GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sandy Koufax arrived at the Dodgers’ spring training facility Sunday.
If last year was any indication, there is no need to romanticize the meaning of Koufax’s presence here. The greatest pitcher in Dodger history changes the atmosphere in a way that requires no imagination. His first season in camp as a special advisor to chairman Mark Walter was part spectacle, part inspiration, part chaos.
Like a septugenarian southpaw Svengali, Koufax caused complete strangers to huddle together in their aggressive quest for an autograph. Fans surveying the scene went from quietly attentive to loudly impatient. Koufax quickly joined a short list of 78-year-olds who can command multiple security guards while strolling between baseball fields.
When Koufax showed up last year, so did a bunch of pitchers. Pedro Baez, Chris Reed and other fresh-faced hurlers were shuffled in from the minor-league camp to learn from the master. Overnight, the Dodgers’ bullpen went from a tutoring center to the Westminster Dog Show. Every delivery would be scrutinized for imperfections like a poodle’s tail, and the the final judgment would be unassailable. If Koufax thought your curveball needed tweaking, you tweaked your curveball — even if the tweak didn’t take (as was the case for Hyun-Jin Ryu).
Koufax wasn’t in camp more than a few days. During the season, he didn’t often visit Dodger Stadium. Opening Day and the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves were notable exceptions. So it’s unlikely that the novelty of Koufax’s presence will wear off — not now, not ever. He’s a rockstar in a park full of them.
Bad spring training pictures (like mine, above) will be taken, shared and reshared like porn. Koufax porn. Enjoy your Koufax porn, folks. It doesn’t come around often.
Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
• Via @ToddRadom, a story about the time a sportswriter suggested the Dodgers’ logo be a straitjacket. (Seems the character of our profession hasn’t changed in 70 years. I can imagine a similar scene playing out with Stan Kasten today.)
• In 1916, the Dodgers were valued at $2 million. In 2012, they sold for $2 billion.
• The Brett Tomko comeback attempt now features a shaky video of him pitching off a mound.
• From the random coincidences department: “Modern Family” actor Eric Stonestreet is a huge Dodgers fan. Qantas Airlines just flew him, and the entire “Modern Family” cast, to film an episode. They’ll be there for two weeks; the Dodgers fly to Sydney in five weeks.
• If your childhood overlapped with any part of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, you are likely familiar with two fantastic jazz musicians. Johnny Costa was Mr. Rogers’ off-screen pianist; guitarist Joe Negri was a recurring character on the show. Once and only once, in 1956 before they were co-stars, they jammed on television: