Game Seven Heroes, 1965 World Series: Sandy Koufax, Lou Johnson and Jim Gilliam

In mid-May 2020, the author watched a replay of Game Seven, 1965 World Series (WS), between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. Sandy Koufax pitched a three-hit shutout (SHO), fanning Harmon Killebrew, to end the 2-0 gem. Vin Scully was on the TV broadcast for NBC; his post-game summary, after Koufax walked off the mound, included: “He [Koufax] did it, this was Koufax’s second straight SHO…one in Dodger Stadium where everyone likes to pitch; other, in Metropolitan Stadium, where no one likes to pitch.” Scully can be heard at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEnyO2ShbEM. Coincidentally, readers will enjoy Luis Rodríguez’s Mayoral May 26, 2020 béisbol101.com blog on visiting with the 71-year old Scully at Dodger Stadium, in the summer of 1999. (Scully is 92.5 years old as of May 27, 2020.)

The 1965 WS was the first featuring teams with losing records the prior season: Minnesota (79-83) tied Cleveland for sixth in 1964; Los Angeles (80-82) finished in a sixth-place tie with Pittsburgh. Minnesota’s 102-60 record in 1965, was seven games up of the Chicago White Sox; and eight in front of Baltimore. The 97-65 Dodgers, in 1965, bested arch-rival San Francisco by two games. Minnesota, the ex-Washington Senators franchise, 1901-1960, moved to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), in 1961. Sam Mele managed the Twins since replacing Cookie Lavagetto in the 1961 season. Their powerful 1965 line-up included AL MVP Zoilo Versalles, Tony Oliva—AL batting champion, Don Mincher, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison. Jim Kaat, Jim “Mudcat” Grant and Camilo Pascual were in their rotation.

Puerto Rico-Minnesota-Los Angeles Connection

The author, with his dad (Sam Van Hyning Jr.), saw an early April 1965 spring training game at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium between the Twins and the Boston Red Sox. We traveled to Bithorn from our Santurce home. Pascual, a native of Cuba, received a warm welcome from the fans, when he took the mound. His curve ball was in top form and the Twins prevailed that night.  Dad remembered a younger Pascual pitching for the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium, 1954-56, when we lived just outside Washington, D.C. (We moved to Puerto Rico in September 1956.) It was a thrill for a 10-year old (the author) to see Carl Yastrzemski and Félix Mantilla with Boston; Killebrew, Oliva and Versalles. Sam Van Hyning, born in Caldwell, Idaho, enjoyed watching Killebrew—a native of Payette, Idaho, 33 miles north of Caldwell on I-84. Sam was an avid Washington Senators fan in 1924, at age 10, when the Senators captured their only WS.

Paula S. Van Hyning, the author’s mother, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Louis L. Swarthe and Hilda Matsner Swarthe. Paula met Sam in Washington, D.C., January 1942, when they were World War II spies, working for Coordinator of Information (COI), the eventual Office of Strategic Services (OSS), in June 1942. (The OSS preceded the CIA—formed in 1947.) Paula took pride in Minnesota playing in the 1965 WS, but was very fond of Los Angeles, where her dad passed away in 1964; and where Hilda and step-mother, Florence Postal Swarthe, resided. Florence was born in New York City (1902), but moved to California in the 1920s. She became an ardent Los Angeles Dodgers fan in 1958, thanks to her housekeeper (Thelma), and saw a 1959 World Series game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Florence hosted the author for part of his June 1974 visit to Los Angeles, the month Hilda Swarthe turned 90. Florence fondly recalled Koufax, Drysdale, Junior Gilliam and other ex-Dodgers.

