Global Links

For Alumni and Friends of The State University of New Jersey

Scarlet Sports
Bookmark and Share

The Perfect Game

Alumnus Jeff Torborg recalls being the catcher during Sandy Koufax's amazing no-hitter on September 9, 1965.

Jeff Torborg
As a catcher on the Scarlet Knights baseball team, Jeff Torborg was a 1963 All-American, setting a school record for slugging percentage (1.032) and season batting average (.537).

As a catcher on the Scarlet Knights baseball team, Jeff Torborg was destined to catch the eye of Major League Baseball scouts. He was a 1963 All-American who set the school record for slugging percentage (1.032) and season batting average (.537), a record that has been eclipsed by few collegiate players. Signed in 1963 by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent right off the New Brunswick Campus, Torborg ED’63 was best known as a pro for catching three no-hitters: Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, Bill Singer’s 10-strikeout gem in 1970, and Nolan Ryan’s first career no-hitter in 1973. Only Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who recently retired, has caught more in Major League history, with four.

Because of his field generalship as a catcher, Torborg (who is quoted below as he relives the game) was a natural to be a manager following his retirement in 1973. He led several teams, most notably the Chicago White Sox, whom he guided to 94 wins in 1990—a 25-game improvement from 1989 that garnered him the 1990 American League Manager of the Year.

Torborg’s offense never matched his knack for calling a game as a pro. He worked telepathically with pitchers to leave batters muttering to themselves, hitless. In this role, on September 9, 1965, Torborg, during his second year with the Dodgers, entered immortality as he caught Koufax’s famous no-hitter. With darkness falling over Southern California and the stadium lights illuminating the green expanse of the Dodger Stadium outfield, 29,139 fans settled into their seats to witness a late-season matchup between Koufax’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs in what is perhaps the greatest pitching performance in baseball history. — Patrick Monaghan

FIRST INNING
Out #1
Donald Young pops out to second base
Out #2
Glenn Beckert strikes out looking
Out #3
Billy Williams strikes out looking

“The perfect game was almost broken up by Beckert, who hit a screamer on a hanging breaking ball down the left-field line, just foul. It was the width of a baseball; that’s how close it was. Sandy didn’t have a good curveball as the game started. It was a big roller, like it was going uphill first, instead of coming in and really biting.”

“He had a straight-down curve. They call it 12 to 6 now, but we never called it that. If you ever see a picture of Sandy, his arm looks like it’s almost broken because it’s back so far from the elbow. But when you look at the ball in his hand, his index finger and his thumb are off the ball. His fingers are so long that they almost touch around the baseball.”

SECOND INNING
Out #1

Ron Santo fouls out to the catcher
Out #2
Ernie Banks strikes out swinging
Out #3
Byron Browne lines out to center field

“Byron Browne lined out to Willie Davis; it was maybe the best-hit ball in the game. He got Banks on a forkball. Every once in a while, Sandy would throw a forkball. It was like a changeup, and the bottom would fall out of the thing. But he didn’t throw that very often, and I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to call it. I’m gonna call fastball, curveball.’ ”

Santo’s foul out brought to mind the fungoes that Koufax used to hit to him in an empty Dodger Stadium. “I saw Sandy recently at the B.A.T. [Baseball Assistance Team] Dinner in New York. I said, ‘Do you remember hitting me pop-ups?’ He said, ‘I was such a lousy fungo hitter,’ and I said, ‘Well, you weren’t by then. You had hit enough of them to be good at it.’ ”

THIRD INNING
Out #1
Chris Krug flies out to center field
Out #2
Don Kessinger flies out to right
Out #3
Bob Hendley strikes out looking

“Slowly but surely, Sandy started to work the curveball back into his pitches. Sandy was very bright: he didn’t all of a sudden try to go three or four in a row, trying to find the pitch. Sandy knew what he wanted and he would shake me off when I would indicate the pitch to throw. How many times he shook me off in that game? Probably no more than any other game. And down the stretch, he probably didn’t very much at all.”

“That’s when I knew he was getting it together, when he got the curveball starting to snap off, and it had that downward, good spin.”

