The 1965 Pennant Race
August ended and September started on a sour note for the Dodgers. They were rained out on August 31st in Pittsburgh and were required to play a doubleheader on September 1st with their already overworked pitching staff. Koufax started the first game against the Pirates and had an early 2-0 lead until the Pirates tied the game in the sixth. The Dodgers had just three hits in the final six innings and Alston stayed with Koufax for the entire game. He struck out 10, but catcher Jim Pagliaroni drove home Wilver Stargell with two outs in the 11th inning for the winning run. A tough night got even worse when the Pirates won the second game, 2-1 as they scored the tie breaking run off Drysdale in the eighth inning. As the long day ended, the double loss to the Pirates left the Dodgers one percentage point behind the Cincinnati Reds (.561 to .560) and the Dodgers one game down in the loss column. The Giants were just a 1/2 game behind, the Braves were two games behind, and the Pirates were 2 1/2 games behind. Five teams were within 2 1/2 games of first place! Even the Phillies, hard luck second place finishers in 1964, were still in the race, just 5 1/2 games behind the Reds. It seemed as if every team in the National League was still in the race.
The Dodgers salvaged the final game with the Pirates and traveled to Houston, the final stop in this never ending road trip. With the need for help from an extra starter, Alston turned to a young left hand pitcher, Nick Willhite. Willhite with relief help from Reed and Perranoski shut out Houston, 3-0. The next night, it took four Dodger pitchers to whitewash the Astros, 5-0. Brewer started and threw three scoreless innings, Podres blanked the Astros four innings, Drysdale retired two hitters with the bases loaded in the eighth inning including a strikeout of Jim Wynn with the bases loaded, and Perranoski finished the game. On Sunday, the final game of the series, the Dodgers had Koufax starting and looking for the sweep. The Astros had been shut out for 25 consecutive innings and Koufax had a 1-0 lead in the seventh. But, Astro pitcher Robin Roberts singled home a tie breaking run in the seventh, and the Dodgers went into the ninth inning, trailing, 2-1 and they needed hits and runs. Wills and Parker singled to open the inning and both moved up a base on an error and the Dodgers had runners on second and third and none out. The next two hitters could not get the ball out of the infield, leaving the Dodgers’ final out to Gilliam. The player-coach delivered an important triple to right field and later scored an additional run in the inning for the Dodgers’ 4-2 win. As the Dodgers finished their four series road trip, they led the Reds by one game, two games over the Giants, and three games over the Braves.
The Dodgers returned home to face the Giants in a two game series on September 6th. The cover of the Dodger scorecard for that month had a cartoon of a Dodger player being chased by demons wearing a Giant, Pirate, Red, and Brave cap.
On Labor Day, more than 53,000 in the stadium saw the Dodgers race to a 4-0 lead, but the powerful Giants scored three runs in the eighth inning and Tom Haller hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to tie the game. In the 12th inning, the Giants scored a run with two outs and stopped the Dodgers in the bottom of the inning for an exhausting 7-6 win. The next night, the Dodgers had just three hits in the final five innings as the Giants swept the series, 3-1. The Giants left Los Angeles with a two game sweep and a miniscule lead of .002 percentage points as the Dodgers while having two more wins than the Giants also had two more losses. The Reds were ever present, trailing by just a 1/2 game, and the Braves were just one game behind the Giants.
September 9, 1965 was already an unusual day. The Cubs were in Los Angeles to play a one game series. Why just a one-game series? The 1965 season played a balanced schedule, meaning every club played each other 18 games, nine games at home and nine games on the road. The Dodgers and Cubs had already played a four game series in Los Angeles in May and in July for a total of eight games with one game left to be played in Los Angeles by the Dodgers and Cubs. So, they played a one game series at Dodger Stadium.
Koufax started for the Dodgers and Bob Hendley threw for the Cubs. Hendley had gotten off to a terrible start in 1965 and even spent time at Triple A, but he had been making progress.
The Dodgers ran on the field and Koufax walked to the mound to face the Cubs’ leadoff man and center fielder Don Young. Young and left fielder Byron Browne were playing their first major league game and it was Young who made the first out of the game by hitting a pop fly to Lefebvre at second base.
