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Sly Southpaw Ken Holtzman is an Illinois Hall of Famer



Ken Holtzman
Aug 1969; Los Angeles, CA, USA: FILE PHOTO; pitcher Ken Holtzman in action against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

“This installment of features legendary Illinois Baseball player Ken Holtzman. In September, he and 11 other athletes will be inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame.

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics named 12 new members to the UI Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023, including athletes and coaches from nine teams. This is the seventh Hall of Fame class. It includes two Olympic medalists, members of their sport’s national hall of fame, national champions, high professional draft picks, a Super Bowl champion, and a national record holder for more than 70 years. 

Ken Holtzman’s talent was evident early.

The MLB potential of the Missouri native was evident as a 19-year-old pitcher. Holtzman was pitching against the Geldmacher Sporting Goods “Bandits” in 1964. Opposing batter Jim Fernandez said that Holtzman’s curve ball froze him in the batter’s box. Though he would pitch for the Illini for just one season, it was impactful. Holtzman was named Third-Team All-Big Ten and team MVP as a sophomore before enjoying a 15-year MLB career. In his lone season with the Illini, Holtzman led the team with six wins, 57.0 innings pitched, and 72 strikeouts.

Holtzman enjoyed a great Major League Career.

Hopefully, his family in Missouri were not Cardinals fans. After his year at Illinois, the Chicago Cubs selected Holtzman in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft. Holtzman threw two no-hitters and won 80 games for the North Siders.

Holtzman asked for a trade at the end of the 1971 season. He could not have asked for a better situation than the Oakland A’s. Holtzman won three championships and made two all-star appearances. The former Illini standout also won 20 games for the A’s (1973). After four years between New York and Baltimore, Holtzman pitched for the Cubs once more before retiring in 1979. He compiled a record of 174-150, with a career ERA of 3.49 and 1,601 strikeouts with the Cubs, A’s, Orioles, and Yankees.


Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.