Sandy Koufax versus Charlie James

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While I was watching the All Star Game tonight, I paid more attention to Sandy Koufax a 79 year old left handed pitcher that was able to throw right down the middle of the plate to Cincinnati’s home town hero Johnny Bench. I soon begin to remember stories about my first cousin and former St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Charlie James and how he owned Sandy Koufax. Here are Charlie’s batting numbers against Sandy Koufax. Charlie’s career was from 1960-65 as a Cardinal and with the Reds in 1965. In that five year span he had 59 plate appearances and at bats against Sandy Koufax. Charlie had 2 homeruns and 10 rbi during this period of time against Koufax. His batting average against Koufax was only .220, on base percentage .220, slugging percentage .322 and on base/slugging percentage .542. As a kid I heard stories from my uncles that Charlie was a pain in the arm to Sandy Koufax.In a six-year big-league career, James hit 29 home runs. His only grand slam was the one off Koufax. In 1964 Charlie  hit another first-inning home run off Koufax, a three-run shot in a 7-6 Cardinals victory. Charlie is also distinguished amongst some greats in regards of hitting home runs against  Koufax .In a 12-year big-league career Sandy Koufax yielded 204 home runs, including six grand slams. Charlie James, Ernie Banks of the Cubs and Frank Bolling of the Braves are the only players who hit two or more homers with at least two runners on base against Koufax. Here is an article written by Russell Lake that appears in sabr.org. This passage from the full article gives a glimpse on what happen when Charlie faced Koufax

On September 22 against the Dodgers, James had the most memorable at-bat of his career. Most of the fans were at Busch Stadium that evening to see if Maury Wills would break Ty Cobb’s single-season stolen-base record. Sandy Koufax was back as the Los Angeles starter, as he had been troubled by a circulation problem with the little finger on his left hand. Koufax walked Curt Flood and Julian Javier, then retired Musial and Ken Boyer. Bill White walked on four pitches to load the bases and James came to the plate. Dodgers manager Walter Alston figured that Koufax would be fine if he got out of the first inning. James worked the count to 2-and-2 and Sandy fired a low fastball toward the outside part of the plate. Charlie shifted slightly and met the pitch on the sweet spot. The sound from the crack of the bat was unmistakable as a line drive soared toward the right-field pavilion roof. Dodgers outfielder Frank Howard had about one second to glance up and see the ball disappear high above him for a grand slam that started the St. Louis scoring in its 11-2 triumph. Almost 50 years later James still joked to those who ask him about it, “I closed my eyes and swung real hard.”4 But he also offered a serious analysis of the at-bat, “That was a big thrill. You couldn’t hit Koufax’s 100-mph fastball, but if the ball started at the knees, it would rise to belt high by the time it got to the plate. That was the only way you could hit it.”

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com/ SABR.org (Russell Lake)

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