Jul 20

Vin Scully’s brush with Monday Night Football

If you haven’t read the 1964 Robert Creamer feature on Vin Scully, don’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, Scully told Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News that he was approached to be the original play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football.

… Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

Keith Jackson ended up with the job for the first year of “MNF” in the debut year of 1970, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as the analysts. Frank Gifford replaced Jackson in 1971 and stayed on play-by-play until 1985, when Al Michaels came in, and Gifford moved to an analyst until 1997.

“Because of how football was going to be televised, you’d have one or two analysts now in the booth,” Scully said. “I had been doing games with Jim Brown on one side and George Allen on the other, and there were times I wasn’t sure, ‘Do I turn to him first for an opinion?’”

Scully said the emergence of John Madden, who he had as a partner at CBS, “really put the analyst front and center. And baseball picked up on that. The whole business changed in my opinion because of the way ‘Monday Night Football’ did it.”

Change, maybe not for the better, as far as how local baseball broadcasts were influenced by the national presentation. …

* * *

  • Mike Sandlock, at 96 the oldest living former Dodger, will have a meet-and-greet with the team today, writes Jack Cavanaugh for the Times.
  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News checks in with Javy Guerra, who just returned from caring for his ailing father.
  • In May 1960, a 24-year-old Sandy Koufax threw 785 pitches in a 22-day stretch, capped by a 193-pitch, 13-inning outing. Geoff Young discusses at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Via a conversation with Dodger president Stan Kasten, Dylan Hernandez of the Times analyzes the Dodger trade-deadline prospects.
  • De Jon Watson talked about Dodger minor-leaguers with Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Believe it or not, the Dodgers have been the fourth-most clutch team in baseball in 2012, according to a study by Ari Berkowitz of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods offers The Bad News Bears in Breaking Bad.
  • Happy birthday to Rachel Robinson, who turned 90 on Thursday.
Mar 19

Spanish-language Dodger telecasts coming to airwaves

Fox Sports is going to begin producing dedicated Spanish-language broadcasts of the Dodgers this season, along with the Angels and Clippers. I have some details in a story this morning at Variety.

… Time Warner Cable will air the Fox-produced games even as it moves toward its proposed Spanish-language channel dedicated primarily to the Lakers, scheduled to launch before the 2012-13 NBA season. Time Warner and Fox are primary rivals for the post-2013 cable TV rights to the Dodgers.

FSN said it would produce more than 100 Spanish-language game broadcasts this year and more than 150 in 2013, with an eye on continued growth down the road. The productions will include Spanish-language play-by-play, graphics, player interviews. Announcers and a full game schedule remain to be announced, but the first game for the Angels will be April 6 and for the Dodgers will be April 11.

There will be a handful of Clipper games in Spanish before the regular season ends April 25.

Fox is not charging distributors any additional fees for the broadcasts, but rather only requiring that they be made available on expanded digital as opposed to a paid tier. Ad sales will be the primary source of revenue. …

* * *

Dee Gordon’s potential is praised by Buster Olney at ESPN.com.

Dee Gordon asks a lot of questions, something that Barry Larkin noticed the first time he worked with the Dodgers shortstop in the offseason. Precise questions, about how you hold the glove in making a play at the second base bag, about how you make sure you hit the ball on the ground when you want to, about your mental approach.

This curiosity is part of the reason Larkin came away from his conversations with Gordon believing that the son of former relief pitcher Tom Gordon will become a good player — a really good player. “He’s got the ability to be an All-Star — and a perennial All-Star,” Larkin said over the phone Friday, from Arizona. …

* * *

  • Sportswriting legend Furman Bisher has passed away, at age 93. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Bisher spent 59 years, has more, while Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew points to Bisher’s seminal piece on Shoeless Joe Jackson.
  • At the Daily Mirror, Mary Mallory has a long piece on original Dodger Stadium organist Bob Mitchell, whose career in music dated back to the 1920s.
  • Maury Brown takes a look at the Dodger ownership finalists at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Sandy Koufax had more trouble with Hank Aaron than any other hitter, according to this post by William Juliano at Bronx Banter. Willie Mays also gave Koufax fits.
Mar 13

Bandersnatch!

‘Twas brillig for our suddenly slithy toves the Dodgers, who had only made three errors all spring but got three errors from their shortstops alone today, accounting for two unearned runs in a 5-2 loss to Colorado.

Jerry Hairston Jr. did gyre and gimble in the wabe, making two of the errors while going 0 for 2. The poor day raised questions among the Jabberwock about whether Hairston could rise to the occasion should something decidedly unmimsy happen to Dee Gordon (who also made an error today). To which I offer these uffish thoughts:

1) One game is one game.
2) The plan to confine superior defensive shortstop Juan Uribe to third base isn’t all that likely to hold throughout the season.
3) Justin Sellers is likely to be the true backup shortstop at this point, whether he’s in the majors or the minors, so why so slithy?

Taking the vorpal blade of that last point, there’s surprise being expressed that Jerry Sands might not make the Opening Day roster and will instead be sent to rest by the Tumtum tree. Nonsense. Sands needed something of a perfect storm to come whiffling through the tulgey wood April 5: a solid spring at the plate combined with legitimate fears that Andre Ethier, James Loney or Juan Rivera wouldn’t be everyday players. But we knew all along that all three of those veterans were being handed those jobs to lose, and that Sands might easily be marginalized come the frabjous day.

* * *

  • Sandy Koufax could testify at the Bernie Madoff-related New York Mets trial, reports The Associated Press.
  • Larry Granillo explores a scary on-field 1969 incident involving Jesus Alou at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Matt Kemp and young fan.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Orel Hershiser and a pre-6-foot-8 Jordan Hershiser.
Nov 17

Wrapping up a big day with Newk and friends

“As the winner of the first Cy Young Award, I am so very proud of Clayton Kershaw and his outstanding performances that led to his receiving the 2011 Cy Young Award. I am reminded of Sandy Koufax whenever I see Clayton pitch and feel that there is a deep comparison between the two. Clayton has an outstanding work ethic, as did Sandy, which will show itself through Clayton’s baseball career.”

Don Newcombe

  • Cliff Corcoran of SI.com has a well-done piece looking at Clayton Kershaw’s workload and how it could mean he’s in for an early decline – or, conversely, that he’s on a Hall of Fame path. Corcoran concludes by recommending the Dodgers not dally in signing Kershaw to a big contract extension.
  • ESPN.com looks at the adjustments Kershaw made to become a Cy Young winner.

* * *

In case you missed it amid the Cy Young news, baseball has engineered a major realignment. The Houston Astros are moving to the American League West, there will be interleague play throughout the season, and biggest of all, there will be two wild-card teams in each league, who will face off in a one-game playoff. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com examines the changes from all angles, while DodgerTalk co-host Joe Block reacts to the realignment news and potential increase in interleague games by discussing whether NL teams should keep a designated-hitter type on their roster.

* * *

No, Matt Kemp, we haven’t forgotten about you:

  • David Golebiewski of Baseball Analytics has a deep examination of how Kemp is able to maintain a high batting average on balls in play.
  • For a change of pace, here’s Grant Brisbee at Baseball Nation with a history of … Matt Kemp trade rumors!
Nov 17

Remembering 2011 and looking beyond: Clayton Kershaw


Getty ImagesBrothers in arms …

Baseball is a team sport that honors individual accomplishments like no other, so much so that when I ask this question …

Who is more revered in Los Angeles, the 1963 and 1965 world champion Dodgers, or Sandy Koufax?

… the answer, I believe, is surely Koufax.

It’s a choice between heaven and nirvana, a hypothetical beyond the heretical, one you need not fret over. You never have to have one without the other. But while those Dodgers were angels, Koufax is a god.

