This Week in 1960s Baseball
(March 17, 1966) Was it a change in careers for two of baseball’s most celebrated pitchers? Or simply a temporary detour on the road to Cooperstown?
Don Drysdale (left) and Sandy Koufax missed the 1966 spring training as holdouts for a multi-year contract that would make them the highest-paid players in baseball. They signed one-year contracts just before the start of the 1966 season.
That’s what many Los Angeles Dodgers fans were wondering when it was announced today that pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had signed with Paramount Pictures to appear in a movie project called “Warning Shot.”
The announcement came nearly a month after the Dodgers had opened spring training in Vero Beach, Florida without the game’s best righty-lefty starting tandem. Koufax and Drysdale had remained in Southern California, demanding a three-year contract that would pay each of them $167,000 per season. That salary would make them the highest-paid players in major league baseball.
Both pitchers were coming off excellent seasons in 1965, when the Dodgers won their second National League pennant and World Series championship in the past three seasons. Drysdale was 23-12 with a 2.77 ERA. He pitched 20 complete games and seven shutouts, both third best in the National League. Drysdale finished second in the league in innings pitched (308.1) and ninth in strikeouts (210).
Koufax was even better. He was 26-8 with a 2.04 earned run average, leading the major leagues in both wins and ERA, as well as complete games (27), innings pitched (335.1) and strikeouts (a major league record 382). He also became the first major league pitcher to throw four no-hitters, tossing a 1-0 perfect game against the Chicago Cubs on September 9.
Between them, Koufax and Drysdale had won three of the four Cy Young Awards given out from 1962-1965. (And Koufax would win it again in 1966.)
In 1965, Don Drysdale earned $80,000. The Dodgers paid Koufax $85,000. The highest-paid player in baseball going into the 1966 season was San Francisco Giants outfielder Willie Mays, who had signed a two-year contract for $125,000 per season.
On March 30, 1966, as the Dodgers were flying west at the conclusion of spring training, the team announced that it had signed its pitchers to one-year contracts: Koufax for $125,000, Drysdale for $110,000. Neither player would have the opportunity to appear in Warning Shot, which debuted in 1967 starring David Janssen.
Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had taken acting roles in television prior to their 1966 holdout. They never got the chance to appear in the movie Warning Shot. Instead, they led the Los Angeles Dodgers to their third National League pennant in four seasons.
It effectively marked the end of the acting career for Sandy Koufax. In 1959-1960, Koufax had appeared in four different television series, including 77 Sunset Strip (as a policeman) and Bourbon Street Beat (as a doorman). He made no “actor” appearances afterward, and retired as a player following the 1966 season.
Don Drysdale continued to make occasional guest appearances on television series, as himself or in a role. From 1957-1992, Drysdale made 17 different television appearances, in shows ranging from The Red Skelton Hour, The Rifleman, Leave It To Beaver and The Donna Reed Show (four different appearances) before the “strike” and The Flying Nun, The Brady Bunch and The Greatest American Hero among others after. He was also a sports broadcaster from 1969 until his death in 1993.
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