Jews In Sports: Exhibit Page @ Virtual Museum

Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
Page 242 of 290

Jewish Baseball Stars

Valuable Player on the state championship team. But being an unusually thoughtful athlete, he considered carefully before accepting a baseball offer.

"I knew if I played baseball, I'd be behind when I entered business," he said in an interview with Glenn Dickey in Sport magazine. "Say I played until I was thirty-one; I'd be ten years behind the guys I graduated college with. So, I had to be assured that I would get enough money to make it financially worthwhile for me."

Ken signed for an estimated $70,000 bonus from the Cubs after his junior year of college; he left school and started his baseball career in the minors, but after only a couple of months, he was quickly promoted to the Cub team, becoming a full-fledged major leaguer in 1965. After the season, he returned to the campus and obtained his degree, majoring in French.

In his brief stay with Chicago in 1965, Ken had not been involved in any official pitching decisions; but he became a regular starter in 1966 at the tender age of twenty. His manager with the Cubs was the fiery and controversial Leo Durocher, whose relationship with Holtzman started well enough but gradually disintegrated until, after several seasons, Ken asked to be traded.

But "Leo and Kenny had a good relationship in 1966," says Ferguson Jenkins, the Cub's ace right-hander in those years, in his own autobiography. Jenkins points out that the press was calling Holtzman another Sandy Koufax, "which was unfair to him. Like Koufax, Kenny was lefthanded and Jewish, but at the time he was only twenty and in his first year.

"Kenny had a good live arm, a good fast ball and curve, and a remarkable change-up with which he had great success.