So when Clayton Kershaw draws comparisons to Koufax, it is no small matter. It is a very large matter, larger in some ways than the Dodgers’ passing another year without becoming world champions, and larger certainly than Kershaw’s fate in the 2011 National League Cy Young Award balloting.

Don’t misunderstand me — Kershaw winning today’s award is a big deal, a wonderful, rip-roaring accomplishment, and yet at the same time, the celebration of his victory is about 1/1,000,000,000th of how nuts Dodger fans will go the next time they’re the last team to leave the field at the end of a season. But if Kershaw turns about to be another Koufax, a living, breathing Zeus throwing lightning bolts from his pitching Olympus, that’s going to resonate through history even more.

Koufax is a Los Angeles Dodger who is honored like no other, so much so that when I ask this question …

Is Kershaw going to be even better than Koufax?

… the answer, I believe, may cause heart palpitations across an entire Dodgers universe.

Through age 23, Kershaw has 716 1/3 innings, 745 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.173 and a
park/era-adjusted ERA, according to Baseball-Reference.com, of 135.

Through age 23, Koufax had 516 2/3 innings, 486 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.461 and a
park/era-adjusted ERA, according to Baseball-Reference.com, of 100.

At the age that Kershaw became a Cy Young Award winner, Koufax had a 4.05 ERA in 153 1/3 innings in which he walked 92. Koufax didn’t have a significantly above-average season until he was 25 and wasn’t ever mentioned on a Cy Young ballot until he won the award for the first time at age 27.

Comparisons are never perfect — Jane Leavy’s Koufax biography is one of several sources that describes manager Walter Alston’s ambivalence about using the young Koufax, leaving open the possibility that Alston hampered Koufax’s early development. And surely, there’s no guarantee that even though Kershaw is better than Koufax was at age 23, he’ll still be better from ages 26-30, when Koufax, at the height of his astonishment, pitched 1,377 innings, struck out 1,444 with an ERA+ of 167.

Who knows if Kershaw will ever reach a World Series, let alone pitch in four of them with a 0.95 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 57 innings, including back-to-back shutouts with 10 strikeouts apiece with only two days in between?

But in the race across time between Koufax and Kershaw, Koufax is the tortoise, and Kershaw is the hare, except that he’s a hare with a head on his shoulders, not to mention better medical.

Scouts told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com all the different ways Kershaw can still improve. “That change[up] is still a work in progress,” one scout said. “The curveball has a chance to be really good. I had his fastball from 89 [mph] all the way up to 96. So I don’t think he is where he is going to be yet, not anywhere near it.”

Koufax won three Cy Young Awards and finished in third place for another. Already, Kershaw is more than a quarter of the way there. He’s 23, and should remain a Dodger past Koufax’s age of retirement, 30. Kershaw is the kind of pitcher who people will make pilgrimages to see for decades after he has left the playing field, who can carry a franchise’s legacy even if the franchise itself is too weak to build upon its own.

It could all go haywire in an instant, so easily that when I ask this question …

Can Kershaw do it over the long haul?

… the answer, I believe, is let’s see. Yes, please, let’s see.

* * *

We saw this coming. Looking ahead to the 2011 season in February, we could say the following:

… He’s not a Fernando or a Sandy. Not even a Piazza or (for that brief, baggage-heavy moment) a Manny. He’s not a “Bulldog” or a “Game Over.”

He’s still a plain old guy with two plain old names, with a humble personality to match — a wolf in sheepish clothing.

If you say Clayton Kershaw is the best player on the Dodgers, you won’t necessarily get an argument, but you might get a shrug. With disappointment still dripping from the team’s 2010 season, “best player on the Dodgers” won’t earn you much more than a patronizing pat on the head, maybe an extra juice box after practice. For now, anyway.

Sometimes it happens practically overnight, the way it seemed to with Fernando Valenzuela and Mike Piazza. Other times — more often, really — it’s years in the making, as with Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne.