Sandy Koufax’s Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles Career and Puerto Rico Detour

Koufax never pitched in the U.S. minors. His only pro pitching outside of 1955-57 Brooklyn and 1958-1966 Los Angeles Dodgers was a two-month stint with the Caguas-Rio Piedras Criollos in Puerto Rico’s Winter league. He was 3-6, 4.74 ERA for the 1956-57 Criollos, with 74 strikeouts in 65 innings. His last Caguas effort was a 2-0 SHO of Santurce, December 16, 1956, a two-hitter. Roberto Clemente got both hits off Koufax. Caguas released Koufax, December 20, 1956, when a League rule went into effect limiting each team to three experienced major leaguers on their rosters, excluding natives. J.W. Porter, a catcher with Mayagüez, recalled facing Koufax one Sunday morning. Team owners were concerned about the effect Sunday afternoon horse races were having on baseball attendance; one strategy was to schedule Sunday morning games. “The sun came up in center field. Not only were you facing Sandy, but you had the big, bright ball of sun right behind you,” Porter recalled. “You had no chance whatsoever.”   

Koufax’s magnificent SABR bio by Marc Z. Aaron is at: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/e463317c

His wildness is well-documented, followed by three Cy Young Awards and four no-hitters, including a September 9, 1965 perfect game, at home, versus the Chicago Cubs. From 1961-66, he had five head-to-head match-ups with St. Louis’ Bob Gibson. Koufax was 3-1, 0.92 ERA, with three SHO, in these five starts. He missed part of 1964 due to arthritis in his left elbow, but was 26-8 for the 1965 Dodgers, with 382 strikeouts in 335.2 innings, breaking Rube Waddell’s single-season record (349) set in 1904. (Nolan Ryan set the new standard of 383 strikeouts for the 1973 California Angels.) Koufax and Drysdale (23-12) combined for 49 (50.5 percent) of the 1965 Dodgers’ 97 wins. Per his SABR bio, Koufax, a 1972 Hall of Famer (HOF), achieved:

  1. W-L PCT of .655, 2.76 ERA and 40 shutouts, including 10 1-0 victories
  2. Four no-hitters, two one-hitters, eight two- hitters, and 17 three-hitters
  3. 9.28 strikeouts/nine innings and eight regular-season games with 15 or more strikeouts
  4. Opponents’ batting average of .205 and 6.79 hits allowed per nine innings.

Koufax was MVP of the 1963 WS versus the Yankees and the 1965 WS against Minnesota. Dick Tracewski, his Dodgers roommate (1962-65) told the author that Koufax was a “real gentleman, very polite, careful and not mean-spirited.” Koufax only hit 18 batters in 12 NL seasons. Héctor Valle, first catcher from Puerto Rico to play in a MLB game (1965 Dodgers), mentioned (to the author) his biggest thrill in the majors was catching Koufax in a game at Philadelphia. “They rested Roseboro after Los Angeles had a 7-1 lead,” said Valle. “Koufax told me his experience with Caguas was a pleasant one and good for his career. He is a very nice person.” Ron Perranoski, Dodgers lefty reliever, joined the Caguas Criollos (Valle’s team) toward the end of 1960-61. Perranoski developed confidence after facing and retiring Santurce’s Orlando Cepeda and San Juan’s Roberto Clemente. He felt winter ball helped many of the 1965 Dodgers.

Table I: WS Pitching Records, 1950-2003 (two+ WS), HOF Pitchers, 18+ Innings Pitched

PitcherTEAMSW-LERAIPH KBBWHIPRINGS
Bert BlylevenMN-PIT2-12.3523211651.0772
Steve CarltonSLC-PHI2-22.5631.22932151.3892
Don DrysdaleLAD3-32.9539.23636121.2103
Whitey Ford#NYY10-82.7114613294341.1376
Bob Gibson#SLC7-21.89815992170.8892
Tom Glavine#ATL4-32,1658.13338200.9091
Catfish HunterOAK-NYY5-33.29575733171.1755
Sandy Koufax#LAD4-30.95573661110.8254##
Greg MadduxATL2-32.0938.2281870.9051
Jack Morris#DET-MN-TOR4-22.9651.24440181.2004###
Mike MussinaNYY1-13.0018182351.2780
Jim PalmerBAL4-23.2064.25531231.3303
Tom SeaverNYM1-22.7030252761.0331
John SmoltzATL2-22.47514452211.2751
Don SuttonLAD-MILW2-35.2651.1553191.2471####

