Ken Holtzman

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Kenneth Dale Holtzman

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Ken Holtzman was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft, the inaugural first-year player draft. He was the first drafted player to make it to the majors when he made his big league debut that September. He was later traded for Rick Monday, who was the first player selected in that inaugural draft.

Born in St. Louis, MO, Holtzman took Chicago by storm as he pitched two no-hitters for the Cubs. In military service in 1967, he was able to return to the team and pitch weekend games, in which he went 9-0, 2.53 in 12 starts. Holtzman tossed 33 consecutive shutout innings for the Cubs in 1969, a franchise record tied by Ryan Dempster 43 years later. In 1970, he struck out 202 batters, which was the team record for a left-hander until broken by Jon Lester in 2015. After being traded following the 1971 season, Holtzman pitched on World Championship teams with the Oakland A's in 1972, 1973, and 1974, and again in 1977 with the New York Yankees. Although he won 174 games, he was a 20-game winner only once, in 1973.

Holtzman's homer in the 1974 World Series was the last long ball by a pitcher in a World Series in the 20th Century. It would be 34 years until Joe Blanton was the next. It was also the last time a pitcher had homered in an American League park until Shohei Ohtani did so in a start on April 4, 2021, in a game in which his team declined to use the designated hitter. Ironically, he was also one of the few AL pitchers to bat in a game because his team declined to use the DH: it came in his last start of the year on September 27, 1975, against the California Angels, and it was in preparation for a possible return to the World Series (the A's eventually lost the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox); he went 0 for 2 in the game, and the A's also used Rollie Fingers as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher later in the game.

He is the winningest Jewish pitcher in baseball history, with 174 career wins. Sandy Koufax is second with 165.

In 2007, Holtzman was hired to manage in the inaugural year of the Israel Baseball League.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1972 & 1973)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 6 (1969, 1970 & 1972-1975)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1973)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1966, 1968-1970 & 1972-1976)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1970)
  • Won four World Series with the Oakland Athletics (1972, 1973 & 1974) and the New York Yankees (1977; he did not play in the World Series)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ken Holtzman (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, April 1975, pp. 72-74. [1]
  • Richard J. Puerzer: "Ken Holtzman", in Chip Greene, ed.: Mustaches and Mayhem, Charlie O's Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics 1972-74, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 204-209. ISBN 978-1-943816-07-1

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