It is rare that two iconic figures achieve perfection on the same night. Yet on Sept. 9, 1965, Sandy Koufax and Vin Scully both had the signature moments on their great careers.
Koufax’s years of dominance were a blip compared to the ageless Scully. However, the memories of his brilliance on the mound will endure forever. Perhaps, it never got any better than on that night at Dodger Stadium when he pitched a 1-0 perfect game against a Cubs lineup that featured three future Hall of Famers: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.
Scully also was up to the task with his call of the final inning. It always is at the top of his highlight reel.
Note that Scully repeatedly mentioned the time for Koufax’s sake. From a GQ interview in 2011:
I came up with the idea—which is the worst idea in the whole world because it doesn’t mean anything in baseball—I started putting the time on the tape. Well, I put it on just for Sandy, figuring he’d be sitting there with his grandchildren and he’d hear the exact same time: ’Strike two and it’s 9:38.’ When the game was over, the biggest impact in the city was that they thought it was the most dramatic, theatrical calling of a game they’d ever heard because I’d put the time on it. And it was purely for him, not for anybody else! Because as we all know time doesn’t mean anything. In the old days sure, there were curfews and blue laws, but not anymore. That was just one of those nights, and I’ll be honest, it was pretty well done on my part, but I lucked out. It’s kinda like Sandy pitching a perfect game—everything has to happen and that particular night it was pretty good. It could’ve been another night where I was stepping on my tongue and all that stuff. I just always thought God helped me through that, and I’m glad for Sandy. That’s all.”
And here is the text of Scully’s call. Poetry in the baseball booth:
Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the ninth, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game. He has struck out eleven, he has retired twenty-four consecutive batters, and the first man he will look at is catcher Chris Krug, big right-hand hitter, flied to second, grounded to short. Dick Tracewski is now at second base and Koufax ready and delivers: curveball for a strike.
“O” and one the count to Chris Krug. Out on deck to pinch-hit is one of the men we mentioned earlier as a possible, Joey Amalfitano. Here’s the strike one pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike two. And you can almost taste the pressure now. Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too as he backs out, heaves a sigh, took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate. Tracewski is over to his right to fill up the middle, (John) Kennedy is deep to guard the line. The strike two pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball one. Krug started to go after it and held up and Torborg held the ball high in the air trying to convince Vargo (the umpire) but Eddie said no sir. One and two the count to Chris Krug. It is 9:41 p.m. on September the ninth. The one-two pitch on the way: curveball, tapped foul off to the left of the plate.
The Dodgers defensively in this spine-tingling moment: Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg. The boys who will try and stop anything hit their way: Wes Parker, Dick Tracewski, Maury Wills and John Kennedy; the outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairly. And there’s twenty-nine thousand people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. Twenty nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine paid.
Koufax into his windup and the one-two pitch: fastball, fouled back out of play. In the Dodger dugout Al Ferrara gets up and walks down near the runway, and it begins to get tough to be a teammate and sit in the dugout and have to watch. Sandy back of the rubber, now toes it. All the boys in the bullpen straining to get a better look as they look through the wire fence in left field. One and two the count to Chris Krug. Koufax, feet together, now to his windup and the one-two pitch: fastball outside, ball two. (Crowd booing on the tape.)
A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts. The pitch was outside, Torborg tried to pull it over the plate but Vargo, an experienced umpire, wouldn’t go for it. Two and two the count to Chris Krug. Sandy reading signs, into his windup, two-two pitch: fastball, got him swinging.
Sandy Koufax has struck out twelve. He is two outs away from a perfect game.
Here is Joe Amalfitano to pinch-hit for Don Kessinger. Amalfitano is from Southern California, from San Pedro. He was an original bonus boy with the Giants. Joey’s been around, and as we mentioned earlier, he has helped to beat the Dodgers twice, and on deck is Harvey Kuenn. Kennedy is tight to the bag at third, the fastball, a strike. “O” and one with one out in the ninth inning, one to nothing, Dodgers. Sandy reading, into his windup and the strike one pitch: curveball, tapped foul, “O” and two. And Amalfitano walks away and shakes himself a little bit, and swings the bat. And Koufax with a new ball, takes a hitch at his belt and walks behind the mound.
I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world. Sandy fussing, looks in to get his sign, “O” and two to Amalfitano. The strike two pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike three. He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin’ up.
So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the ninth, nineteen-sixty-five, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch, a fastball for a strike. He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed. Sandy ready and the strike one pitch: very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off — he took an extremely long stride to the plate — and Torborg had to go up to get it.
One and one to Harvey Kuenn. Now he’s ready: fastball, high, ball two. You can’t blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while Kuenn just waiting. Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the two-one pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike two. It is 9:46 p.m.
Swung on and missed, a perfect game.
(Thirty-eight seconds of cheering by the crowd.)
On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of twenty-nine thousand one-hundred thirty nine just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that “K” stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.