# Ford, MVP-1961 WS; Koufax, MVP-1963 and 1965 WS; Gibson, MVP-1964 and 1967 WS; Morris, MVP-1991 WS; Glavine, MVP-1995 WS. ## Koufax did not pitch in the 1955 WS, but was on Brooklyn’s 1955 roster. ### Morris did not pitch in the 1993 WS, but was on Toronto’s 1993 roster. #### Sutton did not pitch in the 1988 WS, but was on the Dodgers 1988 roster.

Koufax had the lowest ERA (0.95) and WHIP (0.825) of all 15 HOF who pitched 18+ total innings in at least two WS, 1950-to-2003. He is the most dominant HOF pitcher of eight starters inducted in Cooperstown, with 150-to-199 career MLB wins, per Table II. The Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFM) in the final column is a creation of Bill James to assign points to hitters and pitchers, per https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/hof_monitor.shtml.

Table II: Regular Season Pitching Records, Cooperstown HOF Starters, 150-199 Career Wins

PitcherTEAMSW-LERAIPH KBBWHIPHOFM
Jack Chesbro+PIT-NYH-B198-1322.682,896.22,6471,2656901.152101
Dizzy DeanSLC-Others150-833.021,967.11,9191,1634531.206112
Lefty GómezNYY-WAS189-1023.342,5032,2901,4681,0951.352128
Addie Joss#CLE160-971.892,3271,8889203640.96889
Sandy Koufax^BRO-LAD165-872.762,324.11,7542,3968171.106227
Dazzy VanceBRO-Others197-1403.242,966.22,8092,0458401.23089
Rube WaddellA’s-Others193-1432.162,961.12,4602,3168031.103138
Ed Walsh##CWS-BSN195-1261.822,964.12,3461,7366171.000146

+ Chesbro won 41 games for the 1904 New York Highlanders, the most in a post-1900 season.

# Joss’s 0.968 best-ever MLB WHIP was accomplished in part of the dead-ball era (1902-1910).

## Walsh’s 1.82 ERA is the all-time lowest; Walsh (1904-1917) threw a legal spitball. He won 40 games in 1908. His 1.000 WHIP is second to Joss.

^Koufax’s HOFM 227 points, 16th all-time, surpasses Bob Gibson’s 222 and Whitey Ford’s 209. Walter Johnson (364) and Cy Young (338) are one-two. Nolan Ryan (257) is tenth-best, all-time.

Enter Lou Johnson

Lou Johnson, from Lexington, Kentucky, played for the 1961-62 Valencia Industrialists in Venezuela; and, reinforced the Caracas Lions, in the February 1962 Interamerican Series at San Juan’s Sixto Escobar Stadium. He starred for Venezuela’s 1963-64 LaGuaira Sharks, plus the 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers, in Puerto Rico, where the author saw him play on live TV and at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

In 1961-62, Johnson produced a .318 AVG, five HR and 28 RBIs (in 45 games), with a .559 SLG. He and Teolindo Acosta (.328 AVG) were a solid one-two punch. A relatively unknown Mike Cuéllar (5-5, 3.69 ERA) was a Valencia starter. Johnson flew to San Juan for the February 6-14, 1962 Interamerican Series, a round-robin between Santurce, Mayagüez, Caracas and Panamá-Nicaragua’s Marlboro Smokers. Johnson’s three SB led all players. His one HR came versus Mayagüez, a 3-2 win, February 6. Santurce (8-1) won it, ahead of Caracas (5-4), Mayagüez (4-5) and Marlboro (1-8). Eddie Napoleon, a Marlboro OF, recalled Santurce had the best pitchers—Bob Gibson, Juan “Terín” Pizarro, Orlando Peña and Craig Anderson—and a line-up with Orlando Cepeda, playing RF; Tony González (CF), Cookie Rojas (2B) and Miguel de la Hoz (3B). Mayagüez had Luis Tiant, Joel Horlen and Luis “Tite’ Arroyo on the mound. Coincidentally, Tiant won two games and hit a HR, one of 13 clouted by his team.

