Here’s a post I made exactly on this subject over a year ago.
I don’t think it’s undue praise at all. Perhaps statistically Koufax does not compare favorably with certain other pitchers. I’d agree that he (re: his career numbers) certainly does not compare favorably with other HOF pitchers, but “undue praise”?
Two things: First of all, people that mention him in the same breath as Lefty Grove and Walter Johnson when talking about the greatest pitchers of all time are giving him undue praise. Second, when the discussion comes up about great peaks, I always bring Pedro Martinez up, simply because he has probably the highest peak of all time of any pitcher. Nine times out of ten someone will argue the case of Sandy Koufax. I’d say both of these common situations qualify as undue praise because it’s really not even a question in either case.
Sandy’s numbers are inflated for a few reasons. First, Dodger Stadium, a great pitchers’ park, opened in 1962. At the same time, the strike zone was widened (edit: by “widened” I actually mean stretched up to the shoulders, I believe) and the groundscrew at the stadium would raise the mound for he and Drysdale, as the rule enforcing the height of the mound was not very well enforced until after the ‘68 season when Gibson and McLain each won the Cy and MVP awards for the AL and NL, respectively. That, along with the strike zone being contracted back to where it was before, ended the 2nd great pitchers’ era… 2 years after Sanford retired.
This raising of the mound is especially notable, since Sandy’s ERA was over a run higher on the road than in LA.
I think you need to listen more to what players say who played against him. Listen to the announcers who watched his entire career. Listen to the fans who saw him play.
Every time you hear a player, fan, or announcer talk about the good ole’ days, take it with a grain of salt. I’m sure Sandy was one of the most feared players of his time to go against. I know people that watch just about every Red Sox game, but really don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to baseball. Nothing wrong with that, but personal observations don’t always hold up against the numbers, especialy when a guy pitched in an era favorable to his kind, in a stadium basically groomed for he and Mr. Drysdale, and who has a story of “going out on top” which the media ate up and regurgitated into what is today The Legend of Sandy Koufax.
He was phenomenal and like all phenomenons he didn’t last as long as we’d have liked. It doesn’t mean what people say about him is untrue, or undue. In fact, I’d say it’s hard to overstate just how good he was.
He was a great pitcher. There’s no question about that. However, while it may be hard to overstate how good he really was, people have found ways to do it for the last 39 years pretty well.