Jews & Sports

from Big Mo's Sports Desk

Passing The Jewish Mantle

To compile a record book for Jewish Major Legue Baseball players is not too difficult. Virtually every major offensive record belongs to Hank Greenburg, who hit 58 home runs in 1938 and knocked in 183 RBI's the following season. Likewise, virtually every pitching record belongs to Sandy Koufax, who won 26 games in 1965 and had an ERA of 1.73. Amazingly, one major pitching record did escape the great Koufax's grasp, due to the fact he retired following the 1966 season at the ripe age of 31 due to arm trouble. In fact, he became and still is the youngest inductee to the Hall of Fame when he was admitted five years later.

The Jewish pitcher with the most wins is Ken Holtzman, who won 174 games in 15 seasons from 1965-79 for Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees. Hotzman considered himself a proud Jew, and like Koufax earlier, sat out the first game of a World Series along with first baseman Mike Epstein when it fell on Yom Kippur in 1973. What is more, Holtzman also kept kosher, even on road trips.

Koufax and Holtzman share another distinction: they comprised the only Jew vs. Jew pitching match up in Major League Baseball history. On Sept 24, 1966, Yom Kippur, Koufax was scheduled to pitch, but he refused and sat out. So his turn was pushed to the next day. Exactly one week later on Oct. 2, Koufax made his final appearance. His opponent was Holtzman, a rookie with the Chicago Cubs. In a passing the mantle of sorts, Koufax limited to the Cubs to only four hits, but Hotzman held the Dodgers hitless until the ninth inning, pulling off a stunning 2 hit 2-1 victory.
Holtzman went on to coach in Israel. In 2007 he was the manager of the Petach Tikvah Pioneers in the opening season of the Israel Baseball League. His rival Kaufax was drafted to pitch in the league by the Modi'in Miracle! To date, 74 year old Sandy has not come out of retirement.


[Adapted with permission from:]


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