still manages to shape a fairly vivid portrait of a very private man whose remarkable pitching prowess thrust him into baseball's spotlight.

The book's structure interweaves two threads, with chapters alternating between an inning-by-inning account of Koufax's 1965 perfect game pictched against the Chicago Cubs, and the chronicle of his life and ascendant baseball career. Leavy provides insight into the early struggles with his control, and the pain through which he pitched during the dominant final five years with the Dodgers. The author also explores the elements of Koufax's Jewish heritage: the occasional undercurrents of anti-Semitism; his decision to not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year; how he broke stereotypes; and how he eternally embodied the pride of the Jewish community.

Leavy has a good feel for the nuances of baseball and the rhythm of the game, and she exhibits flashes of lyrical prose. Sandy Koufax's elusiveness remains at the core of his mystique. The epilogue puts his career in perspective, and hints at his life after baseball. The final paragraph beautifully tied it all together, putting a little lump in my throat and a smile on my face.
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