November 3, 1945 |
St. Louis, Missouri
|Batted: Right||Threw: Left|
|September 4, 1965 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 19, 1979 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Earned run average||3.49|
|Career highlights and awards|
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.
Holtzman played ball on the University City High School team, graduating in 1963. He then attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration, and was selected by the Cubs in the 1965 amateur draft. Holtzman pitched 12 games in the minor leagues in 1965, going 8–3 with a 1.99 earned run average.
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)
Holtzman again faced Aaron in the 9th, and got him to ground out to complete the no-hitter. The Cubs went on to crushing disappointment that year, leading the Eastern Division for much of the season before faltering and finishing in 2nd place, 8 games behind the New York Mets.
In 1970 Holtzman had his best year with the Cubs, with a 17–11 record and a 3.38 ERA, and finished 3rd in the NL in starts (38), 5th in both strikeouts (202) and innings pitched (287⅔), 6th in complete games (15), and 9th in wins.
On June 3, 1971, showing a knack for facing down powerful-hitting teams, Holtzman repeated his earlier feat with a no-hitter—the first ever at Riverfront Stadium — against the defending league champion Cincinnati Reds, blanking the "Big Red Machine" 1–0 during what would prove to be his final year with the Cubs. In doing so, he became the first Cubs pitcher since Larry Corcoran (who had three from 1880 to 1884) to have two no-hitters for the team.
Oakland Athletics (1972–75)
After the 1971 season, Holtzman, having requested a trade, was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in November in exchange for outfielder Rick Monday. This was just as the team began its run of three consecutive World Series championships.
Joining a staff that featured Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter, he won 19 games in 1972 (7th in the AL) and was named to the All-Star team for the first time. He lost Game 3 of the 1972 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers as opposing pitcher Joe Coleman set an ALCS record with 14 strikeouts; but after Oakland won the ALCS in five games, Holtzman won Game 1 of the World Series against the Reds. He started Game 4, but left in the eighth inning with a 1–0 lead and a runner on third base; the Reds scored twice to take the lead, but Oakland scored twice in the ninth inning to win 3–2. He relieved Hunter in the eighth inning of Game 7 with a 3–1 lead, but after surrendering a double to Joe Morgan he was replaced by Rollie Fingers. The A's hung on for a 3–2 win, taking their first Series title since 1930 when the team was located in Philadelphia.
In 1973 Holtzman led the A's with a 2.97 ERA (6th best in the league) as each of their three top starters won 20 or more games. He was again an All-Star, going 21–13 in 40 starts (his 21 wins 4th-best in the AL) with 157 strikeouts. Over the next 33 years only two other left-handers had as many starts in a season. He had a magnificent outing in the 1973 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, winning an 11-inning 2–1 duel against Mike Cuellar in Game 3 when Bert Campaneris homered to lead off the last inning. He started three times in the 1973 World Series against the Mets, winning Game 1 by a 2–1 score, but lasting only ⅓ of an inning in Game 4, departing after a 3-run homer by Rusty Staub was followed by two more baserunners. He recovered to win Game 7, leaving in the 6th inning with a 5–1 lead as the A's took the game 5–2 and their second straight title. In both his victories, he also scored the first run for the A's.
He again won 19 games in 1974, but this time also endured 17 losses despite an excellent 3.07 ERA, which ranked 11th in the League. Again facing the Orioles in the 1974 ALCS, he pitched a 5–0 shutout in Game 2, taking a one-hitter into the eighth inning and allowing only five singles. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, he started Game 1 but was pulled in the fifth inning with a 2–1 lead; the A's went on to win 3–2. He won Game 4 by a 5–2 score, even hitting a home run off Andy Messersmith (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) in the third inning for a 1–0 lead; during the nine years in which he batted regularly during the season, he had only 2 home runs. Oakland went on to win Game 5, becoming the first team since the 1949–53 Yankees to win three consecutive Series.
Holtzman had an 18–14 record for the 1975 A's as they again won the American League's Western Division. On June 8 of that year, against the Detroit Tigers, he had what would have been his third career no-hitter broken up with two out in the ninth by a Tom Veryzer double; he would have become the third pitcher (after Cy Young and Jim Bunning) to pitch no-hitters in both leagues. Holtzman lost Games 1 and 3 of the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox as the A's were swept. He was 4th in the AL in games started (38), 6th in hits allowed per 9 innings pitched (7.33), and 7th in wins.
In the late 1970s Holtzman bounced around the major leagues. He was traded to the Orioles along with Reggie Jackson and Bill Van Bommell in April 1976 for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell. In June 1976 he was traded by the Orioles with Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Ellie Hendricks, and Grant Jackson to the New York Yankees for Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, Dave Pagan, Scott McGregor, and Rick Dempsey.
He posted a 12–10 record for the Yankees over three years, but saw his playing time increasingly limited, and did not appear in the 1976 or 1977 postseasons with New York due to owner George Steinbrenner being disappointed by his performance and refusal to meet his demands. Steinbrenner tried unsuccessfully to force Holtzman – the Yankees' union representative – to waive his no-trade clause, and used relegation to the bullpen as punishment for Holtzman's resistance.
He tied Koufax's record for the most wins by a Jewish pitcher in 1977, and passed him in 1978; in 1978 he also passed Larry Sherry's record for Jewish pitchers of 416 appearances.
In June 1978, after making only 5 appearances, he was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago Cubs for Ron Davis. He ended his career with Chicago in 1979, going 6–9 with a 4.59 ERA.
Over 15 years he had a record of 174–150 with a 3.49 ERA, 1,601 strikeouts, and 31 shutouts in 451 games and 2,867⅓ innings. He held batters to a .220 batting average with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. His 80 victories with Chicago were the fourth most by a left-hander, behind Hippo Vaughn (151), Larry French (95), and Dick Ellsworth (84).
He received four votes in Baseball Hall of Fame voting in 1985, and 5 in 1986.
In 1998, Scott Radinsky passed him to become the major league leader in appearances among Jewish pitchers. Through 2010 his 174 career victories were the most in the major leagues all-time by a Jewish pitcher (directly ahead of Sandy Koufax), his 1,601 strikeouts were second (behind Koufax) and his 451 games were second (behind Scott Schoeneweis), and his 3.49 ERA was fifth (behind Koufax, Radinsky, Barney Pelty, and Erskine Mayer).
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.
Holtzman managed the Petach Tikva Pioneers in the inaugural 2007 season of the Israel Baseball League, but was fired before the season ended. The Pioneers 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.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Ken Holtzman at the SABR Bio Project, by Ralph Berger, retrieved January 22, 2011
- BaseballLibrary.com — bio and career highlights
- Jews in Sports bio
- International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
- Jewish Major Leaguers: Career leaders
- BR Bullpen profile
- The Baseball Page
- "Career Pitching Leaders". Career Leaders. Jewish Major Leaguers. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- Chicago Cubs: Memorable Stories of .... Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- The Big Book of Jewish Baseball: An .... Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Ken Holtzman at the SABR Bio Project, by Ralph Berger, retrieved January 22, 2011
- "September 4, 1923 New York Yankees at Philadelphia Athletics Box Score and Play by Play". Baseball-Reference.com. September 4, 1923. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Tuesday, August 28, 2007 – World Exclusive! Elli Wohlgelernter on the Israel Baseball League: The manager who melted down, Retrieved October 19, 2013.
|Major League Player of the Month
August 19, 1969
June 3, 1971