This Day in Baseball History: March 17th, 1966

What could have been.

On March 17, 1966:

Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax sign movie contracts to gain leverage in contract negotiations.

1965 was an amazing season for the duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Koufax, 29, went 26-8 in 335.2 IP with 2.04 ERA and an amazing 382 K’s. Drysdale, 28, was no slouch, either, and he went 23-12 in 308.1 IP and 210 K’s. Koufax would, predictably, win the Cy Young Award, his second, but the entire team enjoyed the success as they beat the Minnesota Twins for the World Series in 7 games with Koufax winning Games 5 and 7 and Drysdale winning Game 4 (they did lose Games 1 and 2, though).

Those seasons, however, were not enough to earn much respect from Dodger ownership. Drysdale and Koufax were looking for large paydays, but the Dodgers didn’t want to give up that much money. Without free-agency, the two were left without much leverage. In fact, the Dodgers used the other to leverage the other. Koufax and Drysdale met for dinner one night and discovered the Dodgers had been lying about what the other wanted in order to drive down the other’s salary demand (“if Drysdale will pitch for X, why won’t you play for X” and vice-versa even though it was false). Drysdale’s wife suggested they negotiate together, but it wasn’t working. So, both players signed contracts to act in Warning Shot where Koufax would be a detective and Drysdale a TV commentator. Meanwhile, the Dodgers weren’t silent and decided to wage war through the media. Ultimately, the two sides compromised. The duo wanted $167,000 but signed for only around $120,000. They would join the team for the last week of Spring Training.

Making 1966 all the more interesting was that Koufax shouldn’t have pitched. Having enough problems in his arm with hemorrhaging and arthritis, Koufax was told to retire, but Koufax ignored the advice and told no one about his condition. He would go on to have a more dominating season than the previous one. Koufax went 27-9 in 323 IP with 317 K and a 1.73 ERA. Drysdale, however, slipped. He went 13-16, and his ERA jumped to 3.42 (over the league average). The Dodgers made it to the World Series again, but they were swept away by the Baltimore Orioles. Koufax would retire at the end of the season, and Drysdale would pitch two more full seasons before retiring midway through the 1969 season because of shoulder problems.


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