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Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,884 ratings  ·  246 reviews
“The incomparable and mysterious Sandy Koufax is revealed…. This is an absorbing book, beautifully written.” —Wall Street Journal

“Leavy has hit it out of the park…A lot more than a biography. It’s a consideration of how we create our heroes, and how this hero’s self perception distinguishes him from nearly every other great athlete in living memory… a remarkably rich portr
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published September 17th 2002)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  5,884 ratings  ·  246 reviews

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Brett C
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed reading about Sandy Koufax. The height of his career from 1962 to 1966 that saw him lead the National League in ERA all five years, win three Cy Young awards, and pitch four no-hitters including a perfect game. Almost immediately after he disappeared from the game. He kept a low-profile except for his induction into the Hall of Fame and occasional appearances at the Dodgers training camp, Koufax has remained unavailable, unassailable, and unsullied, in the process becoming much more th ...more
Brian Eshleman
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't know the contours of his character as well as I have in some biographical subjects, but I'm sure the author got as much out of her subject as she could. She certainly made up for it in my other criteria for biographies, how well does the author conveyed to the reader the flavor of the times. I think she could have written a book on the transition in the mid-1960s by itself, and it would have been less frustrating for her than trying to draw information out of this reluctant superstar.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ray by: Rev. Pat Roach
This one surprised me. Harper Coliins' cheap packaging and the uninspired title (A Lefty's Legacy?) screamed formulatic hagiography. You know the genre: lots of stats, cheesy writing, exclamation points...

Instead this is as subtle, probing, smartly written as any biography could be. Jane Leavy is a skillful researcher with a relentless drive to get at her subject from every angle. And she knows how to tell her story. She is a masterful writer, able to draw us in to her quest. We are led to disc
Joy D
Non-fiction about the legendary Dodgers’ pitcher Sandy Koufax. It is told in alternating chapters of one of his best pitching performances and biographical insights. The author sets the record straight regarding several myths. It harkens back to an earlier age in baseball, prior to free agency, when “bonus babies” were required to remain on the major league team even if it would have served everyone better to go through the learning experiences in the minor leagues. It covers a wide range of top ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it liked it
I was very let down by this book. Sandy Koufax was a great pitcher, an inspirational human being, and is a hero to many people (including myself). But this book is just a big heaping mess of hero-worship (hagiography). It was a one-dimensional look at a man who is very complex and enigmatic.

I thought the structure of the book was interesting, alternating the innings of Koufax's perfect game with more biographical chapters. But that’s about it. I know there's some other Sandy Koufax literature o
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy was written in 2003.

This was an exceptionally well written and interesting book about, arguably, the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history. Koufax’s prowess as America’s greatest Jewish athlete also added a significant and compelling angle to the biography as well. Koufax was a fiercely competitive man and multi-sport athlete who succeeded at everything he tried athletically. In the early years he struggled mightily with his control but he was
Heather Jacks
Feb 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
A Lefty’s Legacy
Anyone who spends more than ten minutes with me knows that I am a huge baseball fan. I love the game; the history, the stories, the smell of fresh cut grass, that moment of mystical silence when the catcher has given the signal and the pitcher has accepted it, followed by that magical moment when the field of potentiality is wide open and anything can happen. The pitcher winds up, muscles rippling in weird physiologic perfection that is almost alien. That being said; I read a lot
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax primarily because a lot the story takes place away from the playing field. She examines all facets of his life as well as the the social histories surrounding it making it a compelling read.
I am surprised by the negative reviews and I am surmising that it is because the majority of people expected a baseball biography. I purposely read this book because it is not a ghost written sports autobiography. Leavy even cites this genre in the book as an
Harold Kasselman
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So I reread the book after fifteen years and it got better, Maybe it's nostalgia or my old age, but I loved the book. Leavy was hampered by the fact that Sandy made it abundantly clear in a polite way that he would not participate in the biography, but invited her to talk to his friends and teammates. She does a wonderful job of presenting his unparalleled five year prime supremacy of any pitcher in baseball.(Some may differ and offer Pedro Martinez). Hall of Famer Bob Feller said in 1995 that S ...more
Andy Miller
This would have been a lot better book if the author, Jane Leavy, had more focus on Sandy Koufax instead of her repeated asides, tangents and pages about Koufax fans that were scattered throughout the book.

