There was a meeting between the two greatest Dodger southpaw aces in Arizona Friday. The all-time best Dodger pitcher, Sandy Koufax, watched Clayton Kershaw‘s bullpen session and offered his opinion on Kershaw’s pitching prowess. Kershaw has been compared to Koufax, and he is often thought to be the contemporary version of the legendary Cy Young Award winner.
Sandy Koufax is usually a very private person, but he spoke to reporters about Kershaw’s talent. Koufax said that he had followed Kershaw’s season last year.
“How do you make up a ceiling for him?” Koufax said. “It’s time — how long he wants to play, how long he’s able to play. As far as talent? No.”
Koufax and Kershaw have spoken with each other during each of the last four years of Spring Training.
“He’s awesome,” said Kershaw. “We’ve talked just about every year. I appreciate the time he’s spent with me. It’s great when he comes around.”
It’s wonderful how some of the Dodger greats of yesteryear can have a positive impact on the young players. The Dodgers have such a rich history, and there’s no doubt that the players of today can be influenced and mentored by those who wore Blue in the past. Steve Yeager is now helping to coach the catching staff, Davey Lopes works with Matt Kemp and the other Dodgers on their base running skills, Maury Wills is also instructing, and other former Dodgers like Koufax continue to inspire with their visits.
Don Mattingly compared these meetings and mentorships within the woven Dodger family to a “chain.”
“Just being around those guys is [being around] the history of the game and the history of the team,” Mattingly said. “It’s this chain that keeps going. It’s good for the team to see guys that are a part of the organization.”
Obviously the 23-year old Kershaw is just in the beginning of a hopefully long and successful career with the Dodgers. Koufax played all 12 of his seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, but he had to retire in 1966 at the age of 30 because of arthritis in his left elbow. Perhaps that is what Koufax was referencing when asked about Kershaw’s ceiling when he said that the only factors would be how long he wants to and is able to play.
Koufax is a three-time Cy Young Award winner (1963, 1965, 1966), and he won the pitcher’s triple crown by leading the National League in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in all three Cy Young years. Clayton Kershaw also won the triple crown last season during his first Cy Young season. Koufax dominated during the early 1960’s, and he continued his awe-inspiring pitching even when in pain during his last two seasons in 1965 and 1966. We can see this same dominance in Kershaw today. His talent is birth given. We recently saw that video of Clayton pitching a perfect game in high school and striking out 15 batters. An arm like Koufax or Kershaw’s is one in many millions, and we are lucky to watch Clayton Kershaw as he is “the one”- the great Dodger pitcher of our generation.