Macon’s Bob Hendley made history with Koufax

BY THE NUMBERS

The box score from the Sandy Koufax-Bob Hendley duel:

CHICAGO CUBS

Batter; AB; R; H; BB; SO

Don Young; CF; 3; 0; 0; 0; 1

Glenn Beckert; 2B; 3; 0; 0; 0; 1

Billy Williams; RF; 3; 0; 0; 0; 2

Ron Santo; 3B; 3; 0; 0; 0; 1

Ernie Banks; 1B; 3; 0; 0; 0; 3

Byron Browne; LF; 3; 0; 0; 0; 1

Chris Krug; C; 3; 0; 0; 0; 1

Don Kessinger; SS; 2; 0; 0; 0; 2

Joey Amalfitano; PH; 1; 0; 0; 0; 1

Bob Hendley; P; 2; 0; 0; 0; 2

Harvey Kuenn; PH; 1; 0; 0; 0; 1

Totals; 27 0; 0; 0; 14

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Batter; AB; R; H; BB; SO

Maury Wills; SS; 3; 0; 0; 0; 0

Jim Gilliam; 3B; 3 0; 0; 0; 0

John Kennedy; 3B; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0

Willie Davis; CF; 3 0; 0; 0; 0

Lou Johnson; LF; 2 1; 1; 1; 0

Ron Fairly; RF; 2; 0; 0; 0; 0

Jim Lefebvre; 2B; 3; 0; 0; 0; 2

Dick Tracewski; 2B; 0; 0; 0; 0; 0

Wes Parker; 1B; 3; 0; 0; 0; 0

Jeff Torborg; C; 3; 0; 0; 0; 0

Sandy Koufax; P; 2; 0; 0; 0; 1

Totals; 24; 1; 1; 1; 3

2B: Johnson

Sac: Fairly

SB: Johnson

CHICAGO CUBS

Pitcher; IP; H; R; ER; BB; SO

Hendley; 8; 1; 1; 0; 1; 3

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Pitcher; IP; H; R; ER; BB; SO

Koufax; 9; 0; 0; 0; 0; 14

Balks: None

WP: None

HBP: None

IBB: None

Pickoffs: None

Time of Game: 1:43

Attendance: 29,139

OTHER HISTORIC PITCHING MATCHUPS

Juan Marichal (San Francisco) vs. Warren Spahn (Milwaukee), July 2, 1963: The two matched shutouts into the 16th inning, when Willie Mays finally ended it with a home run for the Giants. Holy pitch count — combined, Marichal and Spahn threw 428 pitches in the game.

Lew Burdette (Milwaukee) vs. Harvey Haddix (Pittsburgh), May 26, 1959: Haddix was perfect for 12 innings, and that still wasn't good enough to win. A two-run homer off Haddix in the bottom of the 13th by Joe Adcock won the game. Burdette gave up 12 hits but no runs over 13 innings.

Fred Toney (Cinncinnati) vs. Hippo Vaughn (Chicago), May 2, 1917: They matched no-hitters for nine innings, Cincinnati prevailing in extras to an RBI bunt by former Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe.

Babe Ruth (Boston) vs. Sherry Smith (Brooklyn), Oct. 9, 1916: Back when Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game, he matched up with Smith for 14 grueling innings before the Red Sox finally won, 2-1.

OTHER HISTORIC PITCHING MATCHUPS

Juan Marichal (San Francisco) vs. Warren Spahn (Milwaukee), July 2, 1963: The two matched shutouts into the 16th inning, when Willie Mays finally ended it with a home run for the Giants. Holy pitch count — combined, Marichal and Spahn threw 428 pitches in the game.

Lew Burdette (Milwaukee) vs. Harvey Haddix (Pittsburgh), May 26, 1959: Haddix was perfect for 12 innings, and that still wasn't good enough to win. A two-run homer off Haddix in the bottom of the 13th by Joe Adcock won the game. Burdette gave up 12 hits but no runs over 13 innings.

Fred Toney (Cinncinnati) vs. Hippo Vaughn (Chicago), May 2, 1917: They matched no-hitters for nine innings, Cincinnati prevailing in extras to an RBI bunt by former Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe.

Babe Ruth (Boston) vs. Sherry Smith (Brooklyn), Oct. 9, 1916: Back when Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game, he matched up with Smith for 14 grueling innings before the Red Sox finally won, 2-1.

It took two to fashion one of the greatest games ever pitched — a major league milestone that turns 50 Wednesday.

This collaboration of opponents did not require that both wear the veil of greatness. In fact, the differences in the two pitchers’ pedigrees made what happened that night in Los Angeles all the more serendipitous and sublime.

The Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax, the 1960s icon, the man for whom a place like Cooperstown exists, pitched his one and only perfect game — and his fourth career no-hitter — in victory.

In unjust defeat stood the author of a one-hitter, the Chicago Cubs’ Bob Hendley, for whom a long and resolutely low-key life as a high school coach and family guy in Macon awaited.

It is difficult to imagine either man celebrating much Wednesday. Koufax is famous for his public reticence. And Hendley doesn’t much consider a long-ago baseball game — as wonderful as it was, a 1-0 masterpiece completed in a mere hour and 47 minutes — to be the kind of life event that warrants flowery remembrance.

