On June 30th, 1962 my father and I went deep sea fishing off the Southern California coast. We left before dawn that morning and returned home just after dusk. We were, as always, exhausted after a day fighting seasickness (in my case) and the occasional seabass, baracuda, or, if we got lucky, yellowtail tuna. As we sat down to a light Saturday evening meal with my mother and younger brother we were listening to the Dodgers on the radio, as we did virtually every night the Dodgers played.
Koufax was pitching that night and into the early innings he had a no-hitter going. Sandy was my absolute sports hero. (I was a big Jerry West fan, too, but Sandy was my all-time favorite). I loved him as much as any young kid can love his favorite player. Maybe more... Koufax inspired adoration, not just admiration. So, despite being dog-tired, my father and I stayed up that night to listen to Koufax mow down one hitter after another. Sure enough, Sandy pitched his first no hitter that night and I was in youngsportsfan heaven. My all-time favorite player, and sports hero, had just pitched a no-hitter and I was ecstatic.
My mother and brother had long-since gone to bed, my dad grunted a "good night" and I went off to my bedroom. However, I was too excited to sleep and settled into bed with my latest Chip Hilton sports novel and my young brain abuzz.
After a half hour or so I heard noise from the front of the house that sounded like a burglar rifling through our kitchen cupboards. Being sixteen, and full of teenage bravado, I grabbed my baseball bat and crept down the hall toward the "intruder" in the kitchen. When I pushed open the door from the hallway into the front of the house I was immediately knocked down... by smoke! The entire front of the house was on fire!
I raced back down the hall, woke my parents, and then we all crawled out the window in my little brother's room. It was after one in the morning as we stood around on our front lawn watching the firemen do their work, and counting our blessings for escaping almost certain death from smoke inhalation and, ultimately, fire itself.
Had Sandy Koufax not pitched a no-hitter that night, I'm sure my father and I would have both been fast asleep when the fire struck. When I entered my parents' bedroom to awaken them the smoke was already leaking into their room from under their bathroom door. A few minutes later and it might have been too late. BUT, Sandy DID pitch a no-hitter that night - and because he did, this life-long Dodger fan (and his family) are alive today. Thank you, Mr. Koufax! You really did save our lives that night in 1962!