Johnson’s 1963-64 campaign with LaGuaira (21-27) showed a .295 AVG, five HR and 18 RBIs. Luis Aparicio played about a half-season at shortstop. Colorful LHP George Brunet, a future Santurce teammate, pitched for LaGuaira. Johnson, in two Venezuelan seasons, played 71 games; had 275 AB; scored 30 runs; got 85 hits, including 16 doubles, nine triples, 10 HR; drove in 46; recorded a .309 AVG and .542 SLG.

When Johnson came to Puerto Rico, for 1964-65, he impressed Preston Gómez, Santurce’s manager, and the Dodgers 3B coach for 1965. Gómez managed the 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers to a league-best 41-28 record and post-season title, with a semi-final series win over arch-rival San Juan—with player-manager Roberto Clemente—and a final series triumph versus Mayagüez, featuring Detroit prospects’ Dennis McLain and Jim Northrup. Johnson (CF) started for the North American All-Star Team, January 6, 1965, with teammate Marv Staehle (2B), in a 5-3 win over the Latin American squad. Brunet and Pizarro started for their respective teams. José Pagán pitched the 10th and 11th innings for the Latin American team, managed by Luis R. Olmo, since they ran out of pitchers. Clemente had a pinch-hit single.

Santurce clinched the regular season title on January 12, with a 5-4 win over Ponce. Johnson’s three-run HR scored Staehle and winning pitcher, Kindo Geigel. Two weeks later, Johnson homered in Santurce’s series-clinching (Game Six) win over San Juan. Tony Pérez clubbed the game-winning HR in the top of the tenth. Lou Johnson’s .345 AVG (81-for-235) earned him the batting crown over Northrup (.332), San Juan’s Don Buford (.319), Mayagüez’s Willie Horton (.306) and Alex Johnson (.301) of Caguas. Lou’s 41 RBIs were second in the league to Alex Johnson’s 47. Hiram Cuevas, Santurce’s owner, affirmed: “Lou Johnson gave 110 percent…just one heck of a player. I went to the States and liked him [with Spokane] in AAA.”

Junior Gilliam, Dodgers Player-Coach

The author’s April 18 and 20, 2020 beisbol101.com blogs on Gilliam are at: https://beisbol101.com/2020/04/jim-gilliam-baltimore-elite-giants-aguadilla-almendares-minors-and-santurce-part-i/ and https://beisbol101.com/2020/04/jim-gilliam-brooklyn-los-angeles-dodgers-1953-78-san-juan-senators-1973-74-part-ii/. Gilliam played on two Caribbean Series championship teams with Santurce (1950-51 and 1952-53, and four WS champs with the Dodgers: 1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965. By 1965, he was a player-coach with the Dodgers, and part of MLB’s first-ever switch-hitting IF: Wes Parker (1B), Jim Lefebvre (2B), Gilliam (3B) and Maury Wills (SS).

1965 MLB All-Star Game

Koufax won the 1965 All-Star Game at The Metrodome, pitching a scoreless sixth, but allowing walks to Willie Horton and Bill Freehan. He fanned Jimmie Hall to keep the game tied, 5-5. Ron Santo drove in the game-winner off Sam McDowell in the seventh, before Bob Gibson’s two-inning save, in a 6-5 win by the NL. Killebrew hit a two-run HR (fifth) to the delight of the fans.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/allstar/1965-allstar-game.shtml

1965 WS Goes Seven

Koufax opted not to start Game One, October 6, due to observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement—the most special Holiday for the Jewish population. Minnesota took Game One, 8-2, with Grant besting Drysdale. Koufax started and lost Game Two, 5-1, as Kaat pitched a gem; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHCb8siqTQI has Game Two. The series shifted to Los Angeles. Bryan Goldberg, the author’s first cousin, interviewed Claude Osteen, Game Three starter for Los Angeles, when Osteen was a pitching coach for the 2003 El Paso Diablos. Osteen mentioned “feeling a lot of pressure on the flight back to Los Angeles.” Some (Dodgers) teammates came up to Osteen and “pumped up his spirits.” Osteen was also the pitching coach for the 1991-92 San Juan Metros, in Puerto Rico, and had pitched for Mayagüez, 1960-61. He opined Puerto Rico was helpful for his career, and recalled pitching to Caguas’s Frank Howard (1960-61), one of the Washington Senators players traded for Osteen, December 4, 1964, when the Dodgers acquired the lefty. Osteen’s 4-0 SHO, on October 9, 1965, gave the Dodgers new life. Pascual took the loss. Dick Tracewski called Osteen “Gomer,” due to Osteen’s resemblance to actor Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show.

Games Four and Five belonged to Drysdale and Koufax, respectively, as the Dodgers prevailed,7-2 and 7-0. Koufax fanned 10 and walked one in his SHO. He received support from Maury Wills’s four hits and Willie Davis’s three SB. The Twins took Game Six, 5-1, at The Metrodome, as Grant (2-1) bested Osteen (1-1). Grant and Bob Allison homered for the Twins. Osteen allowed one earned run in his five innings.

An electrical storm hit Bloomington, Minnesota, the morning of October 14, 1965, prior to Game Seven. There was a chance the game would be rained out, but it was played. Lou Johnson drilled a HR inside the LF foul pole (344-foot sign), for a 1-0 Dodgers lead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT-grl56oGY. This was his second HR of the series. The Dodgers scored again on a Wes Parker RBI single. In the home fifth, Frank Quilici doubled to left; pinch-hitter Rich Rollins, batting for reliever Al Worthington, walked. Zoilo Versalles slammed one down the third-base line, but Gilliam snagged it—saving a possible two-run double—and touched 3B ahead of Quilici. Joe Nossek grounded out, 6-4, to end the threat. Koufax fanned Killebrew to complete the SHO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1lH-5GVZ6Q  For more insights on Game Seven, please read: https://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/sandy-koufax-1965-world-series-game7-los-angeles-dodgers-minnesota-twins-102715. Koufax told Vin Scully he felt 100 years old after Game Five; and “101 after Game Seven.” Koufax credited Lou Johnson, for replacing an injured Tommy Davis, 1965 regular season, and coming through with his Game Seven HR.

Postscript

Koufax retired after his 27-9, 1.73 ERA season, and 1966 WS sweep by Baltimore versus Los Angeles. His courage and determination were second-to-none. Gilliam also retired after the 1966 season, and coached for the Dodgers until his passing at age 49, post-1978 NLCS. The 85-year old Lou Johnson has the distinction of The Sweet Lou Johnson Lexington SABR Chapter—formed in 2018—named after him.

The author’s maternal grandfather (Louis L. Swarthe), step-grandmother (Florence Swarthe) and Belle Postal are buried at Hillside Memorial Cemetery, Culver City, California, where singer Al Jolson is interred. Hilda Swarthe passed away in Los Angeles, in 1976. She once administered a Beverly Hills, California Art Gallery, for Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr. Florence and Belle were also connected to Hollywood in the “Golden Age.” Belle was a secretary in the 1940s for producer Mike Todd and Orson Welles.  Florence worked for Raoul Walsh on two films—Cock Eyed World and The Big Trail—John Wayne’s first starring role! Robert Swarthe—uncle to Bryan and the author—made a 1975 animated short film (eight minutes long) called Kick Me, about a pair of red legs and its misadventures on celluloid film, involving a giant baseball and spiders. It was nominated for an Academy Award.

Thanks to Jorge Colón Delgado, Hiram Cuevas, Bryan Goldberg, Eddie Napoleon, Claude Osteen, Ron Perranoski, J.W. Porter, Robert Swarthe, Dick Tracewski and Héctor Valle.

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