In 1951, Frank (Red) Rabinowitz became the new basketball coach at Lafayette High in Brooklyn. In an introductory pre-season write-up, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle surveyed the hand that Rabinowitz had been dealt, listing each candidate for the Lafayette hoops roster. The second name on that list was Sanford Koufax.
According to the Eagle, Koufax played in just four Brooklyn PSAL games that season, netting one field goal and two free throws. So slight was his impact that Koufax's name was spelled "Coufox" in the Eagle's Brooklyn PSAL Division II final scoring tally.
Koufax had a much greater impact on the court during his senior year. The 1952-53 Eagle preview not only spelled his name correctly, it listed him as a probable starter. The same write-up mentioned that "Fred Wilpon of baseball fame as a pitcher," might see action on the hardwood.
Lafayette started the 1952-53 season with a league record of 3-2, with Koufax scoring a total of 46 points, making him Lafayette's third leading scorer at 9.2 points per contest.
After Lafayette lost four of its starters to graduation in January of 1953, Koufax's scoring production more than doubled. After scoring 46 points through the first five league games, Koufax put up 97 in the last five, averaging 19.4 points per game during the latter stint.
Lafayette's season ended with a 63-54 loss to Abraham Lincoln on February 20, 1953, with Koufax scoring a game-high 24 points.
Koufax finished as the third leading scorer in Division I of the Brooklyn PSAL in his senior season, scoring 143 points in 10 PSAL contests, a 14.3 per game clip.
The future baseball Hall of Fame inductee was an Honorable Mention on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's 1952-53 All-Borough Squad and a First Team PSAL All League selection that season.
In the Eagle's preview for Lafayette's baseball team that spring, Wilpon is mentioned as one of "three seasoned moundsmen" and as being "one of the best in the City" in the prior season. Six Lafayette pitchers are mentioned in the piece, none of them Koufax. There is, however, a passing reference to Koufax, but only as an infielder candidate, referring to him as the "basketball star."
Two years later, Koufax, the basketball star, would be pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
We should all be grateful that the current obsession over youth sports specialization did not exist in the early 1950s. If it had, who knows whether Sandy Koufax would have ever stepped onto the mound.