TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES BACK TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA IN 1957. There was a time when baseball, and other professional sports teams, traveled with the rest of us – first by train, then by air. A new age was ushered in on this date in 1957. The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to own a plane. It bought a 44-passenger twin-engine airplane for $800,000.
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.
It took too long to travel outside the Northeast 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.
Travel days are a thing of the past as all teams followed the Dodgers – the first team to own a plane.
Koufax was born to Evelyn and Jack Braun, but his parents divorced when he was a child. 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. The great Sanford Braun was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Before the transplantedBrooklyn Dodgerscould play the first official major league game west ofSt. Louisthey had to erect a 42-foot screen in left field because the foul pole was only 201 feet away – about the distance normally seen in slow pitch softball.
Straight away left was only about 250 feet.
On the other hand, because the Coliseum is rectangular straight away right was 440 feet from home.
There was a distinct advantage playing in the mammoth coliseum however, it held a lot of people. Game 5 of the 1959 World Series between the Dodgers and theChicago White Soxstill holds the record for the biggest crowd to watch a major league baseball game – 92,706.
The Dodgers spent four seasons (1958-1961) in, at the time, the home of the NFL’sLos Angeles Rams waiting for Dodger Stadium to be completed. As much as Dodger fans poured into the Coliseum they liked the new Dodger Stadium more when it opened in ‘62. A major league attendance record (at the time) was set with 2,755,184 fans.