Koufax gets Dodger Stadium statue next to Jackie Robinson

At Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School, he preferred basketball

June 28, 2022 Joe Reedy, Associated Press
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When Sandy Koufax, a Lafayette High School graduate who originally preferred basketball to baseball, joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, he was in awe of being on the same team with Jackie Robinson.

Now 67 years later, the two are immortalized in bronze at the entrance to Dodger Stadium.

Koufax’s statue was unveiled on Saturday in the Centerfield Plaza before the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Cleveland Guardians. It is the second sculpture the Dodgers have commissioned after Robinson’s in 2017.

“At that time sharing this space with him would have been absolutely unimaginable. And today, it’s still one of the greatest honors of my life,” the 86-year-old Koufax said.

Koufax was born in Brooklyn and lived during his childhood and adolescence, at various times, in Borough Park, Nassau County and finally Bensonhurst. As a member of the Lafayette basketball team, he scored 165 points in 10 games.

However, at the same time, he played in a local baseball league. At the University of Cincinnati, he made the varsity baseball team and tried out for several baseball teams, eventually signing with the Dodgers. His performance was uneven in Brooklyn, and he only began to reach his stride after the team relocated to Los Angeles.

Koufax was a two-time World Series MVP with the Dodgers. The lefty won three Cy Young Awards, threw four no-hitters, and was 165-87 in his 12-year career. He was also celebrated for refusing to pitch on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur during the 1965 World Series. He retired at the end of the following year because of an arthritic elbow.

Koufax’s statue was announced in 2019 and was originally slated to be unveiled the following year, until the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold. The Dodgers waited until this year, which might have been more fitting.

It has been 50 years since Koufax was one of the first Dodgers to have his number retired, along with Robinson and Roy Campanella. It is also the golden anniversary of Koufax being the youngest player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Los Angeles Dodgers unveil a Sandy Koufax statue in the Centerfield Plaza to honor the Hall of Famer and three-time Cy Young Award winner prior to a baseball game between the Cleveland Guardians and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Saturday, June 18, 2022. Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP

The 19.5-ton statue was sculpted by Branly Cadet, who also did Robinson’s. The sculpture captures Koufax’s signature leg kick as he prepares to throw. It also shows Koufax determined and a picture of calm as he is in his windup.

Koufax picked the inspiration image for the statue. He also gripped a baseball and they took a picture of his left hand to perfectly capture that as well.

“I think for me more than anything I wanted to capture his strength, his focus and integrity,” Cadet said. “Although he’s a very quiet and absolute gentleman, there’s a part of him that’s just a fierce competitor.”

Former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who faced Koufax during his playing career, and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw also spoke during the ceremony.

“I hope a kid sees the statue and asked his mom or dad about Sandy Koufax and I hope that they tell him he was a great pitcher. But more than that he was a great man who represented the Dodgers with humility, kindness, passion 

and class,” Kershaw said.

“And for every rookie who sees it for the first time and asks if he was any good. I hope the veterans tell him simply that he was the best to ever do it,” he said.


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