This past weekend I was out enjoying an adult beverage when I met someone who as a youngster knew Ken Holtzman - who was a pitcher for the Cubs and A's during the 60's and 70s.
The person mentioned that Holtzman was his little league coach that he was the best coach he had ever had.
I knew that Ken Holtzman was a pitcher of some significance but didn't know that much about him. While he pitched until 1979, the best part of his career was in the books by 1976.
It didn't take much research to find out that Holtzman's career was very impressive. The left-handed pitcher was a significant contributor to the Oakland A's World Series Championship run of the early 70s recording a 4-1 record across 8 World Series starts.
He was a two time all-star who won 17+ games 6 of 7 seasons between 1969 and 1975. Holtzman's career spanned 15 seasons. He also pitched with the Yankees and Orioles. Holtzman was once traded with Reggie Jackson.
1967 Topps #185 Ken Holtzman
Holtzman was also a Jewish ballplayer. Coming up as a left handed pitching prospect in the middle 60s compelled comparisons to Sandy Koufax. The two pitchers eventually faced each other on the day after Yom Kippur, September 25 1966. Holtzman took a No-Hitter into the 9th inning and defeated Koufax and the Dodgers 2-1. It was the last regular season loss of Koufax's Hall of Fame career.
Sandy Koufax Hall of Fame career had a higher peak, but it is worth mentioning that of the two pitchers Holtzman had more career victories (174 vs 165) and equaled the legend in World Series Victories (4)
Ken Holtzman Now
According to his Wikipedia Bio Holtzman managed in the Israeli Baseball League in 2007. As of 2010 he still held the record for Career Wins by a Jewish pitcher.
I am glad to hear that Holtzman is still involved in baseball, but mostly I was happy to find out that a star ballplayer could be great little league coach. So often being athletically gifted doesn't translate in any way in coaching (or any other off field activity for that matter). To have the ability and desire to coach kids is yet another admirable skill.
For the Collector
The 1967 Topps card above is the Ken Holtzman Rookie Card. It is slightly dinged in the corners but is otherwise in good condition. Outside of Chicago the card is likely a common - likely can be found for .15 cents or less. The text on the B-side of the 1967 Holtzman RC mentions the Koufax game mentioned above.
Baseball-Refence Ken Holtzman Page
Wikipedia Ken Holtzman Page