To tell the truth, I wasn't too successful in the famous Koufax-Drysdale double holdout in 1966. I mean, when the smoke had cleared they stood together on the battlefield with $235,000 between them, and I stood there With a blood-stained cashbox. Well, they had a gimmick and it worked; I'm not denying it. They said that one wouldn't sign unless the other signed. Since one of the two was the greatest pitcher I've ever seen (and possibly the greatest anybody has ever seen), the gimmick worked. But be sure to stick around for the fun the next time somebody tries that gimmick. I don't care if the whole infield comes in as a package; the next year the whole infield will be wondering what it is doing playing for the Nankai Hawks.
You can learn a lot about the problems of journalism by studying the printed record of the life of Sandy Koufax. As far as I am concerned, nobody since Rudolph Valentino ever had as many myths, legends and pure balderdash written about him as Sandy. The reason is simple: Sandy is a warm, friendly, honest, intelligent human being, one of the finest human beings I have ever known, but the truth is he was never very colorful. In an age when self-promotion has been raised to a fine art, Sandy mastered the fine art of quiet effectiveness. He spoke clearly and briefly, and he did not go into lurid details about how he struck out this batter with a clever fast ball on the inside corner when the batter had been expecting a slider, or how he crossed up the offense by swinging away in the eighth inning when they were expecting him to bunt, or how he expected to win even more games next year, or how he intended to murder them in the World Series with his high hard ones. A Billy Loes he was not. And as far as his private life was concerned, Sandy kept that completely personal and confidential.
You should have heard Sandy in the clubhouse after pitching one of his typical wins, like maybe a 1-0 or a 2-1 job. He'd sit there bedraggled, sweaty and crumpled in front of his locker, smoking a cigarette, and the reporters would crowd around, and he'd stay till the last one had finished his last question, and when he was absolutely sure that everybody had asked everything conceivably possible including what he had had to eat before the game, Sandy would shower. And if you added all his answers together, they would come out something like: "Yes, it was very satisfying to me. No, all the games are important now. Yes, that was a great play Gilliam made in the eighth. No, I stayed with the fast ball all the way. Yes, Rosey called a great game. No, my arm didn't hurt any more than usual." I mean, that was it, game after game. Sandy Koufax was just not one of those guys who rise to great heights of rhetoric when they talk about themselves. It always looked to me like Sandy would rather be in the dentist's chair.
But don't ever forget that Sandy Koufax was the name in baseball, and certain sports editors waiting back in the office weren't going to sit still for ordinary answers. As a result, a few writers were tempted to extend or embroider their quotes or even to distort a little here and there. Sandy being the kind of guy he was, he never complained. The hell of it is, the distortion is still going on, long after Sandy hung up his spikes, and I suppose it will go on as long as baseball is played. Not long ago I saw two different magazines with big cover splashes on how Sandy Koufax can be lured back into baseball. Now, anybody that knows Sandy at all knows that nothing will lure Sandy back into baseball. There is no way! Sandy is out, finished, kaput. He made his decision. It was a highly intelligent decision, consistent with Sandy's usual clear thinking, and I didn't like it and neither did the Dodger fans, but he made it and if you know Sandy at all you know he'll stick with it. A magazine that makes broad hints about Sandy's return to baseball is only trying to exploit the magic that still goes with his name. How Sandy must cringe when he sees those magazines on the newsstands!
May 14, 1967
But it has always been that way with Sandy. A kid as quiet and dignified as he is, a kid who flatly refused to let the press play with any part of his private life, is a challenge. In fact, the stories that came out about his holdout with Drysdale and, later on, his retirement from baseball—well, most of them were 90% fiction. Unfortunately, at the very end of his career Sandy accidentally added to some of the confusion, partly because he was juggling a lot of important things (including helping the Dodgers win the pennant) and partly because Sandy, God bless him, is evidently his own worst biographer. I enjoyed his book, Koufax, but, to tell you the truth, I didn't recognize some of the details in it, especially the chapter on the double holdout. I'm not saying that the chapter is untrue; I'm just saying that my memories of the double holdout and Sandy's memories are two different things.
