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Four-Time World Series Champion Dies at 78

Ken Holtzman, who threw two no-hitters and was a four-time World Series champion, died Sunday at the age of 78. Holtzman was battling heart issues and was hospitalized before his death. Born on November 3, 1945, Holtzman played for the University of Illinois in the same year he made his major league debut. It began a 15-year career where helped the Oakland Athletics win three consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74. He won another World Series title with the New York Yankees in 1977.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Cubs pitcher Ken Holtzman,” the Chicago Cubs said in a statement Monday. “Ken was a Cub from 1965-71 and 1978-79. He posted a 3.76 ERA in 237 games with the club, including two no-hitters, cementing himself as one of the best left-handed pitchers in Cubs history. We send our condolences to Ken’s family and friends during this time.”

Ken Holtzman Dies at 78

When he arrived in the majors, Holtzman drew comparisons to another hard-throwing left-hander, Sandy Koufax.  He was just shy of his 20th birthday when the Cubs promoted him in 1965. He was teammates with three Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo. After posting a 3.79 ERA over 220 2/3 innings as a rookie with the Cubs in 1966, he was even better in 1967. Despite pitching on weekends that year due to serving in the National Guard, he went 9-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 starts.

Holtzman Was a Workhorse

Holtzman reached new heights that are unattainable in today’s game. He threw at least 215 innings in nine different seasons, including 39 starts for the Cubs in 1969. When Holtzman was traded to the A’s in 1971, it was a chance for him to become part of a dynasty. His success in the Bay Area was part of thriving alongside Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue as he won at least one World Series game in their three-year run. He earned two All-Star selections in 1972 and 1973. During the 1973 season, he made 40 starts and threw 297 1/3 innings.

In four seasons with the A’s, he posted a 77-55 record with a 2.92 ERA and 530 strikeouts in 1,084 1/3 innings. He posted a 1.97 ERA over 59 1/3 innings during the postseason in those three years.

Holtzman’s No-Hitters

The first of two no-hitters from Holtzman came in August 1969 against the Atlanta Braves. The no-hitter was only the third in the modern era to future zero strikeouts but the first no-hitter by a Cub left-hander at Wrigley Field. His second came in June 1971 in a 1-0 victory against the Cincinnati Reds, the first ever at Riverfront Stadium. Holtzman scored the game’s only run against the defending league champions.

Holtzman is the winningest Jewish pitcher in league history with 174 wins. Koufax won 165 in his illustrious career.

Main Photo: © Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


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