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A few items of housecleaning before I get into my perfect game:
2) I have been giving you a lot of Dodgers-related content recently due to my trip to Spring Training and subsequent write up about Puig
3) I'm going to write this about the Dodgers
4) After this piece, I'll shut up about the Dodgers unless something major comes along that is fantasy related
It should be noted that I've long been a fan of the pitchers duel. Perhaps this is because I pitched when I played, which was not for long, and not well. My performance aside, the experience of watching someone dominate a game, be it baseball, basketball, football, soccer...anything, is one that we all enjoy. Hate or love a player, watching Messi or Lebron perform at their peak is performance art, but people actually understand it. In baseball, it's rare that a position player can dominate a game. It's too long in between at-bats and too rare that they're involved in enough plays. Pitchers though? Pitchers are involved in every play, controlling the pace and quality of the product.
It should come as no surprise then, that as a fan of the Dodgers (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles) and pitchers in general, that when considering a perfect game, my mind drifts to a time well before I was born. While I didn't get to watch this game, it is nonetheless ingrained in my memory. The year was 1965, and featured two clubs, and pitchers, at very different points in their seasons. Los Angeles entered the September 9 game with a record of 80-61 hosting the 65-77 Chicago Cubs. Taking the mound for the Dodgers would be the illustrious Sandy Koufax, in the midst of a Cy Young winning season (and 2nd in MVP voting). Koufax would finish the season with a 2.04 ERA, 382 strikeouts (!), and 71 walks in 335.2 innings pitched (!). His competition that afternoon was journeyman Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley. Hendley finished the season with a 4.35 ERA in 10 starts, adding 38 strikeouts and 25 walks in 62 innings pitched. Worse still, heading into this game, Hendley's ERA was well north of 8.00 heading into this matchup. This isn't exactly what one would anticipate being a tantalizing game.
Yet, that's precisely what it was. In fact, tantalizing doesn't do it justice. Obviously perfect games need no enhancements, and yet, on September 9, 1965, the crowed was treated to not only a perfect game, but a one-hitter to boot. On the day that baseball legend Sandy Koufax added another entry to his hall of fame career, little known and rarely mentioned Bob Hendley almost matched him step for step. Koufax wasn't facing a dominant Chicago lineup, as one might presume given their record, but it wasn't chopped liver either, as the Cubs trotted out a 3-4-5 of Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. In fact, judging by OPS, those three players were better than anyone in the Dodgers lineup, though LA had a deeper squad overall.
The only run in the game came in the bottom of the 5th inning. "Sweet" Lou Johnson walked to lead off the 5th and proceeded to move to second on a productive out. Johnson stole third and scored when the catcher made an error on the throw. It wasn't until the 7th inning that the first hit of the game came, when once again, Johnson came to the plate. He doubled down the first base line and was left stranded. That's the extent of the action on the hitting side. Pitching wise? Koufax racked up 14 strikeouts en route to his perfect game, setting the record at the time which has since been matched by the San Francisco GiantsMatt Cain.The time of the game? A tidy 1 hour and 43 minutes, another nice aspect to a pitchers duel.
The last and ultimate reason to why this is the perfect perfect game for me? It was called by Vin Scully, of course. I can't truly wax poetic about a game I didn't see. Raised a Dodgers fan though, I've always felt a strong connection to their past and especially to Sandy Koufax. The perfect game for me is a well pitched game in which the Dodgers win. You don't get much closer to that than September 9, 1965.
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