I’m savoring Jane Leavy’s new book, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood (look for a review here in the near future).
Leavy’s previous book was Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy which is also a must-read, and not just because it’s about one of the legends of the Jewish sports world.
In her latest release — currently No. 4 on The New York Times‘ Bestseller List — we have this anecdote about the 1963 World Series between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The setup: Koufax won the opening game, 5-2, behind a 15-strikeout performance by the Dodgers’ ace:
* * *
By the time Mantle led off the bottom of the second, the Dodgers were ahead 4-0, thanks in large measure to John Roseboro’s schnapps-fortified home run. This at-bat would set the tone for all the innings to come. It was one thing for Koufax to have his way with Kubek, Richardson, and Tresh, but this was The Mick.
[italics in the original] Swing and a miss. Strike one.
High with a fastball. Ball one.
Foul back on the screen. Strike two.
[Straight text in the original] “Then he struck him out with a fastball around the letters,” Roseboro said. “Mantle looked back at me and said ‘How in the [****] are you supposed to hit that [****]?’”
There was nothing else to say. Except to pray for more Jewish holidays, as Boyer pointed out on the team bus when the Yankees left for Los Angeles, trailing 2-0 in games. “You mean like Yom Koufax?” Mantle replied.
* * *
Overall, Mantle was 1-7 with three strikeouts against Koufax in that Fall Classic. The lone hit was a homer that accounted for the lone run in the 2-1 finale that capped the Dodgers’ sweep.
Koufax, by the way, was named Series MVP.