My memories of Sandy Koufax go back a long way, incidentally, and right from the first I found out that the Koufaxes were stand-up people. Al Campanis, now our chief scout, had spotted Sandy in 1955, liked the looks of him and asked him to come to the Brooklyn Dodger front office with his father. The Giants and the Pirates and the Braves had looked him over already and all of them had liked him, but he hadn't signed with anybody. We met in my office: Sandy, a big, handsome kid right off the campus of the University of Cincinnati; his father, Irving, a lawyer and a straight shooter; Campanis and me. There was no horsing around. I asked Mr. Koufax how much money they wanted. He said $14,000 plus the usual minimum salary of $6,000. I said fine, and we all made a handshake deal. And that's about all there was to it, except that I told them that I had no room on the roster and asked them to wait for a contract until I could unload somebody to make room. That was O.K. with Mr. Koufax and the kid. To them a handshake was as good as a signed contract.
Now they get up to leave the office and, as they are walking down the stairs, who is walking up but a Pittsburgh scout, Ed McCarrick. You might wonder why a Pittsburgh scout was coming into our office as though he owned the place, and the answer is that Ed McCarrick had once worked for the Dodgers and felt right at home with us and used to drop in to shoot the breeze, which was fine with everybody. Ed sees the father and son going down our stairs and he panics. He figures that Sandy Koufax is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a scout, and after some fast action on the long-distance phone Ed gets in touch with the Koufax family and tells them that Branch Rickey of the Pirates has authorized him to offer $5,000 more than Brooklyn's top bid, whatever it is. Well, I don't have to tell you what most people would have done, especially since Sandy would have preferred pitching for Rickey and the Pirates because he had a much better chance of breaking into their rotation. But Mr. Koufax and his son never hesitated for a second; they told Ed that they had a deal with the Dodgers. I found out later that John Quinn, who was then general manager of the Braves, had offered Sandy $30,000 to sign, and the Koufaxes turned down that one, too. Now, if you start out a business relationship like that, you know what kind of people you are dealing with. And let me say right here that nothing Sandy did later, including the double holdout, changed my opinion one iota. If a kid squares off against you for a big stake and fights you tooth and nail with every tool he has, you may come out of the battle thinking he's one tough son of a gun, but you're not going to come out thinking he's dishonorable.
The double holdout started on February 26, 1966, when spring training opened and Sandy and Donald didn't show. It looked in the papers as though they had made a big salary demand on the club and the club had turned them down. But it wasn't that simple. Being three good friends, as I hope we still are, Donald and Sandy and I had met and talked things over. In the first meeting, right after the 1965 season, we got no place. We sat down in my office at Dodger stadium and they said they had an agent—Sandy's lawyer, Bill Hayes—and that they wanted a three-year no-cut contract totaling $1 million and that neither one would sign unless both were satisfied. I told them I would negotiate only with them, that any discussions they had with their agent were their own business but please keep him away from me, that the amount of money they were asking was ridiculous, and that nobody on the ball club, including me and Walter Alston, was ever going to get more than a one-year contract. As I recall, I said something like, "You're both athletes, and what you're selling is your physical ability, and how can you guarantee your physical ability three years in advance? If you guarantee me that you will both be healthy and strong and still winning 20 games each in 1968, I'll give you a three-year contract." Since not even Cassius Clay could make a guarantee like that, the meeting broke up. But there was plenty of time; this was only October, the World Series was barely over and I was in no rush to get them signed, especially at their asking price of $166,000 per year apiece. From the beginning I was willing to give them raises on their 1965 salary, which were $80,000 for Don and $85,000 for Sandy. I had it penciled into my budget: $100,000, more or less, for Sandy, and $90,000, more or less, for Donald.
A month or so later, when I had heard nothing, I called Donald and I said, "Look, time's passing and we'd better sit down and talk about this thing." He said, "Sure, Buzzie, let's meet at the restaurant of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel." The three of us sat at a corner table in one of those between-mealtimes when hardly anybody was there, and Sandy started working up some figures on the back of an envelope. He was suggesting things like instead of paying them $166,000 apiece for three years we could pay them $200,000 apiece for 1966, $200,000 apiece for 1967 and $100,000 apiece for 1968. I said, "Sandy, what are you trying to do to me? That still adds up to a million dollars over three years. I can't pay you or anybody else that kind of money, and you know it."
Well, we all hemmed and hawed around, and finally they made their first concession: they said each of them would sign for $150,000 per year on a three-year contract. That's $900,000, or down 10% from their opening position, but the amount was still out of line and the three-year contract was impossible.
Now the months rushed by and nobody did any bargaining with anybody (least of all with their agent, Bill Hayes), and finally, just before we all were supposed to take off for spring training, Don and Sandy and I had a third meeting at the same hotel. Now they drop their demands for three-year contracts, and they also begin to hint that maybe they'll take a trifle less than $150,000 per year each. For the first time I see a slight chance to negotiate and I say, "Look, I can give the two of you $190,000, maybe $195,000 to sign, but I am not going to give it to you as a package. I don't want any package deals now or ever. Sandy, you know I am going to give you more money than I am going to give Donald, and if you want to take some of your money and give it to him that's your business—but no package deals."
They said they couldn't think of accepting my offer, and I told them goodby, that I was going south and that I hoped to hear from them when they felt in a more reasonable mood.
Well, the whole spring-training season went by, and let me be the first to admit that Walter O'Malley and I were nowhere near as cool about the missing pitchers as we were letting on. We may be stubborn, but we're not stupid! Sandy and Don had won almost 50 games the year before, and without them we would be in real trouble. Of course, both sides went through the usual rites of spring. Sandy and Don said they would retire from baseball, and I wrote them that the proper way to go about retiring was to send me letters to that effect, which they never did, and I think there was one brief telephone conversation where Walter O'Malley wished them luck in whatever they did outside of baseball, and they went out and signed to make a movie, etc., etc. Nobody takes any of that stuff seriously; it's all standard negotiating procedure.
Nevertheless, spring training was almost over and they still hadn't signed, and I began to get a little itchy. Finally I called Donald long distance at his home in Hidden Valley just outside of Los Angeles and told him I was flying back to try to work something out. I said, "Fun's fun, Donald, but this is getting serious."
The next day I showed up at my office just in time to hear the phone ring. It was Don, and he said, "Buzzie, let's meet at Nicola's." That's a restaurant not far from the ball park.
The place was closed, but the manager let us in and gave us a back room where we could talk. It was just like that opening session with Mr. Koufax years before—I mean there were no wasted words. The Dodgers needed those boys, and they needed the Dodgers. So I said, "All right, Donald, what will it take to sign you boys?"
He said, "I'll sign for $110,000, and Sandy will sign for $125,000."
I said, "How do I know that's O.K. with Sandy?"
He said, "Sandy told me to deal for him."
I said, "All right. It's a deal with me, and I'm sure it'll be a deal with Mr. O'Malley. He's at a game now at Vero Beach, and I'd like to give him the courtesy of telling him we've settled. The game'll be over in about 45 minutes."
Donald said, "I'll call Sandy in the meantime."
So we made our calls from the pay phone in Nicola's and everybody agreed, and an hour later we announced the signing at a press conference in the Dodgers' office. I'll never forget Sandy's first words when he showed up. He said, "Oh boy, am I glad! Now I won't have to act in that movie!" When they had signed for their movie, Chuck Connors had said, "They'll be sensational," but Chuck is as good at judging actors as he used to be at hitting against lefties. I mean, to put it kindly, Sandy and Don were not born for the stage, and the Dodgers ought to get an Oscar for keeping them out of the movies.
The double holdout was over, but I can't say that I felt good about it. We wound up giving the boys much more money than we had intended, and if you had to pick a winner in the whole argument, you'd have to say it was Drysdale and Koufax. Donald got a $30,000 raise and Sandy got a $40,000 raise, and neither would have commanded that much money negotiating alone. After all, they got the biggest raises in baseball history. To that extent, the double holdout worked, although they gave in on the three-year contract for $1 million, which I don't think they ever meant, anyway. But, as I said before, the plan only worked because the greatest pitcher in baseball was in on it, and also they caught us by surprise. Believe me, Walter O'Malley and I have talked the problem over many times, and no double holdout will ever work again on the Los Angeles Dodgers. We're firm on that. The next time two of them come walking in together, they'll go walking out together. Koufax and Drysdale took advantage of a good thing, that's one way to look at it, and another way to look at it is, why shouldn't they? All's fair in negotiating, as I have also said before. This was a unique situation, and it will never happen again.