Either way, there’s an explosion within reach for Kershaw — oh, you better believe there is. He turns 23 on March 19, and soon after, he might turn Dodger Stadium back into a place where fans are racing through the crowds for their seats, the way they did for those transcendent heroes of the recent or distant past, for no other reason than to drool over his next pitch or exult in his supremacy. …

Kershaw’s 2010 season had been very, very good — a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 204 1/3 innings — so good that if he had regressed in 2011, he still could have had a very good season. Despite shutting out San Francisco over seven innings on Opening Day, Kershaw’s first month of 2011 looked like it would fall into that groove. Even with 41 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings, inconsistency left him holding a 3.52 ERA at the end of April.

May was our first sign that something really special was within reach. He started six games and allowed eight runs, pitching 40 2/3 innings with a 1.77 ERA and 46 strikeouts, finishing the month with a two-hit, 10-strikeout shutout of Florida in which neither hit was a hard one.

But June started with two absolutely carking games. (Note: “Carking” is both archaic and a bit inaccurate, but it sounds exactly like the word I want.) On June 4 at Cincinnati, Kershaw had faced the minimum number of batters in the sixth inning, only to have things slip away for six runs over the next two innings. Five days later, Kershaw virtually repeated himself in Colorado. His ERA zipped back up to 3.44, and “learning experience” again elbowed its way into the picture.

Now here’s where things really get fun.

Over his final 19 starts of the year, Kershaw allowed only 24 earned runs. He pitched 141 2/3 innings with 146 strikeouts and a 1.52 ERA. Opponents had a .236 on-base percentage and .285 slugging percentage.

Over his final nine starts of the year, Kershaw allowed only seven earned runs. He pitched 65 2/3 innings with 64 strikeouts and a 0.96 ERA. Opponents had a .225 on-base percentage and .274 slugging percentage.

There were pitches he would have liked to have had back, but not many, not many at all.

He pitched another two-hit shutout June 20. He need only eight pitches for a perfect fifth inning with a strikeout in the All-Star Game. He struck out 12 in eight shutout innings on July 20 to beat Tim Lincecum for the second time in 2011, struck out nine in eight innings while allowing only an unearned run to beat Lincecum again Sept. 9, then earned his fourth win over Lincecum (and 20th of the season) on Sept. 20 by allowing one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.

With a triumphant final outing against San Diego on Sept. 25, Kershaw (21-50 ended his year with a league-leading 248 strikeouts, 0.977 WHIP and 2.28 ERA and an adjusted ERA of 163 that was a hair behind Roy Halladay’s 164.

Should Halladay, who pitched home games in a more challenging park, have won the Cy Young? If you think so, I won’t try to dissuade you. I’ll just relax with this.

Halladay, 34, is a true Hall of Fame candidate, practically the gold standard for pitching over the past four seasons with by far the best adjusted ERA during that span. When Halladay was 23, he allowed 80 earned runs in 67 2/3 innings for a 10.64 ERA.

It was a close call for who should be called the best pitcher in the NL today. But one, just one, is so amazing at such a young age, that when I ask this question …

What pitcher in baseball would you most like to have right now?

… only one answer should come to your mind: Clayton Edward Kershaw.

Nov 08

Nitty-gritty details about Dodger sale process emerge

Bad news, good news: Frank McCourt will have “close to the final say” on who buys the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but only from a group of candidates approved by Major League Baseball.

McCourt’s choice would then have to be approved by the other MLB owners, but since that choice would have been pre-approved by MLB already … you get the idea. Writes Jackson:

… It also isn’t immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a “reasonable” number, meaning MLB couldn’t simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful — perhaps five, one source estimated — who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid. …

Jackson has more detailing the intricacies of gaining MLB approval in this November 5 background story. Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne addresses my issue of Dodger-based groups competing against each other in her latest piece, calling for them to work together as much as possible.