After the Dodger first inning was three and out, the Cubs’ second inning had a foul out by Santo, a strikeout by Banks and the first major league at bat for left fielder Byron Browne. The rookie Browne wanted to be aggressive in his first major league at bat and he hit a hard line drive, but it was right at center fielder Willie Davis. Twenty feet either way might have been a hit for the young Browne, but it was just a hard line drive out.
The Dodgers and the Cubs were two of the lowest scoring clubs in the National League and it was no surprise the first six men were retired in the two innings to start the game. Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully was matter of fact after Lefebvre flied deep to center field to end the second inning as he said “After two innings of play, no score.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
In the third inning, broadcaster Jerry Doggett took over for Scully and as the leadoff hitter for the Cubs, Chris Krug, batted, Doggett mentioned, “No score, no runs, and no hits for either side.”Jerry Doggett, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
The Cubs went down in order again and in the Dodger third inning, Parker grounded to shortstop, Torborg grounded to third, and Koufax grounded to the pitcher Hundley.
Broadcaster Scully began play by play in the fourth inning and said, “No runs and no hits for each side as we go to the fourth (inning). “So two talented lefthanders locked up, Bob Hendley and Sandy Koufax.” As Scully did the play-by-play, he kept listeners informed of the Mets-Reds’ game in Cincinnati, as the Reds were tied with the Dodgers for second place. Scully also gave pitching updates for the Dodger-Astro series that weekend and discussed the birth of a son for shortstop Maury Wills.Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Koufax retired the first two Cub hitters in the fourth inning and then fanned star Cub outfielder Billy Williams. As the fourth inning ended, Scully added, “We have a perfect game on both sides. Koufax has retired 12 in a row, Hendley has retired nine in a row and so there just hasn’t been a visitor to first base.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Hendley responded to Koufax’s performance and retired the Dodgers in the fourth. Scully noted the scoreless duel, “Hendley has retired 12 in a row and after four innings, perfect. Nobody has gotten nowhere with nobody.” In the next inning, Scully told school students to excuse his use of his triple negative.Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
The Cubs’ fifth inning was three up and three down. As Koufax left the field, Scully noted “Boy, we really got something going here tonight at Dodger Stadium. Koufax has retired 15 in a row and Hendley has retired 12. At the end of 4 1/2 innings...nothing!”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Scully was now setting the tone for the listening audience. As the Dodgers batted in the fifth inning, he said, “No score. No hits. Nothing but outs. Bob Hendley locked up in a perfect duel with Sandy Koufax.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Lou Johnson led off the Dodger fifth inning. Hendley pitched him carefully, but walked him on a 3-2 pitch. “That’s the first base runner of the night,” said Scully. “Some of the Cubs are hollering at Ed Vargo (home plate umpire) and Vargo motions the pitch was high above his (Johnson’s) shoulder. ..That would mar the perfect game for Hendley, but his no-hitter was still alive.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Fairly then sacrificed Johnson to second to put a Dodger into scoring position. As Hendley was pitching to Lefebvre, Johnson took off for third base. Cub catcher Krug’s throw to third was high and went into left field and Johnson kept running all the way to home plate for the first run. The Dodgers led 1-0, but without a base hit!
Hendley retired the next two hitters and Scully noted the irony that “In five innings, no hits for either side, but the Dodgers lead 1-0 at the end of five.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
As the game moved to the sixth inning, Scully was up front with the broadcast listeners. “1-0 in favor of the Dodgers,” said Scully. “Koufax has retired 15 in a row. For five innings, Koufax and Hendley have pitched no-hitters.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
The Cubs came very close to getting their first base runner in the sixth inning. Catcher Chris Krug led off the inning with a ground ball to shortstop Wills and Wills’ throw to first was a challenge for first baseman Wes Parker. The throw from Wills to Parker dipped dramatically, but Parker, a future Gold Glove winner, handled the play. Don Kessinger was the next hitter and third baseman Jim Gilliam played on the grass at third base to take away a bunt attempt. It was fortunate for Gilliam and Koufax he did so as Kessinger, a fast base runner, topped the ball to third base. If Gilliam had not been playing close, it would have been a very tough play, but Gilliam’s great infield instincts helped him get the throw to first base to throw out Kessinger on a close play.
