LOS ANGELES - A statue of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was unveiled in Dodger Stadium's Centerfield Plaza Saturday, three years after it was announced and two years later than originally planned.
The Dodgers announced in 2019 that Koufax would be the second person in their "statue series," with the unveiling expected in summer 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic altered those plans.
The statue sits adjacent to Jackie Robinson's in the Centerfield Plaza. Robinson's was unveiled on April 15, 2017. Both sculptures were created by Branly Cadet.
"Sixty-seven years ago, Jackie Robinson became my teammate and friend. At that time, sharing this space with him would have been absolutely unimaginable, and today it still is," said Koufax, 86. "It's one of the greatest honors of my life."
Koufax also paid tribute to the late Don Drysdale, his fellow ace on the Dodgers staff in the early and mid-1960s.
"We were together for 11 years, we grew up together. I think we were friends but I think in some ways we were competitors because he (set a standard of) excellence that I tried to live up to, and I tied to set an excellence that he lived up to, and I think it made us both better."
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Current Dodgers pitching star Clayton Kershaw and Hall of Famer Joe Torre, now a special assistant to baseball's commissioner, also attended Saturday's ceremony.
Torre noted that he was the only person present who had to bat against Koufax. "You knew he was pitching because you could hear it," he said.
"In the years and generations to come, I hope a kid see this statue and asks his mom or dad about Sandy Koufax, and I hope that they tell him he was a great pitcher but more than that he was a great man who represented the Dodgers with humility, kindness, passion, class," Kershaw said.
"And for every rookie who sees this statue for the first time and asks, `Was he any good?' I hope the veterans tell him simply that he was the best to ever do it," Kershaw added.
Koufax played his entire 12-season major league career with the Dodgers, the first three when they were based in his native Brooklyn.
Koufax was the National League MVP and MLB's Cy Young Award winner in 1963 and also won Cy Young awards in 1965 and 1966, his final season before being forced to retire at age 31 because of an arthritic elbow.
Koufax was the first pitcher to average fewer than seven hits allowed per nine innings pitched in his career (6.79), to strike out more than nine batters (9.28) per nine innings and to pitch four no-hitters. In his last 10 seasons, batters hit .203 against him with a .271 on-base percentage and a .315 slugging average.