Ken Holtzman's 1969 card

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Little was at stake that day at Riverfront Stadium (6/3/1971).

Just 11,751 fans turned up to see their 5th-place Cincinnati Reds, 16-and-a-half games out of first place, play the 4th place Chicago Cubs. On the mound, the Reds’ Gary Nolan (3-6) was due to face the Cubs’ Ken Holtzman (4-6).

But on that day, 40 years ago Friday (6/3/2011), Kenny Holtzman turned in a gem: the second no-hitter of his career. It was a crushing defeat for the Reds, who were the defending league champions, and the first ever at Riverfront Stadium.

Holtzman struck out 6 batters and gave up just 4 walks to the powerful Reds, whose lineup included CF George Foster, C Johnny Bench, and 1B Lee May. After reaching base on an error, Holtzman also scored the Cubs’ lone run, driven in by 2B Glenn Beckert’s single in the 3rd inning.

Holtzman went on to finish the season with a career-worst 9-15 record. But he recovered gloriously the following season with the Oakland A’s, going 19-11. In fact, Holtzman won anywhere from 18 to 21 games in each of his first four seasons with the A’s.

Holtzman’s first no-hitter (8/19/1969) came at Chicago’s Wrigley Field against the Atlanta Braves, whose lineup included legends Phil Niekro on the mound and Hank Aaron in right field. The game also featured this historical footnote: Holtzman did it with zero strikeouts.

Now 65, Holtzman remains among the top Jewish pitchers in history. Among other categories, he is 1st in career wins (174), 2nd in strikeouts (1,601), 5th in ERA (3.49), and 2nd in no-hitters (2), according to Wikipedia.

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