The crowd started to sense some excitement of this special night. Scully added, “There’s much more to the story than just the score. Hendley has a no-hitter for five and Koufax has a perfect game for 5 2/3.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Koufax fanned Hendley for the final out of the sixth inning to retire the 18th straight Cub and Scully said, “Welllllllllll, now pass the word. For six innings, Koufax has pitched a perfect game. “For five innings, Hendley has pitched a no-hitter.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Hendley set the Dodgers down in order in the sixth inning. “I’ll tell you,” said Scully, “you just won’t see a better game as far as major league pitching goes.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
The Cubs returned to the top of the order in the seventh inning. As Koufax pitched to Don Young, he sailed a fastball far above everyone to the backstop, but he fanned Young. The next hitter, Glenn Beckert, hit an easy fly ball to right field. But, Koufax fell behind 3-0 to the great Cub outfielder, Billy Williams and the crowd moaned in anticipation. One ball away from losing his perfect game, Koufax battled back. He got a called strike, Williams fouled off a second strike, and then Williams flied out to Lou Johnson. 21 hitters up, 21 Cub hitters down. Broadcaster Jerry Doggett laughed nervously and said, “This is turning out to be quite a thriller.”Jerry Doggett, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
In the Dodger seventh, Hendley retired the first two hitters. Cub third baseman Ron Santo made a leaping grab of a grounder hit by Gilliam to save a hit and first baseman Ernie Banks made a good fielding play on a ground ball hit by Willie Davis. Davis slid into first base but Banks tagged him before he reached first.
The crowd was buzzing at the double no-hitter. But, Hendley’s good fortune ended as Lou Johnson came up. It had been Johnson who had drawn the walk, sacrificed to second, stole third, and then scored on a throwing error. The sparkplug outfielder would spoil Hendley’s no-hitter as he hit as Doggett described it “a little blooper”Jerry Doggett, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965 and it fell into right field and Johnson legged it for a double. Fairly grounded out, stranding the runner in scoring position and the Dodgers finished the seventh inning, still leading, 1-0.
Koufax started the eighth inning facing the heart of the Cub lineup, Ron Santo hitting fourth, Ernie Banks hitting fifth and the rookie Byron Browne. Dodger Manager Walter Alston made a defensive change by inserting John Kennedy to play third base and Scully discussed the difficulty facing Kennedy. “John Kennedy is now at third base and I would think John Kennedy has as many butterflies as Sandy Koufax as you are put in the game as a defensive specialist and the pitcher has a seven inning perfect game, well you know there is some pressure on you.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
The tension increased exponentially in the eighth inning and it was felt in the crowd reaction as Koufax struck out the leadoff hitter, Ron Santo. Scully’s voice rose a touch higher as Koufax struck out Banks on a curve for his 10th strikeout. It seemed as if Koufax was throwing nothing but strikes. He had retired 23 straight hitters.
“Ohhhhhhhhh doctor, this is all we needed for the National League pennant race,”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965 sighed Scully as Koufax reached a second strike on Browne. Browne struck out and the out was followed by a huge roar from the fans in Dodger Stadium. Scully’s voice went up a full level as he made the strikeout call. The ovation from the fans was sustained and vigorous. “Sandy Koufax gets a standing ovation! He has struck out 11! He has retired 24 consecutive batters! In other words, he has pitched an eight inning perfect game. He’s got three more outs to go!”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965 Then, Scully added at the end, almost nonchalantly, “Dodgers 1, Cubs nothing.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Hendley was still pitching for the Cubs as the Dodgers batted in the eighth inning. It would be a bittersweet moment for Hendley as he had struggled from a poor 1965 season and now his best game of the season, maybe his career was overshadowed by Koufax’s perfection.
As the Dodgers batted in the eighth inning, Scully said, “If you’re listening and you have a neighbor who’s a red hot baseball fan, it might be a good idea to give him a ring just to make sure he’s at the other end of this thing tonight...It’s been an unbelievable night. For six innings, it was one in a million.”Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcast, September 9, 1965
Hendley retired Lefebvre and Parker for the first two outs in the eighth inning. Jeff Torborg hit a drive to left field and for a moment it looked as if the young catcher had given Koufax an insurance run, but Browne, the Cub left fielder making his major league debut caught the deep fly with his back pressed up against the Dodger bullpen gate.
