Ken Holtzman, Who Pitched Two No-Hitters for the Cubs, Is Dead at 78

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Ken Holtzman, a left-hander who pitched two no-hitters for the Chicago Cubs and won three World Series with the Oakland A’s in a 15-season career, died on Monday in St. Louis. He was 78.

He had been hospitalized for the last three weeks with heart and respiratory illnesses, his brother, Bob, said in confirming the death.

Holtzman won 174 games, the most for a Jewish pitcher in Major League Baseball — nine more than the Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who is considered one of the best pitchers ever and who had a shorter career.

In addition to his win total, Holtzman, who at 6 feet 2 inches and 175 pounds cut a lanky figure, had a career earned run average of 3.49 and was chosen for the 1972 and 1973 All-Star teams.

Holtzman, at 23, threw his first no-hitter on Aug. 19, 1969, a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves — a performance distinguished by the fact that he didn’t strike out any Braves. It was the first time since 1923 that a no-hitter had been pitched without a strikeout.

“I didn’t have my good curve, and I must have thrown 90 percent fastballs,” Holtzman told The Atlanta Constitution afterward. “When I saw my curve wasn’t breaking early in the game, I thought it might be a long day.”

His second no-hitter came on June 3, 1971, against the Cincinnati Reds at their ballpark, Riverfront Stadium, where he struck out six and walked four.

“The fans in the first row behind our dugout wouldn’t let me forget I had a no-hitter going tonight,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “I guess from the fourth inning on, they would yell at me that I was going to lose my no-hitter.”

But it was a high point in a difficult season, in which his record was 9-15 and his E.R.A. jumped to 4.48 from 3.38 the year before. He also had a fractious relationship with Manager Leo Durocher.

In the off season, the Cubs traded Holtzman to Oakland for the outfielder Rick Monday.

“The air is cleared now,” Holtzman told The Tribune. “I wouldn’t have cared if the Cubs had traded me for two dozen eggs.”

The trade revived his career.

Kenneth Dale Holtzman was born on Nov. 3, 1945, in St. Louis. His father, Henry, was a machinery dealer. His mother, Jacqueline (Lapp) Holtzman, managed the home.

Holtzman had a 31-3 record at University City High School, outside St. Louis, and played for the University of Illinois. As a sophomore, he won six games and struck out 72 batters in 57 innings. He was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft.

He spent most of the 1965 season in the minor leagues, where he compiled an 8-3 record, before being called up by the Cubs.

Holtzman left the Cubs in 1971 with a 74-69 record. He fared substantially better with the A’s, a 1970s dynasty whose players included Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. In Oakland’s World Series championship years, from 1972 to 1974, Holtzman had a 59-41 regular season record. In World Series games, he was 4-1.

In early 1976, Holtzman was one of nine A’s players whose unsigned contracts were renewed with 20 percent salary cuts by Charles O. Finley, the team’s capricious owner.

“The man doesn’t care if I leave or not,” Holtzman, a union activist who was the team’s player representative, told The New York Times during spring training that year.

Soon after, he and Jackson were traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in late June, Holtzman was sent to the Yankees in a 10-player trade. With New York, though, his pitching was not as efficient as it been in Oakland, and Manager Billy Martin declined to use him in the postseason rotation in 1976, when the Yankees were swept by the Reds, and again in 1977, when the Yankees defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

After the fifth game of the Series, Holtzman was asked if he expected to pitch in the remaining games.

“No, not really, not when I haven’t been used all year,” he told The Times, referring to a regular season in which he had appeared in only 18 games, some of them in relief.

His appearances grew even less frequent in 1978. He pitched only 17⅔ innings in five games before he was traded back to the Cubs. At the time of the trade, Holtzman had challenged the Yankees’ decision to put him on the 21-day disabled list for an ailing back.

“I guess they’re just glad to get rid of me,” he told The Times.

He was 6-12 with the Cubs until they released him after the 1979 season.

Holtzman, who was an insurance broker after his playing days, ran the athletic department for several years at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis after his retirement.

He returned to baseball in 2007 as the manager of a team in the Israel Baseball League. Dan Kurtzer, the commissioner, recalled in a phone interview that Holtzman’s experience in the Major League Baseball Players Association made being a manager difficult for him.

“From the beginning, I impressed upon him that he was part of management, but it never sunk in,” he said. “We had some labor issues, and I needed the managers to be supportive, and Ken had trouble with that because he was labor oriented.”

Holtzman left the team — the Petach Tikva Pioneers, based near Tel Aviv, who finished in last place — with two weeks to go in the season. Two months before his departure, he told an Israeli website that the league’s organizers had rushed into its first, and only, season, without the proper preparation, like adequate fields.

In addition to his brother, Bob, a former minor league pitcher, Holtzman is survived by his daughters, Robyn Schuster, Stacey Steffens and Lauren Fyle; four grandchildren; and a sister, Janice Koertel. His marriage to Michelle Collons ended in divorce.

Holtzman, as a Cub, and Koufax, with the Dodgers, faced each other once, at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Sept. 25, 1966.

It was Holtzman’s first full season and Koufax’s last. In the fifth inning, at which point Holtzman had not given up a hit, Bob Holtzman told their father that he was going to the men’s room. “He said, ‘You’re not going anywhere, he’s pitching a no-hitter,’” the brother recalled in a phone interview. “He wouldn’t let me leave my seat.”

Holtzman carried the no-hitter into the ninth inning, but it was broken up by the first hitter, Dick Schofield, who singled to center field. Holtzman then surrendered the shutout, but won, 2-1, on a two-hitter, with eight strikeouts. Koufax gave up four hits.

“I was satisfied with my performance,” Koufax told The Los Angeles Times, “but Ken was too good for us today.”

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