Sandy Koufax, the lefthander who chose not to pitch in the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, is a hero to many Jews. And in the estimation of Robert Gaynor, a 77-year old sculptor and retired immigration lawyer from Newton, Mass., Sandy Koufax looms larger than life–literally as well as figuratively. To show his love and admiration to Koufax, Gaynor, who is Jewish, created an 8 1/2-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Hall of Famer that weighs three-quarters of a ton, and plopped it in the front yard of his suburban Boston home, reported The Boston Globe‘s Stan Grossfeld.
Gaynor is only a few years younger than Koufax, his childhood hero. Seven years before Koufax’s Yom Kippur decision, Gaynor was a high school football captain, and his team had a game scheduled on the High Holiday. He asked his school’s athletic director to reschedule the game, but to no avail. Still, Gaynor participated. “When you are at a school that’s predominantly non-Jewish, you always feel kind of quiet about it,” he told the Globe. But he has felt conflicted about it ever since. So when Koufax made history by choosing to prioritize his religious obligations over the expectations of his profession, Gaynor’s own choice was thrown into relief. Koufax has been a hero of his ever since.
The septuagenarian has no formal art training and started sculpting only after his retirement less than a decade ago. When he was working as a lawyer, a client named Robert Shure sought his assistance bringing a fellow sculptor to the U.S. from Japan. Gaynor succeeded in getting the Japanese sculptor his papers, and he did so pro bono, asking only that Shure teach him to sculpt after Gaynor’s retirement. And he did.
Before the Koufax project, Gaynor created sculptures of his beloved dog and of a Kentucky Derby horse of which he owned a share (“the right ear,” he joked to the hosts of a radio show on Boston’s WZLX). The completion of Koufax’s likeness was no small feat; aside from the technical finesse that sculpture requires—it took him two years to finish—it was expensive and logistically difficult to move around and install such a large work.
Although many baseball stadiums house statues of their most famous players, there are no known sculptures of Koufax. Gaynor, whose sculpture currently stands in his yard in Newton, has said that he would be willing to donate it to the Dodgers, Koufax’s team. He is currently in communication with the Dodgers’ development officers.
During his radio interview, Gaynor was asked if he thought Koufax would like the statue that Gaynor made of him. “I don’t know,” he said. “I would hope so.”