HOLTZMAN, KENNETH DALE ("Kenny"; 1945– ), U.S. baseball player, winningest Jewish pitcher in history. Holtzman was born in St. Louis. As a child, Holtzman would alternate eating Friday nights at the kosher homes of both sets of grandparents, who all came from Russia. Holtzman was a star at University City High School, where he was selected the Most Valuable Player on the state championship team in 1962. He attended the University of Illinois, from where he graduated in 1967 with a B.A. in business administration, but not before signing a $70,000 bonus from the Chicago Cubs. He made his debut at age 19 on Sept. 4, 1965, promptly giving up a home run on his first pitch. Five days later he watched Sandy *Koufax pitch his perfect game, and afterward Holtzman asked for his autograph. Being a Jewish lefthander who was known for both the velocity of his fastball and his ability to control it, Holtzman was being called "another Koufax" as soon as he arrived in the big leagues. The two greatest Jewish pitchers in history faced each other for the one and only time in their careers on Sept. 25, 1966, the day after both had attended synagogue on Yom Kippur. Holtzman was finishing his first full season and Koufax his final season, as the rookie twirled a no-hitter for eight innings and beat the veteran 2–1. It was the last regular-season loss of Koufax's career.
Holtzman spent much of the 1967 season in the National Guard, pitching occasionally on the weekend and recording a 9–0 record in the 12 games in which he appeared. He pitched a no-hitter against Atlanta on Aug. 19, 1969, winning 3–0, and pitched another no-hitter on June 3, 1971, winning 1–0 against Cincinnati while scoring the game's only run. Holtzman, who asked to be traded after the season, was sent to the Oakland A's and won 19, 21, and 19 games in his first three seasons with the team, helping them to three straight championships. In 13 career post-season games, Holtzman was 6–4 with a 2.30 ERA in 70 innings pitched, including 4–0 in four series-deciding games. He was 4–1 in the World Series with a 2.54 ERA in eight starts.
When the second game of the 1973 American League Championship Series game against Baltimore fell on Yom Kippur, Holtzman, who was scheduled to pitch, did not play, as usual. A limousine was sent to pick him up at his hotel that morning to take him to the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, where he was escorted to the synagogue's front row. There he met his limousine patron: Jerry Hoffberger, owner of the Orioles.
Holtzman was traded to Baltimore before the 1976 season, and then to the Yankees on June 15, 1976, where manager Billy Martin chose to overlook Holtzman's career record and used him sparingly for two seasons, and not at all in postseason play. Holtzman was traded on June 10, 1978, to the Chicago Cubs, where he ended his career the following season. Holtzman won four World Series, was twice named to the American League All Star team (1972, 1973), and threw 2,867 innings with a 3.49 career earned run average, 1,601 strikeouts, 31 shutouts, and pitched at least 215 innings in nine of his 15 seasons. Holtzman's final regular-season record of 174–150 gave him more wins than any Jew in history.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.