And then there’s this from Bill Shaikin of the Times, who writes that McCourt will still seek to profit from the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights, noting this Matthew Futterman report in the Wall Street Journal:

… In the auction, Mr. McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck. Ultimately, only the winning bidder for the team would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal.

If they prefer, bidders also will be allowed to submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights. …

The Journal also said that McCourt could “maintain a stake in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that are leased to the team for use on game days.”

I’m still of the hope that a clean break from McCourt will be a condition of any offer that MLB approves.

* * *

  • The Kansas City Royals are reportedly going to sell the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Will the new Dodger owners risk the wrath of public opinion and do the same?
  • Talk of David Wright coming to the Dodgers should be ignored, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy found a rare picture of Sandy Koufax in Palm Springs in 1964 with Donna Douglas, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and, would you believe, Don Adams?
  • Dodger players spent over 400 more days on the disabled list in 2011 than Diamondbacks players, according to Baseball Prospectus.
  • Learn more about “the jock tax,” courtesy of Eric Seidman of Fangraphs.
  • This Fangraphs chart shows the highs and lows of the 2011 Dodgers relative to the other 29 teams. Read more about it here.
  • The defensive flaws of Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez are explored by Katie Sharp and Mark Simon of ESPN.com.
  • The late, inimitable, Jim Healy got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday. Here’s a tribute page to Healy. (News via L.A. Observed.)
  • Farewell, Joe Frazier.
  • Update – The Hiroshima Carp have made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.
Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Oct 16

October 16 playoff chat: Dodger Cy Young winners in the postseason

Rangers 7, Yankees 2, 6th inning

Giants at Phillies, 4:57 p.m.

To celebrate today’s matchup between Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Roy Halladay of the Phillies, here’s a look at how Cy Young winners for the Dodgers performed in their postseason careers:

  • Don Newcombe (1956): Newcombe famously lost a 1-0 start in Game 1 of the 1949 World Series on Tommy Henrich’s bottom-of-the-ninth home run despite allowing only five baserunners and striking out 11. Subsequent to that, Newcombe appeared in another 1949 World Series game, one in 1955 and two in 1956, and allowed 20 runs in 14 innings.
  • Don Drysdale (1962): After a two-inning relief appearance in 1956 at age 20, Drysdale made six postseason starts. Three he won in dominant fashion, including a three-hit, nine-strikeout shutout of the Yankees in 1963. He took a hard-luck, 1-0 loss in the final game of the ’66 sweep by Baltimore, and was hammered in two other starts, including the apochryphal “Why couldn’t you be Jewish too?” start on Yom Kippur, 1965.
  • Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965, 1966): The amazing Koufax allowed only six earned runs in 57 career postseason innings (0.95 ERA). In seven postseason starts, Koufax pitched two shutouts and four complete games. The only time he allowed a second earned run in a game, he struck out 15.
  • Mike Marshall (1974): Marshall pitched in two National League Championship Series games and all five World Series games for the Dodgers in 1974. Through the first six of those games, Marshall pitched nine shutout innings, allowing five baserunners and striking out seven, before being touched by a Joe Rudi home run in the middle of a three-inning outing in the final game. His career postseason ERA was 0.75, and he also stranded both inherited runners.
  • Fernando Valenzuela (1981): Valenzuela is most famous for his 147-pitch complete game against the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1981 World Series, in which he allowed four runs but won. In the four playoff starts he made before that game, Valenzuela went 31 2/3 innings with a 1.71 ERA. (He of course was also the winning pitcher, one out shy of a complete game, in the Dodgers’ decisive NLCS Game 5 triumph.) His postseason success continued with a victory in Game 2 of the 1983 NLCS and two strong outings against the Cardinals in 1985. Valenzuela wrapped up his postseason career in 1996 with a four-batter relief appearance for San Diego, leaving him with a career postseason ERA of 1.98.
  • Orel Hershiser (1988): His postseason career requires a separate post to give it justice. Well, so does Koufax’s too, I suppose, so forgive me.
  • Eric Gagne (2003): Gagne pitched shutout ball twice in 2004 playoff games for the Dodgers, who were trailing big in each game. His remaining seven playoff games came with Boston (five) and Milwaukee (two) and were mostly good, the main exception being his contributions to a seven-run 11th inning by the Indians against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2007 ALCS.
Aug 25

