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Monday, April 15, 2024

Ken Holtzman Z"L

Ken Holtzman, the winningest Jewish pitcher in MLB history, died Sunday. Holtzman won 174 games in a 14-year career with the Cubs, Oakland, and individual seasons with the Orioles and Yankees. Holtzman pitched two no-hitters with the Cubs and won three World Series with the A's, including the Series-clinching win in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. He was the # 3 started on that staff (behind Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue), but the A's relied on him as much as the other two in big games. Among Jewish pitchers, he is first in wins, sixth in ERA, second in strikeouts, fourth in appearances, and first in innings pitched. He also homered in the 1974 World Series, the last then-acknowledged-as-Jewish player to homer in a World Series until Alex Bregman and Joc Pederson traded homers in 2017.

As I described, Holtzman plays a big role in the Jewish-players-on-Yom-Kippur story. He never pitched on the holy day. In 1966, his first full season in the Majors, Holtzman opposed Koufax the day after Yom Kippur when both pushed their starts back to avoid the holy day; Holtzman pitched a two-hit complete game, in a game he said his mother hope he would get a no-decision. Holtzman attended Yom Kippur services in Baltimore in 1973 when the holy day coincided with Game One of the ALCS. Another story is less uplifting. In 1977, the Yankees petitioned MLB to move a 1977 game from Yom Kippur day to the evening. They cited Holtzman's unavailability, although Holtzman appeared in 18 games that season (which some stories attribute to manager Billy Martin's antisemitism) and would not have pitched even if was at the park; Holtzman was not pleased at being used in that way.

Zichrono livracha.

Update: Howie Megdal's Baseball Talmud ranks Holtzman as # 2 lefty starter, # 3 starting pitcher, # 10 All-Time (after Koufax and a bunch of non-pitchers), and falling out of the top-ten if, by 2035, Alex Bregman and Max Fried continue the careers they have been having.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 15, 2024 at 04:13 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink

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