Sandy Koufax could pitch and dunk


Sandy Koufax was a huge baller.

As in, basketball.


Richard Sandomir writes for The New York Times that before sitting out Yom Kippur, the legendary Jewish Major League Baseball pitcher was a hoops prodigy:

In February 1953, a Koufax legend was born, not one as grand as his perfect game at Dodger Stadium in 1965 against the Chicago Cubs but one that came alive inside Lafayette High School on a winter’s night when a group of Knicks, including Harry Gallatin, staged a clinic at the school, in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn. Jane Leavy, in her book “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy,” described a scene that featured a packed gym and Lafayette’s cheerleaders “in full pompomed confection.” …

Sometime that night, during drills or the scrimmage — depending on who is telling the story — the 6-6 Gallatin, nicknamed the Horse, tried to dunk. Twice, he failed.

“Well, I needed a step stool to dunk the ball,” Gallatin said by telephone from Edwardsville, Ill. “That wasn’t in my repertory.” According to Leavy, Lafayette Coach Frank Rabinowitz, apparently eager to show off the 17-year-old Koufax, gestured to him to demonstrate just how a dunk was done.

Koufax threw it down once, left-handed; Rabinowitz asked for an encore. Koufax obliged.

“He surprised the heck out of me, and I said, ‘Who is this kid?’ ” Gallatin said. “I thought the kid had some special skills. He had real big hands, but he had stumps for legs, which I think is probably one of the reasons he pitched so well.”

Sandomir notes that Koufax was 6-2 when he graduated Laffayette. JTA Editor in Chief Ami Eden taught me not to be impressed by Jewish high school dunkers over 6-feet tall. I hope he’ll make an exception in this case.

ARCHIVE NOTES: Jewish multi-sport athletes weren’t so rare back in the day. Examples abound from JTA’s 1934 "Slants on Sports" columnist Morris Weiner … Read JTA’s 2002 story about Jane Leavy’s Koufax biography.

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