As the Dodgers finished the eighth inning and before the commercial break, Scully described Koufax making his way to the pitcher’s mound. “And so through eight innings, the Dodgers 1, the Cubs nothing and Sandy Koufax is slowly walking out to the mound, but not to get corny about it, but walking out to the mound he’s got a meeting with destiny.”
During the commercial break before the ninth inning, broadcaster Scully reads the commercial live. The stadium organ and the public address announcer reporting a defensive change for the Dodgers is heard under the commercial copy. Scully finishes reading the commercial and then begins the greatest extended narrative by any sports broadcaster in history.
29,000 people and a million butterflies
Vin Scully’s radio call of the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game against the Chicago Cubs is pure baseball literature.
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By Vin Scully
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 9th, nineteen hundred and 65, 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 11, he has retired 24 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.
0 and 1 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 1 pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 2. 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, Kennedy is deep to guard the line. The strike 2 pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball 1. Krug started to go after it and held up and Torborg held the ball high in the air trying to convince Vargo but Eddie said nossir. One and 2 the count to Chris Krug. It is 9:41 p.m. on September the 9th. The 1-2 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 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. Twenty nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine paid.
Koufax into his windup and the 1-2 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 2 the count to Chris Krug. Koufax, feet together, now to his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball outside, ball 2. (Crowd boos.)
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 2 the count to Chris Krug. Sandy reading signs, into his windup, 2-2 pitch: fastball, got him swingin’!
Sandy Koufax has struck out 12. 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. 0 and 1 with one out in the ninth inning, 1 to nothing, Dodgers. Sandy reading, into his windup and the strike 1 pitch: curveball, tapped foul, 0 and 2. 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, 0 and 2 to Amalfitano. The strike 2 pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 3!
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 9th, 1965, 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 1 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 1 to Harvey Kuenn. Now he’s ready: fastball, high, ball 2. 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 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike 2!
It is 9:46 p.m.
Two and 2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch:
Swung on and missed, a perfect game!
(38 seconds of cheering.)
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 29,139 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 flourish. 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.
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On a night when Koufax had to throw a shutout, he was perfect. Just another day in the 1965 pennant race. On September 10th, the Dodger player with by far the best slugging average on the team tied a team record with his seventh home run. Drysdale hit his 7th home run to get himself and the Dodgers off to a 2-0 lead and Perranoski pitched three scoreless innings for a save of Drysdale’s 19th win. The Astros gave the Dodgers some nervous moments in the ninth inning when they loaded the bases with one out, but Perranoski retired the final two hitters. The next night, Osteen bobbed and dodged and ducked as the Astros had 12 hits off him in 7 2/3 innings, but the Astros left 11 men on base and the Dodgers came away with an 8-3 win. Osteen had been a hard luck pitcher with an 11-13 record as he entered September, but he would pitch as well as Koufax and Drysdale down the stretch and he would later have one of their biggest wins of the season.
And then the Dodgers hit a bump in the road. A very large bump. The Giants were in the process of a 14 game winning streak that had started on September 3rd. Often the Dodgers and Giants were both at home at the same time due to scheduling, and if two teams were playing at similar times, the information from San Francisco had the Giants winning another game. The Giants had tremendous run scoring ability and a prominent pitching staff, and they were putting on their kick for the stretch drive. And, as Giant fans loved to point out, this is what the Giants had done in September, 1962 when they had trailed the Dodgers by four games with seven games left to play. The Giants rallied, tied the Dodgers, and then added insult to injury when they defeated the Dodgers in a three-game playoff, scoring four runs in the ninth inning in the third game. The Dodgers still remembered 1962 and the Giants loved to remind them.
The Dodgers’ Sunday game with the Astros on September 12th looked to be a win for the Dodgers. They led, 2-1 in the eighth inning, but the Astros scored single runs in the eighth and ninth inning to steal one from the Dodgers. The defeat was doubly worse because the Giants swept a doubleheader from the Cubs. September 13th was a travel day for the Dodgers, but it was the Giants who enjoyed it as they defeated the Astros and moved to a 2 1/2 lead over the Dodgers.
