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Greatest moments in Dodger history No. 4: Sandy Koufax’s perfect game

Sandy Koufax
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues

I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.

Up next is perfection.

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No. 4: Sandy Koufax’s perfect game (126 first-place votes, 29,263 points)

Sandy Koufax after his fourth no-hitter.
Sandy Koufax after his fourth no-hitter, which was a perfect game.
(Associated Press)

There have been hundreds of thousands of games played in the history of Major League Baseball. In 1995, the Society for American Baseball research, a group filled with historians, statisticians and those who love the game, were asked to pick the best-pitched game in history. The result: The perfect game pitched by Sandy Koufax on Sept. 9, 1965 against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.

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A quick capsule of that game looks like this:

First inning: Donald Young pops to second. Glenn Beckert and Billy Williams strikes out looking.

Second inning: Ron Santo fouls to the catcher. Ernie Banks strikes out swinging. Byron Browne lines to center.

Third inning: Chris Krug flies to center. Don Kessinger flies to right. Bob Hendley strikes out looking.

Fourth inning: Young fouls to first. Beckert flies to right. Williams strikes out looking.

Fifth inning: Santo flies to left. Banks strikes out swinging. Browne grounds to short.

Sixth inning: Krug grounds to short. Kessinger grounds to third. Hendley strikes out swinging.

Seventh inning: Young strikes out swinging. Beckert flies to right. Williams flies to left.

Eighth inning: Santo strikes out looking. Banks and Browne strike out looking.

Ninth inning: Krug strikes out swinging. Joey Amalfitano, batting for Kessinger, strikes out swinging. Harvey Kuenn, batting for Hendley, strikes out swinging.

27 batters, 27 outs, 14 by strikeout.

Of course, don’t remind Bob Hendley, the Cubs starter, of that. He probably pitched the best game in a losing effort in history, giving up only one hit in the game and losing, 1-0, on an unearned run.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hendley walked Lou Johnson. Ron Fairly sacrificed. Johnson stole third and scored when catcher Chris Krug threw the ball over the third baseman’s head.

The Dodgers’ lone hit came in the bottom of the seventh, a double by Johnson.

“It’s a shame Hendley had to get beat that way,” Koufax said after the game. “But I’m glad we got the run or we might have been here all night.”

Kuenn, a former batting champion, made the last out of the game.

After the count on final batter Harvey Kuenn went to 2 and 1, Kuenn swung at a pitch off the strike zone.

“I went for a bad pitch,” Kuenn said. “But the last one was a strike. He was throwing. He was throwing real hard.”

Kuenn also made the last out in Koufax’s 1963 no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants.

Amazingly, Dodger Stadium was only half full, with only 29,139 in attendance. Most people listened to the perfect game on the radio, and Vin Scully’s call of the final inning has become oft-quoted by Dodgers fans even to this day.

The Dodgers provided a transcript of the ninth inning, which is reprinted here in its entirety.

“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 center, 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 1 pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 2. 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 2 pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball 1. 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 ‘No sir’. 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 2. (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 1 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 2 pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 3!

“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 1 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 2. 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 2!

“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.”

Previous greatest moments

No. 5: Winning the 2020 World Series

No. 6: Orel Hershiser’s scoreless innings streak

No. 7: Dodgers win the 1963 World Series

No. 8: Fernandomania

No. 9: Vin Scully’s final game at Dodger Stadium

No. 10: Maury Wills sets the stolen base record

No. 11: Dodgers move to L.A.

No. 12: Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings streak

No. 13: Four straight homers against the Padres

No. 14: Sandy Koufax’s shutout in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series

No. 15: Dodgers win 1981 World Series

No. 16: Roy Campanella Night

No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run

No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag

No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series

No. 20: Winning the 1959 World Series

No. 21: Sandy Amorós’ catch in 1955 World Series

No. 22: Cody Bellinger’s catch in 2020 NLDS

No. 23: Justin Turner’s walkoff homer in 2017 NLCS

No. 24: Sandy Koufax strikes out 15 in 1963 World Series Game 1

No. 25: Mike Scioscia’s 1988 NLCS homer

Betts gets drilled

Mookie Betts was hit by a 95-mph fastball in the ninth inning of Monday’s loss to Seattle. On slow-mo, you could actually see his forearm bend where he got hit. Luckily, x-rays showed no break, but he sat out Tuesday’s game because of bruising and swelling.

Padres series

We’ll look at the Padres series in Thursday’s newsletter.

And finally

Listen to Vin Scully’s call of the ninth inning of the perfect game. Click here to listen.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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