While attending a fundraiser Tuesday night, the room was a buzz.
You would have thought the Dodgers had just assured themselves a pennant.
It’s been 46 years since Koufax threw his last pitch, yet the very mention of his name still stirs the souls of those who bleed Dodger Blue.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers announced that Koufax, 77, would return to the team as a special advisor to chairman Mark Walter. According the official release at Dodgers.com, Koufax will attend spring training to work with the club’s pitchers and will consult during the season.
The move is likely to energize the Dodgers' psyche and fanbase as much as any technical expertise Koufax will undoubtedly provide in his role as consultant.
It’s been a quarter of a century since the Dodgers last won a World Series (1988 against Oakland, 4-1). It’s been even longer since the Koufax years, when the Dodgers and their dominant pitching staffs were among the most feared teams in baseball.
Koufax played on four World Series Championship teams ('55,'59,'63 and '65). He was the World Series Most Valuable Player in '63 and '65 and had a remarkable postseason ERA of 0.95.
A three-time unanimous CY Young winner and the youngest player ever voted into the Hall of Fame, Koufax will bring his intricate knowledge and immense credibility to a Dodger staff with no less than eight starting pitchers under contract (Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-Jin).
Most intriguing will be the Koufax–Kershaw connection.
Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young winner, has been the pitcher most compared to Koufax since the legendary left-hander retired after the 1966 World Series at the age of 30.
By most statistical accounts, Kershaw, now entering his sixth professional year, is ahead of Koufax, who struggled mightily in his early years as a Dodger. But he still has a long way to go if he is to ever attain the lofty achievement of the game’s greatest pitcher. And no such comparison is even possible without the Dodgers returning to the World Series, where Koufax was such a dominating force.
This will not be Koufax’s first stint with the Dodgers since his retirement. He has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the club and was estranged from the Dodgers when News Corp., which published controversial stories about the pitcher’s personal life, owned them. Koufax is also rumored to have had an uneasy relationship with longtime Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.
With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than three weeks, the Dodgers are hoping that, this time around, the Koufax magic will be part of the formula to help return them back to the top of the baseball world—a place they have not been for the past 25 years.