The two of them had their little gala together in January when they received an award from the Baseball Writers of America. Koufax’s brief speech may stand as the only words he’ll utter on topic for the time being.

“Bob and I shared a very special night that night,” Koufax said then. “There’s a possibility I may have enjoyed it just a little bit more than he did.”

With the 50th anniversary near, what a fine excuse to look back on the time that Koufax and Hendley took their craft to the mountaintop. “One game. One night. One hit,” as baseball writer Tom Verducci summarized at the awards dinner.

Both Koufax and Hendley were so much nearer the end than the beginning Sept. 9, 1965.

The great Koufax would win 26 that season, 27 the next and retire because he no longer could justify the pain in his elbow nor meet his lofty personal standards.

Another left-hander with elbow troubles, Hendley made only 12 starts and pitched 77 innings in ’65. He would grind out two more seasons in the majors, attempt to find himself again in the minors for a couple of more years and retire, like Koufax, at the age of 30. He finished with a 48-52 major league record and a 3.97 ERA after seven seasons between Milwaukee, Chicago, San Francisco and the New York Mets.

Neither was particularly poised for a memorable outing. Koufax had not won a game for more than three weeks, his longest drought ever as a Dodgers starter. Hendley was just returning from a stint in the minors, a calamitous demotion that featured one roller-coaster, prop-job plane flight that had shaken the in-flight meal out of all aboard.

“I go back up and joined the Cubs in L.A. and my first game was against Sandy Koufax,” Hendley said recently with a laugh. “Didn’t matter because I didn’t want to go back (to Triple-A).”

The two were studies in contrast. Koufax had the crackling fastball, and a curve nastier than a bachelor-party hangover. Ever since injuring his elbow in the minors, Hendley tilted toward the “crafty left-hander” label. He could still bring it, but not consistently, filling in the cracks with a knuckle curve and guile.

The Dodgers got their lone run, unearned and just a little bit desperate, in the fifth inning: Lou Johnson drew a leadoff walk; was sacrificed to second; stole third and then scored when Cubs catcher Chris Krug threw the ball into left.

The only hit off Hendley didn’t come until two innings later, when Johnson blooped a double to shallow right.

Meanwhile, Koufax owned the night. As Hendley can still picture, it seemed as if his counterpart was coming out from beneath his cap on every pitch. Cubs hitters had no chance. None.

Two out in the ninth, Harvey Kuenn came to the plate to pinch-hit for Hendley, who stood watching from the top step of the dugout wondering if he really wanted his guy to break up something so special.

Vin Scully, the timeless Dodgers announcer, had the call:

“Two-and-2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch:

“Swung on and missed. A perfect game!

(Here Scully remained silent while the cheers of the crowd filled the next 30-plus seconds.)

“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 flurry. 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.”

Koufax struck out 14 Cubs that night; Hendley countered with but three of his own. For, you see, gems come in all colors.

Afterward in the Cubs’ clubhouse, having taken one of the hardest-luck losses of all time, Hendley did not play the victim. “It’s no disgrace to lose to class,” he told the assembled writers.

Five days later, the two hooked up again. The Cubs won 2-1 on a Hendley four-hitter. But who remembers that?

Today, as Koufax endures his enigmatic fame, the other player in this 50-year-old classic strolls along quite contentedly in the secure grip of normalcy.

“I just don’t live this (long-ago game),” Hendley said.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate it. I really do. But I was never a star. I’m just a guy who loved the game and was fortunate enough to play it for a number of years.”

Leaner even than his playing days, Hendley is 76 and on demand still can throw batting practice to the boys at the school where he coached. Unable to straighten his twice-operated elbow, he can’t, however, indulge in retirement’s more common activity, golf.

This year he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, by happenstance located in the same town where he was born and to which he returned after seeing all the bright lights of the big leagues. Nearby, the ballfield at Stratford Academy, where he spent the final 17 years of a 30-year teaching and coaching career, bears his name. Nine state titles decorate that span.

If any of the hundreds of high school players he coached along the way knew about his major league exploits, they learned on their own.

“If you walked into my parents’ house, you would never know my father played baseball,” said one of Hendley’s two sons, Bart.

It remains a son’s duty to be the keeper of Hendley’s history. Bart has collected all kinds of evidence of his father’s past: every baseball card there was; a Coke bottle cap bearing his likeness; a ticket stub from the Koufax game; even a recording of Scully’s ninth-inning call that night. Because the father certainly wouldn’t do it.

In 1955, when Koufax first appeared for the (then-Brooklyn) Dodgers, he went straight from a World Series to a classroom at Columbia. He, in fact, had to get the professor’s permission to leave class early to go to the team victory party.

Here’s one other common thread that binds Koufax and Hendley — they both thought beyond their playing careers. Whenever he could in the offseason, Hendley pieced together classes at Mercer. It took him 13 years to get his degree, and in earning it, that “allowed me to step into a career that I did for 30 years that was an extension of my love for the game,” he said.

Writing his own resume, he added, “This is who I am: I had a 12-year career in baseball that was rewarding and is still rewarding because of the pension plan. But my 30 years as a teacher and a coach, I feel, was more rewarding.

“I’m hopeful that somewhere along the way I’ve left something more with these kids than how to play a game.”

The classic, it seems, is a life wholly lived, not the game well-pitched.