Holtzman, author of 2 no-hitters and a 4-time champ, dies at 78

April 15th, 2024

Ken Holtzman, a former pitcher who threw two no-hitters with the Cubs and won three straight World Series championships with the Athletics from 1972-74, died early Monday at the age of 78. Holtzman was battling heart issues and was hospitalized for three weeks before his death, his brother, Bob, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Born in St. Louis on Nov. 3, 1945, Holtzman was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the first MLB Draft in 1965 out of the University of Illinois. Upon arriving in the Majors, he drew comparisons to Sandy Koufax, another hard-throwing Jewish left-hander. Holtzman is the winningest Jewish pitcher in Major League history with 174 victories. Koufax won 165 games in his career.

Holtzman spent his first seven seasons with the Cubs and threw no-hitters in 1969 and 1971. His no-hitter against the Braves at Wrigley Field on Aug. 19, 1969, remains the last no-no to be thrown without a strikeout in the big leagues.

After posting a 3.79 ERA over 220 2/3 innings as a rookie with the Cubs in 1966, Holtzman enlisted in the National Guard in 1967 and was only available to pitch on weekends that year. He ended up making 12 starts for Chicago and went 9-0 with a 2.53 ERA.

Holtzman reached new heights after being traded to the A’s for former No. 1 overall Draft pick Rick Monday in 1971, becoming a key part of Oakland’s rotation during the team’s run of three consecutive World Series titles. Holtzman posted a 1.97 ERA over 59 1/3 innings during the postseason in those three years and earned the win in Game 7 of the 1973 Fall Classic against the Mets, holding New York to one run over 5 1/3 innings.

The southpaw earned the only two All-Star selections of his career in his first two seasons with the A’s. Over four seasons with the club, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 530 K’s in 1,084 1/3 innings.

Holtzman’s tenure with Oakland came to an end in April 1976, when the team sent him to the Orioles (along with future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson). He was traded again later that year from the O’s to the Yankees. Holtzman won his fourth World Series ring as a member of the Bronx Bombers in 1977, though he didn't appear in that year's postseason. Holtzman was dealt from the Yankees to the Cubs in 1978, giving him a chance to finish his career where it started.

Over 15 MLB seasons for the Cubs, A’s, Orioles and Yankees, Holtzman went 174-150 with a 3.49 ERA and 1,601 strikeouts in 2,867 1/3 innings.