The Dodgers began their final road trip of the season and started in Chicago. Only five days after his perfect game and his opponent’s one-hit, one run loss, Koufax and Hendley faced each other again. A low-hit, low run scoring game was predicted, but this time, it was Hendley who bested Koufax. Billy Williams hit a two run home run off Koufax in the sixth inning, and Hendley made it stand up. He allowed just four Dodger hits. The Giants played a night game in Houston and took advantage of the Dodger loss. They trailed 5-2 in the ninth inning, but scored three runs to tie, and two runs in the 10th inning. The turn of events pushed the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the unstoppable Giants.
The games of September 15th brought no more relief to the Dodgers. They scored three runs in the first inning and had Drysdale on the mound looking for his 20th win. The game went downhill from there. In the second inning, Chicago Cub great Ernie Banks hit a line drive off Drysdale’s foot and he had to leave the game. The Dodgers had an abysmal game. They made three errors, leading to three unearned runs, hit into four double plays and came up on the short end of an 8-6 loss. In Houston, the Giants were continuing to play as if they would win the National League pennant. This time, they scored a run in the ninth inning to beat the Astros, 3-2. The Giants’ win was their 13th in a row and many reporters compared their 1965 stretch drive to their 1962 pennant. Cold, wet weather was moving into Chicago, but the Dodgers felt it was meant only for them.
The morning of September 16th was a cold, wet, miserable day in Chicago with the Dodgers at the lowest point of the season for them. The 1965 Chicago Cubs were a team going nowhere and Cubs fans agreed by staying home for the game. However, 550 hardy, resolute fans did pay their way into the ballpark and they are the fans who saw the first game of the Dodger comeback. One sportswriter said, “There were more monkeys in Lincoln Park Zoo than there were cash customers on a grey and gloomy day.” To have hope of completing the game, the Dodgers and Cubs agreed to start the game 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled time.Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1965 Claude Osteen had lost 13 of his first 24 decisions, but it was due to lack of offense and not pitching skill. In Osteen’s first eight losses, the club had scored just 13 runs. Their backs were against the wall and they needed a well pitched game and they got just that. Osteen’s sinker forced three double plays by the Cubs and Claude made single runs in the first two innings stand up until the ninth. Osteen walked the leadoff hitter, Billy Williams, and Alston decided to bring in his best pitcher for relief. His best pitcher was Koufax. Sandy had pitched in relief once earlier in the season, but he had thrown six innings just two days before and he had to face the Cubs’ tough righthand hitters, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. Alston and the Dodgers needed this win and they needed a save from Koufax. Sandy did just that. Santo flied out deep to left field, Banks popped out, and perfect game last out Harvey Kuehn hit a line drive for an out at the second baseman. The Giants paid no attention to the Dodger win. They scored four runs in the first inning on their way to an easy 5-1 win. The Dodgers had not lost any more ground to the Giants, but another game did fall off the schedule.
The next day, the Giants found they could not win them all. Henry Aaron hit two home runs and it was a rout for the Braves as they snapped the Giants’ 14-game winning streak. The streak had them move 6 1/2 games on the Dodgers in that time as they had started two games down and built their lead to 4 1/2 games. The Dodgers would not have an easy time in St. Louis. Drysdale started in his bid for his 20th win and drove in the first two runs with a single. Drysdale led 3-0, but in the sixth inning, he allowed a solo home run to Bill White and a single to Dick Groat. Alston would not wait, even with Drysdale as the starter. Perranoski was the team leader in saves, but no inning was too early now. He allowed an unearned run in the eighth inning, but his four inning stint earned a save and more importantly, had shaved a game off the Giants’ lead. The Giants now led by 3 1/2 games.
The Giants rebounded from their loss to the Braves by winning September 18th in a shutout by two Giant pitchers. The Dodgers’ matched the Giants’ shutout with one of their own by Koufax in a 1-0 win. He had saved a game in relief two days earlier, but went the distance with four hits and six strikeouts. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Parker singled home LeJohn. The weather was a steaming 86-degrees in St. Louis after chilly weather in Chicago. The game in St. Louis also helped the Dodgers set a National League record for road attendance. Through this date, the Dodgers had drawn 1,876,982 to break the previous mark set by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1965
Sunday, September 19th had both the Giants and the Dodgers winning. Osteen pitched eight scoreless innings and Perranoski, no worse for wear from pitching four innings two days previous, saved the game by pitching the ninth inning. Osteen’s sinker was hit on the ground all game by Cardinal hitters. Seventeen of the first 18 Cardinal outs were by the way of ground balls and 22 of his 24 outs he achieved came from the sinker. Lefebvre and Parker hit solo home runs for the Dodger runs. When Lefebvre homered in the second inning for a 1-0 Dodger lead, it was the first Dodger home run in two weeks.Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1965 The Giants had a harder time winning in Milwaukee. In the eighth inning, the two teams were tied, 2-2. Hal Lanier was on first base for the Giants when Jimmy Davenport topped a ball up the first base line. Brave first baseman Joe Torre picked the ball up thinking it was foul and became enraged when the first base umpire called it a fair ball. Torre threw the ball to the ground in disgust and as it bounced away, Lanier scored the tie-breaking run. The lead was still 3 1/2 games with 12 Dodger games left in the season.
