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KOUFAX & TORRE...Safe At Home

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010, at 02:27PM
Sandy Koufax USC Digital Archives / California Historical Society [digitallibrary.usc.edu]

Sandy Koufax pitched for the Dodgers from 1955 to 1966, winning three Cy Young awards.

After the success of "SCULLY & WOODEN ... For the Kids" in June of 2008, L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers had only one name for a followup event. "The first guy that came to mind was Koufax," he said yesterday.

The all-time Dodgers star seldom does interviews, so Simers was shocked when Koufax told Dodger manager Joe Torre that he would participate in a conversation in front of thousands at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. "KOUFAX & TORRE...Safe At Home" takes place next Saturday, February 27, and will again place Simers in the role of interviewer for a pair of sports icons.

The format places an emphasis on getting to know the stars as people. "It's trying to make people who are bigger than life, normal people," explains Simers.

"[The first event] was so successful. Two old guys, 97 years old and 81, and they mesmerized everybody. It was beyond our expectations on how it might go that night."

While Simers will be interviewing both Torre and Koufax, he has a clear favorite. "Torre, everybody knows. He's filler," said Simers. "But Koufax, he's the Greta Garbo."

Billy Crystal and Vin Scully will both play roles in the evening, which includes dinner and then the conversation on the stage of the 7100-seat theater.

Simers' daughter Tracy has been doing the grunt work when it comes to research. "I'm an old man. It takes me a long time to read," he explained.

He got to talk to Koufax for the first time on Monday. "He said 'throw it at me' and we're going to do it. We're going to talk about all the things that he did in a very irreverent fashion."

Proceeds from the night benefit Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation. In preparing for the event, Simers was struck by Torre's story. "You don't think in terms of celebrities being abused," he said. "You think of this guy winning world series rings." Torre grew up with a father who was physically abusive to his mother and emotionally abusive to Joe. He talks of being afraid to come home if his father's car was there. His Safe at Home Foundation, which he started in New York, works to create "safe rooms" at schools, where children can meet with counselors about how to handle abusive situations.

Who might be the subject of a future event? Well, Pete Carroll used to be on the list. "Now he's gone. We don't care about him," said Simers. "Make that clear: we don't care about Pete Carroll any more." The columnist has also talked to Phil Jackson about the idea. "He said he didn't want to do it while he's still coaching. I guess he doesn't want people to realize that he's only a great coach because he's had great players."

Tickets for "KOUFAX & TORRE...Safe At Home" are on sale now via Ticketmaster and start at $25.

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