Koufax's story is compelling and the author does include some good perspectives, my favorite is dispelling the commonly held notion(including myself) that Koufax was a wild, unpredictable pitcher early in his career who could could not be counted on. Leavy showed that instead Koufax's often un
Carol Storm
May 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Gave up after twenty pages -- listening to everyone who grew up on Koufax's block talk about how wonderful the "old neighborhood" was made me want to throw up. It was like a circle-jerk.
Mark Stevens
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Where to begin with Sandy Koufax? Which mark is bigger, the one he left in terms of wins and losses, strikeouts, clutch games and no-hitters? Or the one he left as a person, an individual who stuck to his way of going about his life?

“No other baseball immortal in memory retired so young, so well, or so completely,” writes Jane Leavy in the preface to this energetic biography. “He may be the last athlete who declined to cash in on his fame. He has refused to cannibalize himself, to live off his
Chris Gager
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Starting tonight after work - perhaps. Something light after "Canada".

And done in a couple of days. It'a an enjoyable "puffy" kind of look at a short-term great pitcher. No mysteries about Koufax are cleared up, such as whether or not he's a closeted gay man(not that there's anything wrong with that). She never mentions it. I was never a big fan because he was in the National League and because of my Red Sox I was American League all the way. Still, I have to admit that by reading this I'm more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
In an effort to catch up with the multitudes of fascinating gaps in my reading, every year as Spring Training begins, I start a baseball book. This one by Jane Leavy, on one of my all-time favorite figures in baseball, has been sitting on my shelves for 5 years now and I took to it. What happened? The most frustrating of reading experiences.

I only give this book a reasonable rating based on the subject matter itself. In the venerable world of sports writing there are definitely the good and the
Steven Peterson
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Jane Leavy has written a fine work on Mickey Mantle recently. She authored this work in 2002. It is a fascinating examination of one of the best pitchers that I have ever watched (on TV only, I'm sorry to say).

The book begins with Koufax working with the Dodgers in 1997. The book goes back and forth in time--and it doesn't seem distracting to me. The perfect game that Koufax authored against the Cubs cuts in and out as Leavy relates the early years and developing career of Koufax. We get a bette
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The date is September 9, 1965. Vin Scully the famous Dodger sportscaster said it best, "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 capped it. On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game.(p.251) This is the story line that Jane Leavy's book Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great book about a great pitcher and a good guy. Koufax was so much better than anyone else in the league there's only ever been one pitcher that has approximated his success over a shot time period. Well written in a clever format. If you like baseball, and like the Koufax era, you'll enjoy this book.
Richard Levine
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
(3.5 stars)

I'm old enough to remember the last few seasons of Sandy Koufax's spectacular, injury-shortened pitching career, so reading anything about him is a bit of an exercise in nostalgia for me. And so it was just fine for me that Jane Leavy's book about Koufax is simply drenched in nostalgia. It's certainly a bit hagiographic as well, which was also okay with me. Not that I idolized Koufax as much as some of my baseball fan friends -- or for that matter as much as at least 99% of the folks
John Dugan
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
As a baseball fan I have high expectations when it comes to engaging in text surrounding the game. This book just really didn't work for me. It took the story of a pitcher by the name of Sandy Koufax, who only had a twelve year career with the Dodgers, and really gave detailed descriptions of things that just weren't important to me as a reader. This was problematic in my opinion because as Sandy had such a short career in baseball, there was no way Leavy was going to have an entire story to tel ...more
Robert Greenberger
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was just a kid when Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher of his era. I am told I was taken to see him pitch a night game against the Mets, although I recall the game, not the lean, fireballer on the mound. But I have since come to know his legacy and impact on the game.

