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Dodgers: Walter O’Malley Had Big Plans for Sandy Koufax if he Didn’t Retire

Former Dodgers’ GM Fred Claire has seen plenty of labor disputes and has had plenty of conversations with owners across the industry. One thing that he has always stressed is that the relationship between players and owners needs to be one of trust. 

Claire sat down with Dodgers Nation this week to talk labor disputes and player pay, but one little interesting tidbit also popped up. The former GM talked about one occasion when team owner Walter O’Malley was asked what he would have paid Sandy Koufax if he had not retired from baseball. 

I was with Mr. O’Malley on one occasion when he was asked after Sandy had retired, this was a few years after Sandy had retired and times had changed, he said ‘What would Sandy make if he was still playing?’. And Walter spun that cigar, and he said ‘He would be my partner, he would be my partner’.


O’Malley began his ownership tenure with the Dodgers back in Brooklyn during the 1940s and would not relinquish it entirely until his death in 1979. During that time, Sandy Koufax dominated the league, particularly from 1962 to 1966. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, Koufax retired at the young age of 30. An arthritic issue in his elbow ended the career of a guy that O’Malley likely would’ve given any amount of money he could ever ask for.

And in many ways, that was the philosophy that had helped guide Claire’s career. An open and honest relationship with players founded on trust made him one of the most likable General Managers in the history of the Dodgers’ organization. 

And after all, that’s what this is. That’s what I’ve always strived to do. We have a partnership, we are not separate entities…If we can’t figure out in a sport that has now gone over $10 billion in annual revenues, if we can’t figure out how to come to an agreement, then we’re really in deep trouble. 

Claire reiterated that if there is no trust between players and ownership, and they cannot come to an agreement, there is a real issue within baseball. 

Former Dodgers GM: Baseball isn’t All Millionaires, Young Players Career are at Stake


  1. Greatest left handed pitcher during his short career! He pitched with pain and always had to ice his arm after every game. He has been my idol since I became interested in Baseball ?? over 70years. I grew up in Bklyn. My cousin played with Sandy and Fred Wilpon on the same HS team. Playing stickball in Bklyn I always imitated his pitching style with that high leg kick. Sandy and Don Drysdale were probably the best two starters in any rotation. They held out for 100,000 back in the day Imagine what they would get today!!

  2. I do not buy that Koufax would have been a “partner” of Walter O’Malley at all. O’Malley was not keen paying Koufax and drysdale what he did for the 1966 season. See the golenbeck book “the bums’ oral history”.

  3. “Given any amount of money he could ask for.” Except that before the 1966 season he wasn’t willing to give Koufax and Drysdale $1 million total for three years each. So I’m guessing that “partner” means “junior partner” in the same way that there were a whole bunch of “junior partners” under Steinbrenner at the Yankees.

  4. Maybe his partner for selling Koufax jerseys. O’Malley was to “thrifty’ to partner with a pitcher. His son, Peter, was also tight. He let Steve Garvey get away, As for Koufax, I’ll take Clayton Kershaw. More wins on a shorter mound with smaller foul territories. A better pitcher!

    1. More meaningless wins. I’ll take Koufax’s fewer wins and shorter window of dominance because he made the most of it by winning big games

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