Legendary Cubs Pitcher Ken Holtzman, Known for Two No-Hitters, Dies at 78

Ken Holtzman, Who Pitched Two No-Hitters for the Cubs, Is Dead at 78

Remembering Ken Holtzman: Cubs’ No-Hitter Legend

Ken Holtzman, the left-handed pitcher known for his remarkable tenure with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s, passed away in St. Louis on Monday at the age of 78. With a 15-season career that included two no-hitters for the Cubs and three World Series victories with the A’s, Holtzman left an indelible mark on Major League Baseball.

Health Struggles and a Legacy Left Behind

Bob Holtzman, Ken’s brother, confirmed that the baseball legend had been battling heart and respiratory illnesses in the hospital for the last three weeks. Holtzman’s departure leaves behind a legacy of 174 career wins, the most for a Jewish pitcher in the Major League. This record surpasses even the Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, regarded as one of the best pitchers in history.

Holtzman: The Lanky All-Star

Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 175 pounds, Holtzman was a formidable presence on the field. His career earned run average stood at 3.49, and his skills earned him spots on the All-Star teams in 1972 and 1973.

A Glimpse at Holtzman’s No-Hitters

At the young age of 23, Holtzman threw his first no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves, a feat distinguished by the fact that no Braves player was struck out – a circumstance not seen since 1923. His second no-hitter came against the Cincinnati Reds, where he struck out six and walked four.

A Rocky Relationship and a Reviving Trade

Despite his on-field successes, Holtzman faced challenges in the form of a fractious relationship with Manager Leo Durocher. Things turned around when the Cubs traded him to Oakland for outfielder Rick Monday, a move that Holtzman said “cleared the air” and rejuvenated his career.

From St. Louis to Oakland: Holtzman’s Journey

Born on November 3, 1945, in St. Louis, Holtzman’s career began at University City High School. After being selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft, Holtzman quickly made his mark, leading to his call up by the Cubs after a successful minor league stint.

A’s Dynasty and Post-Season Challenges

After leaving the Cubs in 1971, Holtzman joined the A’s and enjoyed a successful run, contributing significantly to the team’s World Series championship years. However, a trade to the Yankees in 1976 led to a less efficient period for the pitcher, resulting in reduced appearances and less frequent playtime.

Life After Major League Baseball

Post-retirement, Holtzman transitioned into a career as an insurance broker and ran the athletic department at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis. He returned to baseball in 2007 as a manager in the Israel Baseball League, although this stint was marked by various challenges and ended prematurely.

Holtzman’s Personal Life and Final Years

Holtzman is survived by his brother, Bob, his three daughters, four grandchildren, and a sister. His career and life were marked by significant achievements, notable challenges, and memorable moments – such as the game against Koufax in 1966, which Holtzman won despite a no-hitter being broken in the ninth inning. Reflecting on his performance, Koufax had only praise for Holtzman, who, indeed, left a lasting legacy in the sport of baseball.