Anyway, the double holdout didn't cost the ball club quite as much as the figures would seem to indicate. In the first place, I had anticipated the possibility of having to come up with high figures for Don and Sandy, especially after the season they had had, and therefore I had not been quite as generous with some of the other players as I might have been. I don't mean I cut anybody just to get money to pay the two pitchers. It worked more like this: let's say a kid comes into my office and I've got him penciled in for $27,000, and he sits down and says that he wants $23,000. This happens all the time, believe me, and my natural inclination is to say, "I've got you down for $27,000, and that's what you are going to get." But not this time. This time if the kid said he'd sign for $23,000 I'd let it go at that, or maybe I'd sign him for a thousand more. The net result was that our 1966 budget for ballplayers went up exactly the $100,000 I had planned on, with Koufax and Drysdale getting $70,000 of the increase and the other 24 guys getting the rest. I'd have liked to give the other players more, but a budget is a budget and I stuck to it.
Just how much the other boys were worth in winning the pennant and drawing two and a half million fans is hard to figure. That was one of the things that irked me in some of the published stories about the negotiations. They were saying that every time Donald pitched in Dodger Stadium he drew 3,000 extra fans, and every time Sandy pitched he drew 8,000 extra. Since each fan figures to spend an average of $4.50 on parking, admission and food, this comes to $13,000 to Donald's credit and $36,000 to Sandy's. Well, hold on there! I could make an argument that Donald had actually cost us fans in our first five years in Los Angeles. He was so grouchy and temperamental that some people refused to come out and see him pitch. And as far as Sandy was concerned, one important reason that he drew more people was the fact that we tried to use him whenever we could in crucial games, and more often than not the other teams saved up their best pitchers to go against him. Now does that mean we should have sent money to Juan Marichal or Jim Bunning? I mean, those figures about who brings how many into a ball park are highly conjectural. What about those other Dodgers on the field? How many fans do they bring in? Let's say Sandy comes to the ball park and the other 25 players stay home, then how many people is he going to bring in? The whole thing can get to be a joke.
What really confused me was the holdout chapter in Sandy's book. To read that version of baseball history you'd think that Sandy and Don had won the biggest victory since Guadalcanal. Now, I'm not the vainest person in the world, and I've already admitted that Sandy and Don racked us up pretty good financially. But according to Sandy's book they scored all kinds of other points, too, and established several precedents. The book tells how I refused to negotiate through their agent, which is 100% true, but then it says that "just before the Dodgers broke camp, Buzzie came back to Los Angeles and called Bill Hayes." In other words, after refusing to negotiate through their agent, I gave in and telephoned him.
Well, if I did that, I opened the door to more trouble than baseball ever dreamed in its worst nightmares. If I gave in and began negotiating baseball contracts through an agent, then I set a precedent that's going to bring awful pain to general managers for years to come, because every salary negotiation with every humpty-dumpty fourth-string catcher is going to run into months of dickering. Sandy knows I've got better sense than that, and Sandy knows I have never in my life called his agent. It happened exactly as I have told you; I called Don Drysdale from Vero Beach, and Don and I got together the next day in Nicola's. And yet Sandy's book says, "There's a certain irony, of course, in having Don go in to negotiate from friendship immediately after we had established the right of dealing through a third party." I can only assume that Sandy made an honest error. To the best of my memory, and I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, I have talked to Bill Hayes three times in my life, and each time on the telephone, and each time about some minor matter brought up by him. Once, I recall, he wanted to know if it was all right for Sandy to make some kind of television appearance, and another time there was something about an endorsement, and our third conversation was about a matter of such monumental importance that I can't even remember it! Sandy's contract to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers has never been discussed with Bill Hayes, and nobody ever "established the right of dealing through a third party." They had not established any "right" to come at me in pairs, either, as anyone who is interested can find out in the future by trying it. I do remember that Sandy's book was written at a very crucial time of his life. He was getting ready to quit baseball, he was negotiating a job with NBC, he was taking his turn on the mound every four days and he was battling his arthritis, and, in between all this, he was helping to put a book together. Under the circumstances, it is easy for me to understand how the chapter on the double holdout could wind up as just about the most jumbled history of any financial dealing I have ever read, full of wrong data, wrong amounts, wrong conclusions, wrong interpretations. It is so wrong that I hated to bring up the subject, but I had to discuss it, because that chapter also makes me look like some kind of a rat, a guy who was unfair and deceitful to Sandy and Don, two of my favorite human beings.
Sandy came to me himself one day and apologized for one sentence in that chapter that really stung. After a long narrative about salary negotiations in which the book had made me look like some sort of southern plantation owner dealing with one of his slaves, he wrote: "There is no law that says you have to like your boss...."