FOURTH INNING
Out #1
Donald Young fouls out to first
Out #2
Glenn Beckert flies out to right
Out #3
Billy Williams strikes out looking

“He had the fastball all the way, but now the curve was really coming around.” Billy Williams admired a curveball for strike three. “Williams was from Whistler, Alabama, so we used to call him ‘Whistler.’ I’d say, ‘Hey, Whistler, could you hear the seams on Koufax’s curveball?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh, yeah.’ ”

FIFTH INNING
Out #1
Ron Santo flies out to left
Out #2
Ernie Banks strikes out swinging
Out #3
Byron Browne grounds out to short

By the bottom of the fifth, both teams were hitless. But the Dodgers changed that. Hendley walked Lou Johnson and then he bobbled Ron Fairly’s sacrifice bunt, forcing him to throw to first. Johnson, now on second, stole third base on Hendley’s first pitch to Jim Lefebvre. Cubs catcher Chris Krug threw the ball over Ron Santo’s head and Johnson came around to score as the ball ended up in left field. Despite not registering an official at bat or RBI, the Dodgers led 1–0.

“Bob Hendley was pitching a great game. We didn’t hit much, anyway. We won the World Series in ’65 with a .245 team batting average. The feeling was, if we get one run, it takes two to beat Koufax or Drysdale, and they don’t give up two runs very often. ‘So there you go, Sandy; there’s your run—for the week.’ ”

SIXTH INNING
Out #1
Chris Krug grounds out to short
Out #2
Don Kessinger grounds out to third
Out #3
Bob Hendley strikes out swinging

“This is about when I started to realize something’s happening. By now, we’ve got some innings in, and I look up at the board and there’s nothing but zeros.”

Perfection was imperiled twice. First baseman Wes Parker, a Gold Glover, dug a ball out thrown by shortstop Maury Wills, saving the play and Koufax’s perfect game. “Wes made a couple of nice defensive plays in that game.”

Don Kessinger hit a dribbler down the third-base line. But Junior Gilliam, in at third to guard against the bunt, threw him out by half a step. “Junior would flip rainbows to first, but the ball would always beat ’em.”

“After six, we were staying away from Sandy. Nobody is mentioning the no-hitter. I’m a little intimidated, anyway. I’m not going to go say anything. I don’t even want to sit near him.”

SEVENTH INNING
Out #1
Donald Young strikes out swinging
Out #2
Glenn Beckert flies out to short right
Out #3
Billy Williams flies out to left

“Top of the order. We fell behind on Williams, 3–0. Sandy and I weren’t coming back with a curveball.”
The next two pitches were fastballs right down the middle of the plate. Williams allowed one to go by and fouled off another. He swung late at a third fastball, flying to left for the final out.

“The two teams were on our way to a double no-hitter as we came up to bat.”

EIGHTH INNING
Out #1
Ron Santo strikes out looking
Out #2
Ernie Banks strikes out swinging
Out #3
Byron Browne strikes out swinging

“That Santo at bat was symbolic. He went down on three pitches.” Santo, caught looking at a curveball, had never seen Koufax throw harder. “Going back to the dugout, he said, ‘It’s all over, boys.’ ’’

Torborg was the last batter to face Hendley, who lost his own no-hit bid on a bloop double in the seventh.

“I hit a ball in my last at bat, and I got all of it. I’m jogging to first thinking, ‘I hit one out the night Koufax is pitching a special game.’ Byron Browne catches the ball at the bullpen gate in left field.”

NINTH INNING
Out #1
Chris Krug strikes out swinging
Out #2
Joey Amalfitano strikes out swinging
Out #3
Harvey Kuenn strikes out swinging

“One of Sandy’s pitches, he overthrew, and he threw it high and I reached up and it almost yanked my shoulder out of the socket. I think his hat came off, or it went sideways, at least.”

“Kuenn, a pinch hitter, swung at a ball, and he swung a foot—either under or over it. That’s the ball exploding. He missed by so far, it was unbelievable.”

Broadcaster Vin Scully tells the rest. “It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn. One strike away. Sandy into his windup. Here’s the pitch! Swung on and missed! A perfect game!”