One of the reasons that baseball is the greatest game is there are so many ways to measure performances. These measurements are burned into our collective consciousness. When I was growing up, I was given a book that had most of the records and great stars through the history of modern baseball up to the early 1960’s. Numbers like 56, 60, .406 and 714 had an almost legendary significance. Some of those numbers, like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of 56 games and Ted William’s .406 batting average are still the record (the .406 season is the last season anybody batted at least .400.) Babe Ruth’s single season and career home run records, which had existed for so many years, have been replaced. The funny thing is, I don’t know how many homers Barry Bonds finished with.
I am not a baseball fanatic. I just know that baseball and all of the numbers and legendary players just seemed so much bigger when I was a child. As much as I admire the performances of Kershaw and Kemp this year, I stopped being in awe of major league players once I was older than they were. The Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey group were the last players that I really looked up to.
I was in Little League (age 10-12) in 1963 through 1965, a time when the Dodgers were world champions 2 of those years. From my screen name, you probably know my favorite players were Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. I probably ruined my arm trying to pitch like Drysdale. As a dominating pitcher in Little League, I loved to aim at the batter and watch him bail out only to have my curve or maybe it was really a slider break over the plate for a strike. Those were the days before kids were warned not to throw breaking pitches.
1959 was the first time I remember being interested in the Dodgers. This date in 1959 was when Sandy Koufax set the record by striking out 18 batters. But I really did not follow the team until they were in the World Series. I just remember that Larry Sherry was the hero that year. But the 18 strike outs by Koufax set him apart from others even before his first really dominant season in 1962.
The records last until they are broken, but the feelings about the record holders from ones childhood remain. Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless inning record but I am 32and53fan, I don’t even know Hershiser’s uniform number.
This Day in Dodgers History
August 31, 1959 – Tying a major league mark, Sandy Koufax fans 18 Giants to establish a new National League record for a nine-inning in a 5-2 Dodger win at the LA Memorial Coliseum. In 1938, Indians fireballer Bob Feller struck out 18 in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers.