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Koufax returns to Dodgertown
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03/05/2004  1:51 PM ET
Koufax returns to Dodgertown
Sandy Koufax signs autographs for fans in Vero Beach, Fla. (AP Photo)
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The recent sale of the Dodgers by News Corp. reaped an obvious benefit Friday when Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax returned to Dodgertown.

The franchise's largest living legend and longtime Vero Beach resident had pretty much boycotted the place since the New York Post, a newspaper owned by News Corp., printed a column with a rumor about Koufax's personal life in December, 2002.

Prior to the column, Koufax had been a welcomed Dodgertown fixture since his retirement in 1966. At one time, Koufax served as an organizational pitching instructor who occasionally pitched batting practice, but for the last 15 years has been accorded the respect of a visiting professor of baseball willing to offer suggestions to pitchers young and old, from Kevin Brown to the most obscure minor leaguer.

Koufax is especially close to former Dodger pitching coach and executive Dave Wallace, now the Boston pitching coach.

Koufax, 68, has appeared at Dodgertown several times briefly this spring to have a leg muscle he injured while playing basketball checked by Dodger medics, but Friday was the first day he was visible to the public, and he even stopped to confirm that the chill has thawed.

"There was a reason. But there's not anymore," Koufax said of his absence. "The reason for not coming out (to Dodgertown) is definitely in the past."

Koufax spent time before Friday's game between Atlanta and the Dodgers talking with Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was a Dodger minor leaguer when Koufax was a major leaguer, and Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. He also spoke to Dodger pitching coach Jim Colborn, minor league instructor Rick Honeycutt, then visited the Dodger clubhouse, chatting with Shawn Green, among others.

"I came out to see friends," said Koufax. "I haven't worked here in years. It's good to see the guys. Every year I know less of them."

The intensely private Koufax retired from the Dodgers after winning 27 games in 1966 and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This article was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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