The bitterness of defeat was somewhat altered when, as a way of saying thank you to his hard-working employees, O’Malley made arrangements for his front office executives and staff to attend one game of the World Series in, of all places, San Francisco! It was a way for the employees and their spouses to unwind from the rigors of opening a new stadium and the tough six-month grind. “You all worked real hard,” O’Malley said. “Let’s go up and see the ball game.”1
Then, as to refocus on the job ahead, when that trip was over, O’Malley told his executives, “The 1963 season starts today.”
Thus began the proverbial journey to reach the top.
When the 1963 season rolled around, three major changes were afoot at Dodger Stadium.
First, O’Malley spent $1.5 million to beautify the Dodger Stadium landscaping, planting more trees, flowers and bushes than the National Park Service. Second, Koufax’s circulatory problem was not an issue and, though many made important contributions to the success of the 1963 team, he would be the difference. Finally, longtime popular Dodger center fielder Duke Snider had his contract sold to the New York Mets on April 1 at age 36. Snider’s absence marked the end of an era from the Dodger teams of old Ebbets Field. In his 16 seasons with the Dodgers, Snider had played in six World Series and smacked 389 home runs. Also departing that season were infielder Don Zimmer, pitcher Ed Roebuck and third baseman Daryl Spencer.
For Dodger Manager Walter Emmons Alston, the fresh beginning of the blossoming season was just what was needed after the heartbreak of 1962. As the years passed by since his hiring for the 1954 season, Alston had established his position as a most likeable, quiet but strong, leader of the Dodgers.
Alston wrote the following in his 1963 preseason prospectus: “Overall, I’d say the Dodgers have even better speed than last year, a chance at greater power, and, barring injury, better pitching. And I expect fewer mistakes than in 1962. These boys are a year older and they’ve been through a tough campaign. This could be a crucial year for the club in its rebuilding program. If we get by without physical setbacks, I like our chances as well as the next. But you never know in the National League. All the last-minute disappointment of the 1962 season probably never would have come about for the disastrous injury to Sandy Koufax.”
Health was not a concern for Koufax in 1963.
With Koufax 14-3 before the All-Star Game, he was well on his way to one of his most prolific seasons. His season for the ages included a brilliant 25-5 record and record-setting performances, including a National League high of 306 strikeouts. Imagine this – in 1,443 innings pitched through 1963, Koufax had fanned 1,474 batters!