I've been meaning to read Jean Leavy's thoughtful biography since it was released in 2002 and am glad I finally got to it. COnsidering Koufax didn't actively participate, this is a well-handled look into the life and events tha
Conor Mullaney
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a very interesting book that tells the story of the great Sandy Koufax from the beginning. It tells a story that you wouldn't expect would come from such a dominant pitcher in baseball's history. The main subject is about the fantastic pitching ability of Sandy and how he was able to perfect his craft in a way that was ahead of the science of the sport of baseball. Most observations have been about the key points in Sandy's mechanics and how they all work together to create an end resul ...more
Halfway through the book I told my friend that the only words I had about it, and about Koufax, were "It's so much". "He's so much." *Edit: meaning that this book, in some ways, was indescribably emotional and it really just. Hit. The right spots emotionally! Love a brilliant and loving and wonderful and in pain baseball god.

I didn't grow up a baseball fan. In fact, before the beginning of this year I'd never given it a second thought, much less knew who Sandy Koufax was. But uh. This book was
Mark Taylor
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Although Sandy Koufax only played professional baseball for twelve years, he still ranks as one of the most legendary baseball players of the 20th century. Koufax came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955. He had a blazing fastball, but not much control over it. After the 1960 season, Koufax’s record was 36-40. His ERA was 4.10. From 1961 to 1966, Sandy Koufax simply dominated opposing batters. His record was 129-47, an incredible winning percentage of .733. His ERA had gone down to 2.76.

Luke Koran
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, baseball
How great can a sporting biography be when it concerns such a humble recluse of an athlete and person as Sandy Koufax is? Well, it can be pretty darned good, especially if Jane Leavy is writing that book! Feast your eyes on “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” and be rewarded with the authoritative biography of one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era.

At times, the reader is convinced of Koufax’s greatness, especially in his final 6 years in the major leagues. Other times, the reader (especia
Patrick Waters
As much as I enjoy reading, I was shocked that I had never seen this app until very recently. I began to write a review on the book I am finishing as we speak, but thought I would prefer to cut my teeth on a book that I loved (Levy's "A Lefty's Legacy") as opposed to one I just enjoyed.

As a huge baseball fan, I yearn to have seen the game played at it's peak of popularity, a time when the United States' sports appetite was not as divided as it is now. Levy vividly recreates the brief career of
Ben Wilson
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: pitchers, Jews, baseball fans of any age
Shelves: baseball
4 stars for this excellent biography of a man - not merely a ballplayer. There is little pretense here and little classic narrative structure - leading to more a study of a man's impact on those around him than to any meteoric rise or tragic fall that he might have encountered. Not the typical baseball book by any means, but according to Leavy, Koufax wasn't the typical ballplayer.

In the end, I figure it is very Koufaxian - it made me respect the man much more than it made me stand in awe of him
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
In-depth, lively, and intelligent memoir of the almost immortal southpaw pitcher, Sandy Koufax, who retired from the game at the peak of his powers. But his left arm was also pretty much shot. Many familiar names--Frank Howard and Ken McMullen to name two--from the baseball world crop up for me. Interestingly, the private Koufax didn't supply the biographer with any new material. Enjoyable read for all baseball fans that gives you a new appreciation for Sandy Koufax's unique athletic talents.
Mar 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-told biography about a truly legendary player at a pivotal time in the history of the sport.
Brian R.
Jun 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Good read because the subject matter is pretty rich. Would have been a lot better if Koufax had sat for interviews or if Leavy had spoken to his ex-wives...
Eric London
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ended the mystery for me of his role as a cultural icon. As insightful but more satisfying than the Richard Ben Cramer Joe D bio about the other midcentury baseball enigma.
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The Baseball Book...: Discussion of "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" 20 21 May 01, 2018 02:30PM  

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Jane Leavy is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Last Boy, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy and the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called “the best novel ever written about baseball.” Her latest book is The Big Fella. She was a staff writer at The Washington Post from 1979 to1988, first in the sports section, then writing for the style section. She covered basebal ...more

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