If you grew up in Southern California, the year 1965 is often associated with Sandy Koufax. It was the season where Koufax threw a perfect game against the Cubs. Koufax would strike out 382 batters. He won 26 games. His ERA was 2.04. Koufax would win two games in the World Series over the Twins. But Koufax didn't win them all in 1965. And on this day, the St. Louis Cardinals were just a little bit better, beating the Dodgers and Koufax, 2-1 before 30,794 at Dodger Stadium.
The Cardinals had won the World Series in 1964, but their manager Johnny Keane, had left the team to go manage the Yankees. Local hero Red Schoendienst took over the job and would hold on to it for 12 years as well having two stints as an interim manager after that. Schoendienst picked veteran lefty Curt Simmons to start. Simmons had broken in with the Phillies as an 18-year old in 1947 and pitched with them until 1960 when his career appeared to be over with an arm injury. But the Cardinals signed him and he slowly got back into shape and was a key part of the Cardinals championship in 1964. Simmons was the prototypical "crafty lefty."
The Cardinals started three players who would be key to their success in 1967 and 1968: left fielder Lou Brock (who was batting second), center fielder Curt Flood (the third place hitter), and second baseman Julian Javier (who was the leadoff hitter). Three players who were key to the team's success in 1964: third baseman Ken Boyer, first baseman Bill White, and shortstop Dick Groat also were starting. And they would all be traded at the end of the year.
The Dodgers under Walter Alston were trying to retool their offense to make up for the loss of Tommy Davis, who suffered a broken ankle earlier in the month. Lou Johnson had been recalled from the minors and was starting to put in a claim for the left field position. Johnson was 4-for-7 in the first two games of the series against the Cardinals and was batting .340. Alston had tried him as the leadoff hitter with Maury Wills out for a couple of games, but Johnson was back down to the fifth spot this night.
St. Louis grabbed an early read. After Javier struck out to start the game, Brock reached on a bunt single and stole second. Flood reached on an infield hit and Brock stayed at second. But not for long as Brock and Flood executed a double steal against Dodgers backup catcher Jeff Torborg. Boyer hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Brock and make it 1-1.
The Dodgers, who had to struggle to score runs all year, scratched out one in the second. The Dodgers got started with singles by Ron Fairly and Johnson. Jim Lefebvre walked to load the bases. Torborg then put the brakes on the rally by grounding into a DP, but Fairly scored to tie the game.
Simmons and Koufax then matched zeroes until the seventh. Then the Cardinals had the most unlikely of rallies. With two outs, backup catcher Bob Uecker singled. That brought up Simmons and Schoendienst opted to let him bat as he was pitching fairly well. Simmons was 0 for 18 on the season, but he managed hit a grounder that made it into left field and Uecker went to second. (It was the only hit Simmons ever had against Koufax in 13 plate appearances. Uecker was 7 for 38 in his career against Koufax with a home run.) Javier followed with a single to right. Fairly's throw to the plate was not in time to catch Uecker and the Cardinals led 2-1.
The Dodgers mounted a rally of a sort in the ninth. With two outs, Johnson walked and then tried to steal second. Uecker throw's had Johnson out, but Javier dropped it for an error to keep the game going. Simmons then walked Lefebvre. But Torborg fouled out to Uecker to end the game. Simmons had a complete game 5-hitter, but had no strikeouts. Koufax struck out six in eight innings of work. Bob Miller pitched the ninth for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers would go on to win the NL by 2 games over the Giants with a 97-65 record. The Dodgers won 15 of their last 16 games and had seven shutouts in that stretch. The Cardinals finished in seventh place at 80-81. Simmons finished a disappointing 9-15 with a 4.08 ERA. Ray Sadecki, who had won 20 games in 1964, went 6-15 in 1965 and would be traded to the Giants early in the 1966 season in exchange for Orlando Cepeda, a trade that still haunts many Giants fans.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com, Los Angeles Times