His plaque reads: four no-hitters in four years
(A perfect game in 1965),
ERA title five consecutive years,
25 or more wins three times,
Strike-out leader four times
(Including 382 k’s in 1965),
NL MVP in 1963,
Cy Young Award winner three times
(When there was only one for both leagues combined) —
Yet what we honor here, at this time,
Is his final game, his final victory.
Which pitcher retires from the Majors at age 30,
After a regular season record of 27 – 9
And an ERA of 1.73 and tons of money waiting?
If you want to know the man, the man
Who had the strength to do all this, learn
About his one last effort on the final day
Of the regular season in 1966. It was
A moral victory and very much a mortal victory.

The second-place Giants had beaten Pittsburgh,
The Dodgers had lost their first game to the Phillies
And now the erstwhile Bums needed a second game victory
To play in the ’66 Series against the Orioles.
All he had to do was pitch on two-days’ rest
Battling crippling arthritis in his pitching hand,
Filling himself with cortisone and pain-relieving ointment,
Above all managing to ignore the ever-present pain.
He faced Jim Bunning, future Hall-of-Famer, who was
After win Number 20, and a team with slugger Richie Allen,
Bill White (who would be president of the National League
One day) and three future ML managers.
(This was the year he and Drysdale had sat out spring training
Until O’Malley agreed to their contract demands.)

He had a great first half to this season, going 14 -2
(With 14 complete games and a 1.56 ERA by June 26 —
And agony in his pitching arm with every throw, and
A Spartan attitude that would not let him give in).
He had started that year’s All-Star game (on two days’ rest).
Now, 81 days later, on October 1,1966 his final opportunity
To pitch a regular season game arrived (and only he know it).
His constant companion, arthritic agony, was present
(It bears repeating because it would be a challenge for
Anyone to pitch for the pennant on two-days’ rest, feeling great –
Marvin Miller had once seen him ice his arm and the player rep
Had said he’d never seen an arm more swollen in his life!

Sandy had warmed up in the bullpen during the first game
That day but wasn’t called on as the Dodgers lost. They
Found out that the Giants won when the Dodgers’ second game
Against the Phillies was in its early stages.
His curve, a wondrous weapon, refused to work that day
And so pitch after pitch he just relied on his wicked fastball
And he entered inning five with a 4-0 lead — but
As he pitched to Sutherland something “popped” in his back.
He downplayed it to “just a cramp” but it took two trainers
And Don Newcombe pulling and stretching him in all directions
Between innings plus a ton of Capsilon to get him back onto the hill —
Still with his swollen arm compliments of the omnipresent arthritis.
Pain? Just another enemy to be vanquished! This game was
To be his final effort and he was not about to let his teammates down.
And when the Phillies threatened in the ninth,
Cutting his lead in half, Sandy threw his heart out
And finished with his tenth strikeout, gained with three untouchable fastballs.

This was more than a game; it was Sisyphus finally rolling that rock
To the very top of that damn mountain (an ancient kind of ball game).
On that day he painted a masterpiece of courage and determination.
On that day, he showed that human beings could conquer their own demons
And demonstrate that there is a fragment of the Holy One
Within each of us, but it is the few who manage to call upon it
Righteously and show our worthiness.
And when that happens, there is no Hall of Fame
Grand enough to house the enormity of such a person
— So he (or she) must find a home within the hearts
Of souls who witnessed or who read about such dignity and greatness.