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September 4: Ken Holtzman on the Mound

September 3, 2015

thPitcher Ken Holtzman, a lefthander who won more games in his career than any other Jewish pitcher and notched 1,601 strikeouts, second only to Sandy Koufax’s 2,396 among Jews, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago Cubs on this date in 1965. Over the course of a 15-year career, he had a record of 174-150 with a 3.49 earned-run average, and threw 31 shutouts. He also pitched two no-hitters and played on three World Series championship teams (the Oakland Athletics, 1972-74), in a pitching rotation that included Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter. In the first of those three seasons he had a record of 19-11 with an ERA of 2.51; in 1973 he went 21-13 with a 2.97 ERA. (Holtzman went 4-1 in those three World Series — and batted .333). He also played for the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. In 2007, he coached in the ill-fated Israel baseball league. Holtzman is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

“Once, in the amateur leagues in St. Louis, I was on a team without any other Jewish players and during one game in a very rural part of the state, an opposing player kept yelling anti-Semitic insults and threats at me throughout the whole game from their bench.... Believe it or not, about 40 years later, this same player came to the JCC where I was working, introduced himself and promptly apologized for his behavior 40 years earlier. I immediately accepted, told him I never forgot the incident, and that he was lucky I didn’t get to flatten him and break 3 of his ribs. We both laughed, went out and had a beer together, and still stay in touch. By the way, during my 15 year career, the high holidays frequently occurred during the season and every manager was respectful of my wish to go to services and not attend the game those days.” —Ken Holtzman