Classic 1965 Sandy Koufax interview

Sandy Koufax was Sports Illustrated’s 1965 Sportsman of the Year. Dodger Thoughts friend Stan from Tacoma passes along the massive interview Koufax did for the issue, which begins thusly:

Sandy, what’s the difference between the way you manage your life and the way anybody else would manage his?

–I don’t do anything different. I do the things that most people do. There are times when I feel like I have an obligation not to do certain things because I’m preparing myself to pitch. But other than that my life is about as normal as I can keep it.

Yes, but you have this reputation for being awfully hard on yourself.

–Maybe I am. I know sometimes people’ll say, “Well, you’ve done everything possible, what’re you gonna do next? You can’t pitch a better ball game.” And I say to myself, “Well, why not? Why can’t I do more, why can’t I do a better job?” There’s nothing to stop me — except the hitters. You can always try to pitch a better ball game, the best you possibly can.

Sandy, I’ve seen you after you’ve pitched and you sit at your locker and you look like World War II. At this stage of your career isn’t there any tendency on your part to jake it a little, not to put out quite so much?

–I can’t. I can’t. Sometimes you get enough runs and you try to take it easy and all of a sudden you’re in trouble.

Yes, but you go out there and work like a guy who’s expecting to be cut right after the game.

–You’ve got to put out on every pitch. How do you know what the other pitcher’s going to do? He’s out there trying to get your team out, too. People say, doesn’t it make you a better pitcher because your team doesn’t score runs, doesn’t that make you bear down? Well, the Dodgers score more runs than people think, but even if your ball club scores a lot of runs I don’t think you can take the attitude that you can give up two or three runs and still win. You’ve got to say to yourself, “I don’t know how many I’m gonna get, but if I can keep the other side from scoring any I have a lot better chance.” So you put out on every pitch. …

* * *

  • The disappointing Dodgers’ worst 34-game stretch this season has been 13-21. That’s the exact record that the Los Angeles Sparks rode into the WNBA playoffs that start tonight.
  • Gregg Found and Matt Willis of ESPN.comdelve into Hiroki Kuroda’s near-historic 0-for-40 season at the plate.
  • Did you know Takashi Saito can’t see a catcher giving signs with his fingers at night? Mark Bowman of MLB.com has details (via Hardball Talk).
  • Jim Thome, who had four singles in 17 plate appearances as a Dodger a year ago, is having one of the best age-39 seasons in baseball history, according to Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Check out friend of Dodger Thoughts BHsportsguy’s Dodger-related homage to Allan Malamud at True Blue L.A.
  • Colorado rallied from a 10-1 deficit today to defeat Atlanta, 12-10, sweeping the Braves in a three-game series. And San Francisco rallied from a 10-1 deficit as well — the Giants were tied with the Reds in the ninth, 11-11.
Feb 27

Sandy Koufax brings Dodger fans the happiest of answers

All this time we had been preparing for baseball’s J.D Salinger to show up. But the moment he first appeared before us, it was Grace Kelly. With maybe a touch of Lincoln thrown in.

Grace and wisdom, in the flesh. Sandy Koufax was here on Earth (Earth being the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles), at once mortal and ethereal. He came to talk Saturday night – talk only about a meaningless game and a person who played it – and yet for as long as people had been waiting to hear him, he might as well have been revealing the secrets to the universe.

As Koufax pointed out, he is not the recluse he is made out to be. “I don’t know that I’ve dropped out of sight,” he told interviewer T.J. Simers in his slightly raspy but congenial voice. “I go to the Final Four year after year (not in disguise) – I wear a jacket and jeans. I go to golf tournaments. I’ve been to Super Bowls. I’ve been to Dodger Stadium. I go to dinner every night; I go to movies.”

