Dodgers Take to the Skies

FEBRUARY 8, 1957 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA  There was a time when baseball teams, and other professional teams, traveled with the rest of us – first by train, then by air. A new age was ushered in on this day in baseball history. The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that the team brought a 44-passenger twin-engine airplane for $800,000, becoming the first major league baseball team to own their own plane.

Teams began flying in 1934, but not for every trip. Expansion to the west coast made air travel a necessity.

Travel has always been a major consideration for professional sports. Early on it restricted major league baseball to a relatively small section of the country. Before the late 1950’s major league baseball was entirely in the northeastern part of the country. When the National League was established in 1876 that’s where most of the population was.

These maps show the locations of major league franchises at various times. National League teams are in red. American Association (after 1901, American League) teams in blue.

1882
1955
1962
2005

It took too long to travel outside that area in the late 1800s. It took 20 hours to travel from New York to Chicago by rail. Smart scheduling kept teams from having to do that, but even New York to Buffalo was a 7-hour train ride, making travel days necessary.

Contributing Sources:

“How the automobile ruined ballpark design,” by Alex  Reisner, March 22, 2006 (also published in The Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

Dec 30, 1935 – A STAR BORN

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK • One of the greatest pitchers of all-time was born on this date in 1935, Sanford Braun.

Sanford who?
Braun.
Never heard of him.

That’s because he’s better known as Sandy Koufax. Koufax was born to Evelyn and Jack Braun, but his parents divorced when he was a child, and his mother remarried Irving Koufax.

Koufax played baseball and basketball growing up. In fact, attended the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship. He impressed baseball scouts enough though that they offered him a contract in 1954.

Koufax’s major league baseball career was not long, eleven years (1955 to 1966). It took him a few seasons to harness his talent, but for a six year stretch he was as dominating a pitcher as there’s ever been.

From 1961 to 1966:

  • He won 129 games, losing just 47
  • His ERA was 2.76, lead the league 5 of those six year, 3 seasons his ERA was under 2.00
  • Lead the league in strikeouts 4 times, striking out more than 300 three times
  • Won 3 Cy Young awards

He ranks 19th in the major leagues in winning percentage (.655).

Arm trouble forced Koufax to retire at age 30. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Sandy Koufax
Biography.com
Jewish Virtual Library