By Brian Berk
In the early 1950's, New York Knicks' star Harry Gallatin came to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. He was there to display his dunking abilities in an event sponsored by the Police Athletic League.
Gallatin unexpectedly missed two of his first three dunks. That prompted basketball coach Al McGuire to grab Lafayette High basketball standout, Sandy Koufax, by the elbow. McGuire told Gallatin, "I've got a kid right here who can show you how to (dunk the basketball)," author Edward Gruver said. The 6-foot-2 Koufax slammed the ball with ease. The Knicks' player challenged Koufax to dunk the ball a second time. Koufax did.
Gallatin told Koufax, "I'm going to be looking for you in future years. You're going to be in the NBA," said Gruver. The youngster's basketball triumph is just one of Gruver's fun-to-read stories in his book, "Koufax," appearing on bookstore shelves this month.
It turns out Koufax became a good baseball player too. Gruver uses Koufax's 1965 World Series game seven start against the Minnesota Twins as the backdrop for the book.
Many consider Koufax's effort that afternoon his finest ever. The future Dodger Hall of Famer threw a three-hit complete game shutout on just two days rest. Even more amazing was that he had an arthritic elbow and relied on one pitch throughout most of the game at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium: his fastball.
The Twins had a potent lineup including Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva. But Koufax overcame all of his shortcomings and won 2-0 to give Los Angeles the World's Championship.
From 1962-66, Koufax compiled an incredible five-year run. He threw a no-hitter in four consecutive years including a perfect game against the Cubs. In 1965, the man earlier nicknamed "most eligible Jewish bachelor," struck out 382 hitters while walking only 71. Gruver also wrote about lesser-known facts. For instance, in 1966, Koufax threatened to holdout and begin a movie career. He demanded Dodger general manager Buzz Bavazi give he and pitcher Don Drysdale considerable raises.
After Koufax's career succumbed to arthritis, he became an NBC analyst.
There is only one thing missing from the book. You never find out what Koufax is thinking when he dominated baseball's best hitters. What were his philosophies on pitching to Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle?
Considering the Brooklyn native's introverted personality, this may not be the fault of the author. Gruver does have quotes from every other person. Opposing hitters, teammates, managers, general managers and broadcasters.
Overall, Gruver's story was a pleasure to read. It was hard to put the book down. You have to find out what will happen next.
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