It seemed as if the Giants would never lose again. On a Dodger off day on September 20th, the Giants shutout the Reds, 4-0 and gained a 1/2 game for a four game lead. Any way you did the math, the Dodgers had little or no room for error if they hoped to win the National League pennant and their final 12 games with Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee again to finish the season. The Braves and Reds were easily above .500 and the Cardinals were just below .500, but still a competitive team.
The Dodgers were in Milwaukee on September 21st and it was a melancholy time for the Braves. The Braves had started September just two games out of first place and had hopes for a pennant in their final season in Milwaukee. However, a stretch where they lost seven of nine games took them out of the race and the end of the season would take them out of Milwaukee. The Braves would finish their time in Milwaukee by playing two straight against the Dodgers. Drysdale won his 21st game appropriately on September 21st with a complete game and he singled to move runners along to score an insurance run in the eighth inning. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, the Giants had a 4-1 lead over the Reds, but the Reds scored six times in the sixth inning to win. The Dodgers were still a long way from first place, but they had gained a game on the Giants with 11 games to play and now trailed by three games.
The final game to be played by the Milwaukee Braves in Milwaukee on September 22nd was a turning point for many. It was a total team effort, and it had to be. Even if you were not a Giant or a Dodger fan, you were watching the scoreboard. Juan Marichal was starting for San Francisco in pursuit of his 23rd win. Sandy Koufax started for the Dodgers and also sought his 23rd victory.
Dodger fans knew it was a big game. This game was being televised from Milwaukee. In 1963, KTTV in Los Angeles had televised the three crucial games in St. Louis and the Dodgers had swept that series on their way to the 1963 World Championship. It was almost too much for Dodger fans to take, but the Dodgers would win, 7-6 in 12 innings in a game that would take more than 3 1/2 hours to play.
The game did not lack for drama. Koufax started and he received an early run in the first inning. In the second inning, the roof caved in on Koufax. He allowed three consecutive singles and then light hitting second baseman Frank Bolling hit a grand slam for a 4-1 Brave lead. Matters got worse for the Dodgers in the third inning. Gene Oliver homered off Koufax and stunned Dodger fans at home watched Koufax being relieved trailing 5-1 in the third inning. The Braves added another run on an inside the park home run and took a 6-1 lead. The news about Koufax being routed was mitigated only by knowledge the Reds had taken a comfortable lead over the Giants, but with so few games left, the day appeared to be a wasted opportunity.
The Dodgers came back. Lefebvre hit a two run home run to get within 6-3 in the fourth inning. They tied the game with three runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Willie Davis and Lefebvre. Alston made a bold move, and in the bottom of the fifth inning, asked for his closer, Perranoski. Perranoski went to work. He kept the Braves scoreless through the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th innings. Twice he stranded Brave runners in scoring position.
As the two exhausted teams started the 11th inning, Alston had Drysdale hit for Perranoski and he grounded out. Wills then singled, stole second, and then scored when Johnson singled to center. The Dodgers had a lead and would need three outs to move within two games of the Giants. Bob Miller began the 11th inning in relief and with one out and a runner on first, caught a break. Henry Aaron hit a hard line drive right at Willie Davis. The Brave runner on first went too far when he thought the ball would drop for a hit and Davis’ throw to Parker for a double play ended the game. Dodger fans were completely wrung out but the Dodger players were euphoric. They had won a game most had expected to lose and they moved another game closer to first. And most importantly, they were coming back to Los Angeles to finish the season, two games behind with 10 games to play. Catching the Giants felt very possible.