Sandy came to me and said, "Buzzie, I want you to know that I didn't mean you." That was a surprise to me; after all, it was me he had been talking about all through the chapter.
By now, so many legends have grown up about Sandy Koufax that I hardly know where to begin in sorting them out. I suppose the main legend is that Sandy pitched through agonizing pain and that he finally had to quit baseball because he could stand the pain no longer. Now, let's be absolutely clear about this. I am not saying that Sandy had no pain. After he had pitched a long ball game and plunked that elbow of his into the ice water, that arm must have hurt plenty. Even a nonarthritic has pain in his arm after throwing 130 or 150 pitches in a long ball game.
But Sandy did not suffer agonizing pain while he was pitching, and he never said he did, either. I think Roberto Clemente was on the right track when he said: "All I know about Sandy's arthritis is that it must come after the game is over. Nobody could pitch the way Koufax does with something bothering him." Sandy had arthritis, bad arthritis, no doubt about it, but if he had the pain that the press kept yelping about he'd have had to walk right off the mound. I never heard Sandy complain once about pain during a game. Of course, he's that kind of guy; he wouldn't say anything even if he was hurting. Simple common sense has to tell you that no one can chalk up the records he did with a sore arm. But how the papers worked on that painful legend! They used to show pictures of him pitching and his face would be all contorted, and the caption would say something about the agony the brave Koufax was going through. Why, I can show you similar pictures of every pitcher in baseball, including one of Sal Maglie where his face looks like there must be a scorpion in his undershorts, and all he's doing is pitching to the No. 6 batter with two outs in the second inning and a 5-0 lead.
I know what made Sandy Koufax quit, and I agree with him 100%; in fact, as much as I hated to lose Sandy, I never suggested for a second that his reasoning was anything but correct. And here's what his reasoning was: Sandy is a doer; he likes to play golf, to wire up fancy stereo sets, to fool with his cars and to go out and play and have fun, and every time he wound up and threw a baseball he ran the risk that some time in the future, some day maybe 10 years off, he would lose the use of that bad arm and not be capable of doing the things that he wanted to. In other words, he could stay in baseball and earn more and more money for his retirement years, but at the same time he might be destroying his retirement, because who the hell wants to go into a disabled retirement? Sandy was thinking ahead, that's all. I'll never forget what he told me: "Buzzie, I'm working hard, I'm not married, I'm saving a lot of money. I've stayed in baseball so that later on I'll be able to do all the things I like to do. But suppose later on I'm physically unable to do those things? If I can't do those things, why bother to work to make money for my retirement?"
I agreed with him right down the line; I never for one second insisted that Sandy pitch another season once he had made up his mind. Dr. Robert Kerlan, the team's physician, knew how strongly Sandy felt. I'll never forget one day after Sandy's retirement the doctor said to him, "Sandy, you can still pitch." And Sandy said, "I know I can still pitch," and the doctor said, "Well, why don't you pitch another season?" And Sandy said, "I don't want to pitch anymore." Dr. Kerlan said, "If we could eliminate any pain from that arm, would you pitch again?" Sandy said, "No."
In other words, Sandy had had it. He wasn't going to jeopardize his future physical condition any further. And all the time he was arriving at this decision, the papers were printing their daily horror story: the agony of Sandy Koufax. It was a fine story, the way they wrote it, a real sob story, but Sandy would be the first one to come out and tell you: he could suit up and pitch right now and win damn near 27 games, too, I'd be willing to bet! If you want to see a real study in arthritic pain, by the way, look at Dr. Kerlan. He is permanently bent. He has arthritis of the spine, and he has to take 20 aspirins a day for his pain. But he operates through his pain, he functions with it. Sandy is equally able to function on the mound.
The truth about Sandy's retirement is very simple. He quit for the same reason I work: security. I want the security of my job. He wants the security of his health. Do you really think I would try to argue him out of a decision like that and maybe have his useless left arm on my conscience for the rest of my life? I don't have the guts!
