Longtime Chicago sportswriter Holtzman dies at 81

CHICAGO -- Jerome Holtzman, a longtime baseball writer who made the Hall of Fame, created the saves rule and later became Major League Baseball's official historian, has died. He was 81.

Holtzman died Saturday in Evanston.

"As a baseball writer, columnist and historian for more than 50 years, Jerome Holtzman was a beloved figure and made an incredible impact on the game," Commissioner Bud Selig said Monday in a statement.

Holtzman won the J.G. Spink Award and a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1989. The award is given annually to the one baseball writer who has exhibited "meritorious contributions" to baseball writing.

Known as "The Dean," Holtzman worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Times, its predecessor, before joining the Chicago Tribune in 1981. He retired in 1999, when Selig named him MLB's official historian.

Holtzman began his career as a 17-year-old copy boy in 1942, and served two years in the Marine Corps during World War II before returning to journalism. He was assigned the baseball beat in 1957.

"He was amazing baseball people, I don't just want to say writer. He was a baseball fan. He did a lot of things for baseball," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was a Sox player during Holtzman's time at the Tribune. "He gave his life to baseball and we'll always remember how great he was.

"Jerome was a classy man and a great man to have around. I was lucky enough to be covered by him for a few years."

Feeling that earned run averages and won-lost records were not the most accurate reflection of relievers' effectiveness, Holtzman created the formula for "saves" in 1959. A decade later, in 1969, it was adopted by the game's Official Rules Committee.

"In the case of Jerome, every one of the closers over the last 30 years ... should take out their checkbooks and write a gigantic check to whatever foundation or charity the family directs," broadcaster and former White Sox pitcher Steve Stone said. "He's really the person responsible for being able to quantify what has become one of the most important positions on the field."

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said baseball "lost a great advocate and fan ... and I lost a dear friend.

"I will miss his visits to the ballpark and his phone calls during the season to discuss the latest baseball news," he said.

Holtzman also wrote six books, including "No Cheering in the Press Box," in which he interviewed other well-known writers.

The funeral will be private and a memorial service will be held later, the White Sox said.