Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was already on the radar of Brooklyn Dodgers scout Bill Zinser when as an 18-year-old college freshman he spent the summer working as a camp counselor at Camp Chi-Wan-Da in Kingston, N.Y.
Koufax had attended the camp as a camper in previous summers and foreshadowing his career as one of the most dominant pitchers of all time, he reportedly didn’t let the attention go to his head.
“He was this handsome, strapping guy, a great athlete who had professional scouts trying to sign him,” one of his campers in 1954 named David Saks was quoted saying in a 1999 Sports Illustrated article. “I was 13. He was 18. We all were in awe of him. But even then there were signs that he wanted people to avoid fussing about him to the nth degree.”
Koufax made his Major League debut the next summer with the Brooklyn Dodgers and though his career was cut short because of arthritis when he was 30, he won the Cy Young award three times, the World Series four times and was the first pitcher to throw four no hitters. He was the youngest ever elected to the Hall of Fame when he was inducted at age 36.
Camp Chi-Wan-Da is no longer operational. Hudson Valley Ruins has photos of the abandoned site.
Postcard via Hudson Valley Ruins website.
Camper Koufax is on the far left of the second row from the top. Photo via Chasing Dreams blog.