By: Daniel Wilkins
Sandy Koufax, the southpaw hurler from Brooklyn, is often considered one of the greatest pitchers in Dodgers history. He was such a great pitcher, with nasty breaking balls and insane fastballs. He was on pace to have a three-thousand, maybe even four-thousand strikeout career. Then, suddenly, he retired at age 30 after playing from 1955 to 1966. Not only that, he was coming off a Cy Young-winning season, and he even led the NL in ERA for the past 5 years. The baseball world was absolutely shocked by Koufax’s retirement, and they always wondered why he had hung up the cleats prematurely. Today, in this article, we answer that question: Why did Sandy Koufax retire at such a young age?
First of all, many people praise Koufax for having common sense and retiring before his future injuries caught up with his day-to-day living. Koufax had chronic arthritis in his left arm, and he was afraid that he would lose his ability in his left arm if he kept pitching. When Koufax once said “In those days, there was no surgery”, he was absolutely right. This is before the era of Tommy John, a famed pitcher who was the first pro athlete to recieve the UCL reconstructive surgery that is now second nature to flame-throwing pitchers.
Tommy John surgery, back in the day, wasn’t considered an option, and that’s why you saw many pitchers retiring at very young ages to avoid possible lifelong injuries. Some famous examples include Koufax, Mark Fidrych, Herb Score, and J.R. Richard. They could’ve had longer careers if it weren’t for the inaccessability of modern-day TJS.
But, Koufax’s early retirement didn’t deter Hall of Fame voters. They swiftly voted him into Cooperstown at 36 years old, becoming the youngest player in MLB history to be inducted into Cooperstown.