Sandy's Fingers

Sandy Koufax, nee Sanford Brown in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Hall of Fame pitcher who for five years was the best the game of baseball had ever seen, was and is not a particularly imposing physical specimen. Maybe he was near six feet once, but as we all shrink with age, Sandy Koufax would be hard put to make 5'10" these days.

He in his 70s now, but years upon years as a daily jogger give him fitness that makes him look decades younger.

But there is one thing about Sandy's physical makeup that truly makes him different. It's his hands and fingers. For Sandy Koufax was given the hands of a man 6'5" or better.

Big hands, very long fingers. And that makes one heckuva difference for baseball pitchers. Dodgers scouts - and many other scouts as well - for at least a half a century have paid more attention to the size of a prospects hands than to his overall physical dimensions.

Take Dennis Lewallyn, the long time Dodgers minor league pitching coach. Denny was a big guy but had smallish hands. Maybe that's why he had merely a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

Sandy Koufax was teaching reliever Scott Proctor and others this week in Vero Beach, one of Koufax' homes (his other is on some island someplace). Even veteran pitchers have sought and benefitted from Koufax instruction over the years. Koufax came from the same teaching of pitchers chapter as long time pitching Dave Wallace, another long time Vero Beach resident.

Wallace was personal pitching coach to Orel Hershiser, so it can be said he went to the Koufax school as well since the two, Koufax and Wallace, were peas in a pod.

There were years Koufax wasn't as visible around the Dodgers. Many said it was because he couldn't stomach some of the folks around the Dodgers then.

And that it more than likely true. Way back when Sandy got his first bonus, which required the then Brooklyn Dodgers to send a veteran back to the minors, the guy who went was none other than Tommy Lasorda.

Knowing Tommy all these years, you'd have to figure that Tommy even then didn't enjoy playing second fiddle to a kid, particularly a bonus kid.  And if truth be known, Tommy Lasorda probably felt, when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (as a manager) that it finally (and justly) got him to the same rank of baseball immortals as that kid Koufax after the slight of so many years ago.

One of the west coast scribes, in a story on Chan Ho Park, back again with the Dodgers, credited Lasorda as having a major influence on the signing of Hideo Nomo in the 1990s. This is kind of revisionist history, if that.

The guy who was responsible for Nomo was Peter O'Malley's longtime sidekick Ike Ikuhara, who wrote a book in Japanese on how to play baseball, and who, a decade after his death, is still considered by many THE link between Japanese and American professional baseball.

Now maybe Ike, when telling the Dodgers about Mr. Nomo, said something in the presence of Mr. Lasorda, and Mr. Lasorda, knowing that Mr. Ikuhara was a heckuva lot closer to the boss than he was, decided not to get in his way.  If that's enough to claim principle credit for Nomo making the majors, so be it.

We had kinda hoped Sandy Koufax had a moment or two to spend with Jason Schmidt and Esteban Loaiza. The Dodgers have between $22-25 million invested in that pair this year and would certainly like to get some small return on their investment, particularly after getting little or nothing from Schmidt and Loaiza last year. That's a huge chunk of the payroll.