As with the previous two nights, we’ll begin with some music by Steve Goodman. I find that by clicking on the video, and then listening to the music while reading the text below, it helps to enhance the experience somehow. This one seems to be from 1978, based on some of the lyrical references.
On the first night, Dave Roberts was profiled. And last night, it was Sam Fuld’s turn to shine. Tonight we take a look at the winningest Jewish pitcher in big league history, Ken “No-hit” Holtzman. According to jewishmajorleaguers.org (where I also found the list of players that I’m working off of here), Holtzman won 174 games in his big league career, while Koufax won 165. A few others on this list (Dave Roberts included) either have already appeared in this space, or will do so before the final night of the holiday next week.
I previously wrote a piece about the Yom Kippur-related pitching matchup between Holtzman and Koufax that took place in Wrigley Field in 1965. I used Holtzman’s 1979 Topps card in that post, because I like the way the ivy at Wrigley Field is used as a backdrop. It’s as if the photographer had Holtzman stand on the warning track, and then get into his set position to pitch. But the card doesn’t reflect Wrigley Field reality in any way. If you don’t want to click on the link to that post, here’s the card itself, with Koufax alongside:
Holtzman pitched for the Cubs from 1965 to 1971. He threw a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves in 1969, and another one against the Reds in Cincinnati in 1971, earning him the nickname “No-hit” Holtzman. He was traded to the Oakland A’s for Rick Monday in late 1971, and he pitched for the three-time champions in 1972, 1973, and 1974. In 1975, with the A’s dynasty about to be torn asunder by free agency, they won their division again, and were swept in the playoffs by Fred Lynn and the Boston Red Sox.
Holzman was traded to Baltimore, and then made his way to the New York Yankees for the “Bronx Zoo” teams of the late 1970s. He was traded in 1978 back to the Cubs, and started six games for them that year. On June 24, he started against the Phillies in Philadelphia, the day after Dave Roberts had started against them in the first game of a doubleheader (Dennis Lamp started the second game that day). I don’t know if there’s ever been another team that threw two Jewish starters at another team on consecutive days before, but it seems like it would be a pretty rare feat. And that’s the sort of thing that I’m always willing to write about here.
Holtzman pitched for the Cubs in 1979, and was released by the team at the end of the season, which makes the 1980 Ken Holtzman card seem to be inexplicable. Perhaps Topps wanted to have a Ken Holtzman card in their set that year, regardless of who he eventually played for, and they put him in as a Cub because nobody else had signed him yet. A card like this has the player’s entire career statistics on the back, which is something that doesn’t always happen with players during their careers. The statistics are usually a snapshot of what they’ve already accomplished, with any future performance yet to be determined. But in this case, what you see on the back is all there is to see. And it was a pretty impressive career that he had, to be sure.
Another Jewish Cubs player from the past will be discussed here tomorrow night. And here’s the full Holtzman card: