Mariners Insider Blog

Mussina gracefully bids the game adieu - Koufax style

A few months after the 1965 season, Sandy Koufax was visiting with Dr. Robert Kerlan in his office, talking about the pitchers ailing left elbow.

"If it were you, how much longer would you pitch?" Koufax said he asked Kerlan.

"If it were me, one more year," Kerlan said.

Koufax – 29 years old at the time – nodded.

On his way out of the office, Koufax ran into the Dodgers general manager, Buzzie Bavasi, who was waiting for Kerlan because the two men were going to play bridge later that evening.

"Next year will be my last," Koufax told Bavasi.

And Bavasi, stunned, found Kerlan and asked "What the hell did you tell Sandy?"

All three men laughed when they'd retell that story, and it comes to mind today because Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina has announced his retirement, and becomes the first man since Koufax to retire after a 20-win season.

That tells you how rare it is for a pitcher, whatever his reason, to willingly leave while on top.

For Mussina, the act is especially notable – he retires 30 wins short of 300 career victrories.

This is an age where great pitchers gut their reputations by sticking around too long for a payday or a milestone, and yes, Randy Johnson does come to mind.

Mussina leaves with class, and it's telling that the last man to go out in similar fashion was Koufax – 33 years ago.