If you were a collector in the 1960s who wanted a look at a great pitcher in his element, you would have done well to enjoy the 1964 Topps World Series card(s) of Sandy Koufax.

Here, take a gander at card #136, celebrating Koufax’s dominant Game 1 performance in the 1963 World Series …

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The back of the card gave us the gaudy, gory details …

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… though considering that both front and back mentioned Koufax’s record-breaking 15 strikeouts, it might have been fun to see a “SO” or “K” column in those stats to let us know which of the Yankees were his victims — and how many times.

That’s OK, though, seeing as how the front of the card is such a masterpiece, a collaborative work of art perpetrated on the world by the Left Arm of God and the Topps photographer (who was he?) at precisely the right moment.

That notion — the right moment — seems all the more poignant now when you flip back through Topps cards covering the last half of Koufax’s brilliant six-year run to end his career.

Consider …

  • The Dodgers missed the World Series in 1964, falling to 80-82-2 and sixth place in the National League.
  • L.A. rebounded to win the 1965 Fall Classic over the upstart Minnesota Twins … but Topps issued no World Series cards in 1966.
  • The Dodgers faced off against the Orioles in the 1966 World Series … but were swept right out of October. Koufax took the six-inning loss in Game 2, and all of Topps’ World Series cards the next year featured Baltimore stars.

And, of course, Koufax retired just a month or so after the final out of Game 4 in that ‘66 Series.

Suddenly, that classic shot of the Dodgers’ future Hall of Famer at his height, in the 1964 Topps World Series subset, was elevated to the status of “last time we’d see an active card of Koufax on baseball’s biggest stage.”

Except … it wasn’t, not really.

Because, after his heroics in Game 1 of that ‘63 Series, Koufax was back to face Whitey Ford once again in Game 4.

All Sandy managed to do there was toss a complete-game, one-run dandy to finish off the championship … and to be there when his teammates came crashing the mound.

Just like you see on card #140 in the 1964 Topps set:

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That one really is Koufax’s final World Series card, and a fitting final impression of a master relishing a brief moment of joy, allowing himself to bask in the fruits of his considerable talents and efforts.

Captured, as it turned out, one final time.

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