But if he’s not in hiding, he’s not holding press conferences either. And so the audience hungered for each and every word he spoke, like ballpark kids for drifts of cotton candy.

There were distractions – some more tolerable than others.  It was not just a night for Koufax – it was a night also for Joe Torre, whose Safe at Home Foundation (combating the damage of domestic violence) was the reason Koufax agreed to the interview. It felt at times like an intrusion when questions were directed at Torre, because we’ve all seen so much of Torre. But Torre was quite interesting, thoughtful and entertaining in his replies – providing a useful reminder of how improbable his own success has been in overcoming an abusive father.

And then of course there is Simers, who wears irreverence on his sleeve in neon, and sometimes teased Koufax, just as he did when he interviewed Vin Scully and John Wooden on this stage in 2008.

But we did get our answers. As Simers himself suggested, we did separate fact from fiction. And Koufax was happy to share with us.

We learned that although many of us have think of Koufax as gentle, particularly in contrast to his partner-in-arms Don Drysdale, we were wrong.

“It sure as hell isn’t ‘gentle,’” Koufax said of how he would describe himself, “especially playing the game. Competing to me is being the last man standing. It has nothing to do with kicking water coolers. That’s ego-massage.”

Koufax was asked about a rare incident in which he was accused of hitting a player (Lou Brock) on purpose, and when the story was related to him and it was said he told Brock he was going to hit him intentionally, Koufax said that was all wrong. He never said anything like that to Brock – before hitting him intentionally.

“If you’re gonna hit someone,” Koufax maintained, “you never tell them.”

And while choosing not to talk in detail about the frightening day that Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat, Koufax denied that the game-winning homer Willie Mays subsequently hit off him came because Koufax had become too cowed.

“Willie told me later he was sure I wouldn’t throw inside,” he said. “But that had nothing to do with it. He’s Willie Mays.”

“Nobody could hit Willie,” Koufax added. “You could throw at him all day, but you couldn’t hit him.”

Koufax spoke with similar respect for Hank Aaron. When Torre wondered aloud about the seven batters Koufax walked intentionally in 1963 when his ERA for the year was 1.88 – saying that “those seven guys must be in the Hall of Fame” – Koufax joked, “He is.”

But on this night, no one had greater stature than Koufax. In case you thought it was all hype, just a case of history rolling a snowball downhill, there was an absolutely stunning moment.

As a surprise special guest, the Dodgers flew in from Spring Training the pitcher who has drawn more comparisons to Koufax than any Dodger, Clayton Kershaw. When Kershaw came on stage, Simers had him compare the size of his hand to Koufax’s. The 6-foot-3 Kershaw held out his palm, and when Koufax’s met it, Koufax’s fingers extended jaw-droppingly farther.  Koufax has finger extension like Scully has a vocabulary.

Combined with a serene poise, you understood what made Koufax so great. He even corrected Scully’s famous description during the ninth inning of his 1965 perfect game that the Dodger Stadium mound might be the “loneliest place in the world.”

“No, I had eight people on my side, standing all around me,” Koufax recalled. “While a perfect game is important, we were in a pennant race in September. We were leading, 1-0, and we had to win.”

Koufax also found himself accompanied by another friend in that ninth inning – the knowledge that he was at the pinnacle of his talent – this time corroborating Scully, who said that the night was the only time in his six-decade career with the Dodgers that he sensed in the first inning that a pitcher had no-hit stuff.

“There are times when everything is right,” Koufax said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had better stuff or better control than I did in the final two innings of that game.”

Koufax acknowledged the years prior to the 1960s when it didn’t always come so easy. Without pointing fingers, he said he “wasn’t pitching often or pitching well … I’d go warm up in the bullpen, and I’d hear an echo” of the guy warming up in preparation to relive him.

“Really encouraging,” Koufax said.