As the two contending teams for the 1965 National League pennant race returned home for their final 10 games, scoreboard watching became a fine art. Communication levels in 1965 were primitive compared to today’s use of cell phones, cable television, and internet capabilities. Today, by the use of a modem and a computer, you can find the score, outs, men on base, pitcher, pitchers warming up, location of pitch and type of play in any major league game as it occurs in real time. In 1965, information in a pennant race was a different matter entirely.
In 1965, stadiums around the major leagues employed a ticker tape system to provide information regarding their games. The box-like machine had a large, circular reel of ticker tape paper that would clatter as it would print recent information. Ticker tape machines provided the score by innings, home runs, and pitching changes, but little beyond that. It was often left to the imagination of the fan as to what was happening in the game. A pitching change in an inning might mean a threatening rally, or it could just mean a pitching change. Little information would create great tension.
Dodger fans could get their information in two ways. The fastest way for the fans at home listening to the game on radio was to receive updates from Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully. Scully had a ticker tape machine in the radio booth and would give the recent score of the Giants’ game if it did not interfere with the play-by-play. With Scully’s prime focus of the game at hand, more frequent, but less timely updates would be provided by the Dodger Stadium Message Board.
The Dodger Stadium Message Board was the latest in stadium technology, but the information on the board would print just o-n-e l-e-t-t-e-r a-t a t-i-m-e l-i-k-e t-h-i-s and the time it took to print out this information would add to the suspense. Dodger publicity director Red Patterson squeezed more suspense out of this than Alfred Hitchcock.
If you were a fan at Dodger Stadium watching the game, your gaze might turn to the message board for an update to the Giants game. Patterson would start the message this way:
M-E-A-N-W-H-I-L-E, I-N S-A-N F-R-A-N-C-I-S-C-O,
and your attention would become riveted.
Slowly, slowly, it would say 4-T-H I-N-N-I-N-G, as you watch one l-e-t-t-e-r a-t- a- t-i-m-e
B-R-A-V-E-S............(the dots on the board also required one character at a time) and then after a pause the score would be given.
Then, the scoreboard operator would go to the next line and print out
G-I-A-N-T-S........... and the suspense would continue to grow. What’s going on in the game. What is the score? Who is ahead? Is there a rally going on? What are the Giants doing? Is Mays and McCovey up this inning?
Then, there would be one final pause before the score for the Giants was given:
G-I-A-N-T-S.......... and as you held your breath, Patterson would order the Giant score and fans would then roar with approval if it read
For a few moments a Dodger fan would know the Giants were losing and there was a chance of gaining ground. However, the feeling would not last long and in a few minutes you would want another update. The suspense could be wonderful, could be exquisite, could be hard, could be excruciating. And baseball fans loved it.
The Dodgers were trailing the Cardinals in the first game of their final homestand, but knowing the Braves were defeating the Giants eased some of their pain. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals held the Dodgers in check for seven innings, but Lefebvre singled home Willie Davis and Fairly with two outs in the eighth inning for the tying and winning runs. Perranoski, just two days removed from pitching six innings in relief, threw two more scoreless innings. The Giant lead now dropped to one game with nine games to play.
Saturday, September 25th were day games for both teams. The Giants won 7-5 over Milwaukee, but the game was close. Koufax started and shutout the Cardinals, 2-0. He struck out 12. In this game, he set a major league record for most strikeouts in a season when he fanned his 349th hitter, Cardinal third outfielder Mike Shannon, breaking the old mark of 348 set by Bob Feller.
Sunday, September 26th had the two teams in lockstep with the two day games starting at approximately the same time. Juan Marichal started for the Giants in San Francisco against Milwaukee and it was Drysdale for the Dodgers against the Cardinals. Wills scored a first inning run when he singled, stole second, went to third on an error. It was enough for Drysdale. He scattered five hits and one Cardinal reached second base. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a moment of bittersweet irony was happening to the Giants. As the Giants trailed the Braves, 2-0, in the sixth inning, Gene Oliver of the Braves hit a solo home run for a 3-0 lead. It had been Gene Oliver who had homered on the final day of the 1962 season to beat the Dodgers and send them into the heart breaking 1962 playoff with the Giants. Grateful Giant fans invited Oliver to the 1962 World Series with the Giants and the New York Yankees and paid for his traveling expenses and game tickets. Now Oliver had homered again, but this time it hurt the Giants. The Giants would get within one run at 3-2, but their game finished before the Dodgers. As the news of the Giant defeat reached Dodger Stadium, the crowd let out a sudden cheer of approval. When Drysdale retired the Cardinals in the ninth inning, the two teams had identical won-loss records and the pennant would go down to the team with the best record for the final seven days.