Of course, Sandy did disappoint me in the way he announced his retirement. In my opinion, the whole thing left something to be desired. You probably think you know the story. You read it in the paper, didn't you, how Sandy came to Buzzie and said he wanted to quit and Buzzie said, "Oh, Sandy, please don't quit until after the winter meetings, because if I go to the meetings with you on the roster I'll be able to trade for a pitcher, but if I go with you off the roster they'll know I'm hurting for pitchers and they'll never give me one." That "inside" story was printed in just about every newspaper. It's not true. Now, normally, I would say what the hell's the difference, and let the story stand unchallenged. The reason I'm not is, first, it makes me look like a guy who would have the nerve to say to a great ballplayer, "We've gotten everything we could out of you, and now please disrupt your personal plans for a few more months so that we can squeeze out a little more." I don't like that suggestion. Second, the "inside" story makes it look as though Sandy did not care much about the future of the Dodgers, because, after all, he did announce his retirement before the winter meetings. I wish I had a dollar for every newspaper item that explained how Sandy had done the ball club an injustice by announcing his retirement too soon; now the Dodgers wouldn't be able to trade for a decent pitcher, etc., etc. And I wish I had two dollars for every newspaper item that explained how that heartless Bavasi insisted that Sandy wait until after the trading period.
Well, it was all baloney; it wasn't fair to Sandy, and it wasn't fair to me. But the imminent retirement of such a spectacular star and such a reticent star was bound to cause all kinds of conjecture. Sandy wouldn't talk about his retirement plans, and I couldn't talk about them, since I was one of the last to find out, and between those two incommunicado sources the newspaper guys pretty much had to guess for themselves. Most of their guesses were wrong.
Phil Collier of The San Diego Union, one of Sandy's few close friends in the press, says that Sandy first told him of the retirement in 1965, a year before it happened. "Next year will be the last," Sandy told him, and swore him to secrecy. Collier had to keep Sandy's secret to himself. When a reporter stops respecting confidences like that, he stops getting confidences like that. The irony is that when Sandy finally did make his retirement announcement, he did it in such a way as to give Collier a scoop but also to force Collier into an error, not a big error, but the kind of petty thing that irks a good newspaperman.
Despite certain stories you may read, Sandy did not come to me right after the World Series and tell me that he was going to retire. Now that it's all over, I wish he had. He may have told a few close friends, but I was not one of them. The last word I had with Sandy about retirement was late in the season, when he told me he was giving it some thought. I told him I hoped he wouldn't quit but, if he had to, it would help the ball club if he would wait until after the winter meetings in December. I told him that we would be hurting without him and the other ball clubs would want us to keep on hurting. He said that he would bear that in mind, and I told him it was no big deal, that the main thing was that he protect his own future and do what was right by himself. He said he would let me know his decision as soon as the season was over.
Now the World Series ends and Sandy says nothing, and another player comes to me and gets me all excited by telling me that Sandy has decided he was making so much money on the Dodgers that he was going to pitch another year. The weeks go by, the ball club goes barnstorming to Japan, but Sandy stays home for reasons of his own, and soon I've got my hopes up that we are not going to lose him. I figure that every day that goes by in silence is an indication that he's staying, which is what I want more than anything. And just when I'm lulling myself into a false sense of security the telephone rings on my desk. "Buzzie," Sandy says, "I've got to see you right away. I'm quitting baseball."
We had a long talk, and there was no doubt about it: Sandy was through. As I remember, I made a little speech about how much he had meant to the Dodgers and how much he had meant to me personally, and I said: "Sandy, I hate to see you go, but I have to admit you're making sense. And as far as waiting until the winter meetings is concerned, it won't make that much difference anyway. All the other clubs know you're going to retire, if not this year then next year, and they're not going to give us any pitchers anyway." I said, "You've got money in the bank, you're a young man, you've got a chance to make some money, and there's no sense staying in baseball and jeopardizing your future."
You can't imagine a friendlier meeting of the minds. We were in total agreement. I was amazed later when the stories came out explaining how I had demanded that Sandy wait until December and Sandy had said the Dodgers and Bavasi could go to hell and he was announcing right away. Just plain bull!
At the end of our friendly talk, Sandy said, "I'd like to make the announcement tomorrow."
Well, all of the Dodgers except me and Sandy and one or two others were still in Japan, and I suggested to Sandy that it would be a nice gesture to Mr. O'Malley to wait until they came back several days later. He said that would be fine with him, and we agreed that Sandy's final press conference would be on Wednesday, November 23, the day before Thanksgiving, in the Dodger office. That was eight days away. I called the caterer, tipped off a few of my friends to make no plans for that date, and everything's set.
