Ken Holtzman

Ken Holtzman bigraphy, stories - American baseball player

Ken Holtzman : biography

November 3, 1945 –

Kenneth Dale Holtzman (born November 3, 1945) is a left-handed former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. He was a 2-time All Star, and a 3-time World Series champion.

He became the only pitcher since the 1880s to throw two no-hitters for the Cubs, and was also one of the principal pitchers on Oakland’s championship teams from 1972 to 1975. Through 2010 his 174 career victories are the most in the major leagues all-time by a Jewish pitcher (directly ahead of Sandy Koufax), his 1,601 strikeouts are second (behind Koufax) and his 451 games are second (behind Scott Schoeneweis), and his 3.49 ERA is fifth (directly behind Scott Radinsky). He held the record for most pitching appearances by a Jewish pitcher until 1998.

In 2007 Holtzman managed the Petah Tikva Pioneers in the Israel Baseball League.

Managing career

Holtzman managed the Petach Tikva Pioneers in the inaugural 2007 season of the Israel Baseball League. They finished the 2007 regular season in last place (9–32; .220), and lost to the Modi’in Miracle in the quarterfinals of the 2007 championship.

Later years

Holtzman went on to a successful career as a stockbroker and in insurance, and also worked for the St. Louis Jewish Community Center, running the gymnasium in the Marilyn Fox Building. He coached the St. Louis baseball team for the Maccabi games for a few years and is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame

Major league career

Chicago Cubs (1965–71)

He joined the Cubs with three relief appearances in 1965, then became a member of the starting rotation with an 11–16 rookie campaign for the last-place 1966 team. The team’s fortunes turned around quickly, however, as they had winning years in every season from 1967 through 1971.

As a promising Jewish left-hander, he was heralded as a new Sandy Koufax, though it would have been nearly impossible to live up to such a standard. In fact, he and Koufax faced each other in a September 25 game in 1966, one day after Yom Kippur, with Holtzman winning 2–1 and taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning; Koufax made his last regular-season appearance a week later on October 2.

In 1967 Holtzman spent much of his time in the National Guard, pitching on the occasional weekend; he was a perfect 9–0 in the 12 games in which he appeared. Through 2006, only four pitchers in baseball history were undefeated with more decisions. With his military obligations behind him, he became a strong second starter behind Ferguson Jenkins, and the Cubs began making noise in the National League for the first time since World War II.

After going 11–14 in 1968, he posted consecutive 17-win seasons. In military service in 1969, he was able to return to the team and pitch in weekend games.

On August 19, 1969, he pitched his first no-hitter at Wrigley Field against the eventual Western Division champion Atlanta Braves, winning 3–0 on Ron Santo’s 3-run home run and outdueling the Braves’ Phil Niekro; Holtzman notably had no strikeouts in his gem, which was the first no-hitter ever thrown by a Cub left-hander at Wrigley Field. It was also the second no-hitter ever thrown without a strikeout (Sad Sam Jones on September 4, 1923 ), a feat that has not been equaled since. In the 7th inning, veteran slugger Hank Aaron hit a towering drive to left field, which would have landed on Waveland Avenue on many days; but with a strong north wind blowing in, it was a "pitcher’s day" at Wrigley, and the ball was barely kept in the park. Billy Williams went back into the "well" of the left field bleachers and caught the ball. Today, a similar fly ball would probably land for a home run in the basket that was installed at the top of the wall in 1970 to prevent fan interference. Radiocaster Vince Lloyd covered the play this way, in an amusing transition from despair to delight:

(loud crack of the bat) Aaron swings, look out, that baby is hit… It is way back there… Billy Williams, back to the wall… back to the corner… HE GRABS IT!!!" (loud roar from the crowd)