He thought with more frequent work, he had a chance to become a better pitcher sooner. But following the 1960 season, he prepared to walk away from the game.

“I just tossed (my gear) in the garbage can and went home,” he said.

But he was back the next spring.

“First, I worked that winter and found out it wasn’t a lot of fun,” he remembers. And then he made it to Vero Beach for Spring Training in 1961, and longtime Dodger clubhouse man Nobe Kawano handed Koufax what had been in the trash.

“Nobe said, ‘I thought you might need these,’” Koufax remembered with fondness.

Koufax also noted that as a bonus baby who earned more the moment he signed his first contract then some Dodger regulars earned all year, he faced resentment from his teammates in his younger days. There were two exceptions: pitching coach Joe Becker, and Jackie Robinson. In particular, Koufax said that Gil Hodges “didn’t want to have much to do with me.”

“I got a $14,000 bonus, and I was 19 years old,” Koufax said. “I was invited to every poker game. … (but) I wasn’t really welcome in that clubhouse.

“Jackie and Joe Becker were two guys who really went out of their way to try to make it okay. … But after I won my first game, Gil and his wife Joan became as good friends as I ever had.”

The real turning point, according to Koufax, came when Hodges, near the end of his great career as a Dodger first baseman, was managing the Dodgers in a split-squad game. The Dodgers were short on pitchers, and Hodges put a finger in Koufax’s chest and said, “You’re going eight innings today.”

On the trip to the game, Koufax and his roommate, catcher Norm Sherry, had the conversation that prompted Koufax to try not to throw so hard. Koufax said he walked three in the first inning, but got out of it and pitched no-hit ball for those eight innings. The legend was about to be born.

From 1962 to 1966, Koufax pitched 1,377 innings with a 1.95 ERA and 1,444 strikeouts. He started 176 games and completed 100. But he said that the cascade of arm trouble that would ultimately end his career at age 30 originated not on the mound, but as a baserunner, when he landed on his elbow while diving back into second base on a missed bunt by Junior Gilliam.

He didn’t think anything of it at first, but after his next start, his arm filled with fluid “and stayed that way all of 1964.” The Dodgers talked about giving him extra rest during the 1965 season, but it never happened. Instead of pitching every fifth day, he was pitching every fourth day, and then every third day. He won Game 7 of the 1965 World Series on two days’ rest, throwing 132 pitches in a three-hit, 10-strikeout shutout.

Ignoring the irony that the ’65 season was nearly Koufax’s last, Simers used the story to mock today’s pitchers who think a “quality start” is six innings. And Koufax didn’t argue at first, saying that in his mind, “a quality start is shaking hands with the catcher.”

But in the next moment, Koufax indicated he understood the modern approach.

“I think longevity plays a big part in (pitch counts),” he said. “I don’t blame ‘em.”

Back then, Koufax pointed out, it was different.

“You didn’t win, you didn’t get a raise,” he said.

Memorably, Koufax and Drysdale held out before the 1966 season for more money, with no leverage other than early retirement. But Koufax said it was easier for him, because he had already decided to hang ‘em up by the end of ’66, and so at most he was risking one year of his career. Drysdale was risking much more. Ultimately, the players came to terms, and Koufax finished his Dodger career with a 27-9, 1.73 season, before holding that final press conference.

In front of what might have been the largest crowd to hear him speak until tonight, a stoic Koufax announced his farewell.

“There was emotion. I wasn’t happy about it. But there’s no crying in baseball,” he concluded with a laugh.

Koufax laughed plenty on this night – he seemed utterly at peace with himself and his place on the stage, literally and metaphorically. This was not an uncomfortable person. This was not a recluse. This was a happy man.

“My grandfather just felt time was the most important asset you had,” Koufax said. “As you get older, I’ve developed the habit: Spend your money foolishly and your time wisely.”

Sandy Koufax has a considerable legacy, but to it we can add this: Sandy Koufax loves life.