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Opinion :: A World Series anniversary
· 2:21pm October 24th, 2012
When I sit on floor tonight, in my Detroit Tigers cap (sorry Cardinals fans, life goes on) watching the Giants and Tigers in Game one of the World Series, I will be marking an anniversary of sorts.
This year I will watch my 40th World Series.
I know this because that many years ago, I was in the second grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Holtzman, had the same last name as one of the members of the Oakland A’s.
Kenneth Holtzman and I had one thing in common that fall: It was the first World Series for both of us. Holtzman had been traded to Oakland after the previous season, and became an important part of the team that won three straight World Series.
Although he did not have stylish mustache of Catfish Hunter or Rollie Fingers, Holtzman was a main part of the A’s pitching rotation during their World Series run.
I did not know this in 1972, but Holtzman is Jewish, and continues to maintain a Kosher home. He actually defeated the more famous Jewish pitcher, Sandy Koufax, early in the 1966 season. His career also included two no-hitters, one for the Chicago Cubs in 1969.
But I first knew Holtzman as the guy who had the same name as my teacher, the guy whose team won the World Series that year (and the next two years).
He was part of the team that inspired my love of baseball, which continues 40 years later.
Holtzman retired in 1979 ; by then I had pretty much forgotten about him.
But three decades later, he did something that I for years have been saying somebody should do.
In 2007, Holtzman helped start a professional baseball league in Israel. I have previously written that baseball is the key to world peace, and should be part of our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. If you doubt that assertion, just consider American history: count the number of wars on this continent before baseball arrived (lots) and the number of wars in the 48 contiguous states since baseball became our national pastime (none). See? Even places like Detroit and Chicago once were battlefields; now they are among our favorite baseball havens.
I spent most of the morning trying to find out how to contact Kenneth Holtzman, who, it seems, lives in the Chicago area, where he retired after a post-baseball career in the insurance/investment industry.
I would love to tell you that I spoke to Kenneth Holtzman today; that I told him I remembered the 1972 Series and the guy with the same name as Mrs. Holtzman. I wish I could tell you we discussed Israel and the need for baseball in places where children grow up knowing more about ducking bullets than beanballs.
I wish I could tell you about telling him that he played a role in making baseball an important part of my life for four decades, or that we discussed his views on the changes in baseball since he retired and the 2012 Series.
But the one phone number I found after spending much of the morning trying to find Kenneth Holtzman was no longer in service. So this column about the man who had an important role in inspiring me to love baseball will have to be only in my words, not his.
But tonight, as you watch the Giants and Tigers, and learn names of players for the first time, remember: What happens on the field, and in the hearts and minds of those who watch, will last a lifetime.
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