About 7 o'clock on Thursday evening, two days after our little talk and a week before Thanksgiving, Sandy calls me at home and says, "Buzzie, I've changed my mind. Let's have the press conference tomorrow."
I was flabbergasted, and I was blunt. I said, "I'm not having it tomorrow!"
I said, "Sandy, Mr. O'Malley will still be in Japan. Can't you see we can't have him picking up a Japanese newspaper and reading how his star pitcher retired? You've got to give Walter a chance to take part in something as important as this, Sandy. I think we both owe it to him." I don't know whether I was right or wrong, but I felt strongly about what I was saying. I didn't think that something that started with a handshake 11 years before should end so coldly now.
Sandy said, "It'll be O.K. as long as you're there, won't it, Buzzie?"
I said, "How can I be there without Mr. O'Malley? That would look twice as bad."
He said, "I want you there, Buzzie."
I said, "Sandy, I can't have my picture taken with you and then have Walter pick up a newspaper in Japan and say, 'Well, this is great! My man's retiring, and he can't even wait for me to come back.' "
And Sandy said, "Well, I'm going to do it anyway."
I said, "What's the hurry, Sandy?"
And he said something about he was tired of being deceitful to his friends, and he thought it was coming out in one of the newspapers, and he wanted to be fair to all the reporters.
I said, "Sandy, I'm sorry, but I can't have anything to do with it."
He said, "Well, I'm sorry, too, Buzzie. I wanted your smiling face there. I'll go ahead and make the announcement tomorrow in the office."
And I said, "No, you won't. No chance! If you have the press conference in the office, then it looks like I'm condoning the fact that you're quitting while Walter's away."
He said, "O.K., then I'll announce my retirement someplace else."
The next day Sandy made his announcement at 1:15 in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, but the Los Angeles reporters had been scooped. The San Diego Union was already on the streets announcing the retirement of the great pitcher, and the wire services had flashed the story coast to coast. Sandy's friend, Phil Collier, had learned of the impending retirement the night before and had beaten everybody else by a clean 12 hours. There was just one little error in his story. It said that the Dodgers had called a press conference for one o'clock. Thus it was pretty clear to me that Collier had found out about the retirement plans before I had vetoed any official Dodger participation.
When I read Collier's story, I remembered how Sandy had told me the night before that he couldn't wait any longer to announce the retirement, that somebody was coming out with the story and he wanted to give all the reporters a chance. Now it seemed to me that if somebody was coming out with the story, it must have been because Sandy had tipped them off. So he was being forced to announce his retirement the next day because of an action he had taken himself. That seemed to me to be insufficient reason for treating Walter O'Malley discourteously.
On the other hand, I still thought I knew Sandy Koufax very well. He had disappointed me twice in his life: once when he said a few uncomplimentary and inaccurate things in his book, and now in giving the back of his hand to the man we both worked for. Weighed against those two annoyances, there were so many times when Sandy had put all of us in the Dodger organization deep in his debt that the only emotion I had left after his retirement was sadness. Not just the Dodger fan's sadness that the big meal ticket was gone for good, but the sadness of losing a personal friend on a sour note. I felt rotten about it. I wished there was some way it could all be replayed, with pomp and ceremony in the Dodger office and a brass band and everybody making noble speeches about how much Sandy had meant to all of us and to baseball. Instead, the finest pitcher the game had ever known wound up announcing his retirement in a hotel room with his lawyer at his side and not a Dodger to be seen.
I brooded about it for a week. I brooded about it, in fact, until Thanksgiving night, when just as I sat down to a big holiday meal with the family, the phone rang.
"Buzzie?" It was Sandy, and I put my hand over the phone and said in a stage whisper: "It's Sandy!"
"What's the big idea, interrupting my Thanksgiving dinner?" I said as gruffly as I could.
Sandy said, "I just called to wish you and Evit and all the family a happy Thanksgiving."
"Well," I said, "The same to you, Sandy." I didn't say a whole lot else. But I was as glad as if I had heard from the President.
Sandy, Don 'Study Offers'
Sandy, Don Sign Film Contract
Nix New Dodger Offer
Sandy Nixes $125,000; 'Big D' Rejects $100,000
SANDY, DRYSDALE ASK A MILLION $
Sandy, Don Say No to O'Malley
Bavasi explains the many ploys of salary haggling and tells how a ballplayer can maneuver himself into taking less pay.