Dodgers History: When Koufax and Drysdale almost became movie stars

Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Photo by Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Photo by Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /

Before the Dodgers started the 1966 season that would lead them back to the World Series, they needed to sign star pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

Before the start of the 1966 season, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale formed a two-man union and asked the Dodgers for three-year contracts worth $166,666 per year, as reported at the time by the Los Angeles Times.

The contract demands led the two pitchers, who formed the top of the Dodgers rotation, to threaten retirement and they sat out 32 days of spring camp before coming to an agreement on this date in 1966. During their holdout, they had signed an agreement to appear in a movie that would have cast Drysdale as a television commentator and Koufax as a detective.

The Hall-of-Fame starters, who both made $75,000 in 1965, eventually settled for different amounts: Koufax netting $120,000 and Drysdale settling for $105,000, according to Baseball Reference. The contracts made the them the first pitchers to earn $100,000 per season.

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Coming off a World Series victory in 1965 in which Koufax and Drysdale combined to win an amazing 49 games during the regular season, along with three of the team’s four World Series victories, the pair felt confident about their bargaining position heading into 1966.

After inking the new deal, Koufax would finish his career with another all-time season. He won the 1966 Cy Young award and finished second in MVP voting. He led the league in wins (27), strikeouts (317), and ERA (1.73), along with complete games (27), shutouts (5), and innings pitched (323).

Drysdale took a step back in 1966, finishing below .500 for the first time since 1958. He also struggled in the World Series that season, losing both of his starts to the Orioles, as the Dodgers were swept in the World Series.

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The holdouts were an early example of how public relations could impact contract negotiations. Koufax and Drysdale used their agreement with Paramount Studies as leverage to the idea they would quit baseball. The Dodgers made their displeasure known through the local press.