Neither team would have a day off the rest of the way. The Giants defeated the Cardinals in San Francisco. The Dodgers defeated the Reds and 22-game winner Sammy Ellis. Perranoski relieved in the game in the sixth inning and shutout the Reds the rest of the way. The closer Perranoski had allowed one run in his last 13 innings and just two runs in his last 30 innings.
September 28th began with two teams tied for first place and when the night was nearly over, one team was in front and one team fell out of first place. The Giants were easily defeated by the Cardinals, 9-1, but the Reds were very tough on the Dodgers. Osteen matched up with Jim O’Toole of the Reds and Osteen nursed a first inning run until the eighth. The Dodgers missed on several good scoring opportunities. The Reds tied the game in the eighth inning and Alston turned to Perranoski. He had pitched four innings the night before and would go as far as he could. The Reds and Dodgers both failed to score through the ninth, 10th, and 11th inning and finally Howie Reed replaced Perranoski. With two outs in the 12th, Pete Rose tripled, but was stranded at third. In the bottom of the 12th inning, the scoreboard clock was three minutes away from midnight when up came Lou Johnson. Johnson, the journeyman outfielder, traded eight times in his professional career, swung and hit a pitch from the Reds’ Joey Jay into the left field pavilion. It was not quite midnight, but it might have been for the Giants. Johnson sprinted around the bases following his game winning home run, clapping his hands for joy. The Dodgers were all alone in first place with five games to play. Frank Finch wrote in the Los Angeles Times “Lou Johnson, a thoroughbred from the Blue Grass country of Lexington in old Kentucky, showed his class in the stretch.”Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1965
Pennant fever had taken over Los Angeles. On September 29th, Dodger broadcasters Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett did a re-creation of the Cardinal-Giant day game at radio station KFI in Los Angeles, getting information from Candlestick Park and broadcasting as if they were up north.Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1965 Scully and Doggett had their own version of a double-header. After the 12 inning late night win over the Reds, they broadcast the Giant game, then hustled to Dodger Stadium for the twilight game. The Giant game was a wild game, even for this pennant race.
The Giants were facing the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in a day game on September 29th and Gibson took an 8-0 lead to the ninth inning. The Giants rallied. Five of their first six hitters in the ninth inning hit safely and third baseman Jim Davenport hit a three run home run. After a two base error, a single produced another Giant run. Dodger players, preparing for their twilight game against the Reds, listened to the re-created play-by-play, pitch-by-pitch, and paced nervously. Willie Mays batted for the second time in the inning and singled to put the tying runs on base. Cardinal reliever Hal Woodeschick now faced Giant slugger Willie McCovey. When Woodeschick fanned McCovey for the final out, Dodger players cheered in their clubhouse. The team still had plenty of work to do themselves. The Reds would start Jim Maloney, the pitcher who had shut them out in the 18-0 game in Cincinnati. The Dodgers had Koufax. A capacity crowd filled Dodger Stadium in a twilight start and the start of the game was delayed for 10 minutes.Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1965 The Dodgers broke a 0-0 tie with a single run in the sixth inning, but it was the seventh inning when they broke the game open. With the bases loaded and none out, Maury Wills tripled down the right field line and crowd noise in the stadium area broke all previous existing levels. From the rest of the game, it was all Koufax and the Dodger lead was now two games with four games left. After the day’s events, Drysdale was asked if he had any post-season plans. Drysdale replied, “I think I’ll lie down and faint for a few days.”Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1965
September 30th was a day where the Giants won but also lost. They won a close game over the Reds, but lost a day on the calendar when Drysdale shutout the Braves, 4-0 for the Dodgers’ 13th consecutive win in the streak. Drysdale helped his own cause with an RBI single. “Big D” needed just 89 pitches for the shutout.Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1965 The Dodgers maintained their two game lead with three games to play.