Photo Credit: Twitter
Ken Holtzman

As I mentioned in my last column, I left my home town of Detroit, where I spent all of my 80-plus years, and moved to Lakewood. If you’ve been following my latest columns, you’ll recall that before my wife passed away, she advised me to move to the Lakewood Residence, a very nice building for seniors that provides meals daily, including Shabbos and Yom Tov and has a beautiful shul and great Rabbi (Eliezer Ralbag). It’s such a pleasure to leave my apartment, elevator down two floors and be steps away from shul. The best thing is that the congregation is populated by mostly younger married men who live around the First and Madison neighborhood.

Knowing she didn’t have long to live, my wife’s last words of advice was, “you’ve got to move on.” While the baseball season is moving on, so is life. During my move two former pitchers died and one celebrated his 100th birthday. Art Shallock, who was born in Mill Valley, California, and turned 100 in a senior living facility in Sonoma, California, had the distinction of being on the same Yankees team with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle in 1951.

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Shallock made the Yanks in July of ’51 and appeared in 11 games while rooming with Yogi Berra. He picked up three World Series checks and three rings in 1951, ’52 and ’53, and wears one on his lefthanded pitching hand. In the 1953 Series, Shallock pitched two innings against Brooklyn and retired Jackie Robinson. The Baltimore Orioles bought him in 1955, his last season in the majors and the last homer hit off him in the bigs was by Mickey Mantle. Shallock pitched in 58 games over five seasons with the Yankees and Orioles and compiled a career record of 6-7, with a 4.02 Earned Run Average.

After being hospitalized with heart issues for three weeks Ken Holtzman was 78 when he died. The lefthander had a 174-150 record over 15 seasons with an admirable 3.49 ERA. After seven seasons with the Cubs, Kenny was traded to Oakland where he became part of a great pitching rotation with Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter and appeared in three consecutive World Series and given the honor of starting Game One in all three.

He also appeared in the 1975 Series with Oakland and in those four World Series had an impressive record of 4-1, 2.55 ERA. He starred with the bat as well, hitting .333 with a home run and three doubles.

Holtzman and I interacted many times on the baseball beat, including riding to Tiger Stadium together for a Monday night nationally televised game when he was pitching for the Yankees against rookie Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Both pitchers did well but Fidrych won, and became the toast of baseball with his mannerisms and personality. Holtzman pitched two no-hitters in his career, one in 1969 and the other two years later. Holtzman’s 174 career victories is ten more than the other famous Jewish lefthanded pitcher Sandy Koufax. On September 25, 1966, while pitching for the Cubs, Holtzman beat Koufax 2-1 in the very last regular season game in Koufax’s career.

If you collected baseball cards in the 1950s, you had a Carl Erskine card each year in that decade. Erskine came up to the majors with the storied Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and quickly became a fan favorite. The 5-10, 165-pound pitcher became known as Oiskine in Brooklynese and later shortened as Oisk. He was part of five pennant winning teams and the ’55 team that beat the Yankees in the World Series,

Erskine pitched two no-hitters in cozy Ebbets Field (1952 and 1956) and his best season was 1953 as his 20-6 record led the National League in winning percentage at .769. Known as a great friend, husband and father, the Erskines had four children, the youngest of whom was born with Down Syndrome. Carl helped put the Special Olympics on the map and often appeared in public with his special son.

Erskine is the answer to the trivia question: who pitched the first game for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Coliseum in 1958? After retiring at 32 in 1959, Erskine returned home to Anderson, Indiana where he coached college baseball and eventually became a bank president. He died in Anderson at 97.

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Author, columnist, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and interviewed many legends of the game before accepting a front office position with the Detroit Tigers where he became the first orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring (1984).