Rays relievers thankful for Holtzman

Rays relievers thankful for Holtzman

ST. PETERSBURG -- Legendary baseball scribe Jerome Holtzman died Saturday in Evanston, Ill., but his legacy will live on through, among other things, his invention of the save.

During the 1957 season the Chicago-based Holtzman came up with the idea for saves. A decade later baseball's Official Rules Committee adopted the save as the sport's first statistic since 1920 when RBIs were added.

Rays relievers sounded grateful for Holtzman's contribution.

"It's amazing the foresight he had to do that, because relief pitching was never anything back in the day," Rays right-hander Dan Wheeler said. "Starting pitchers would go nine innings. Now there's such a specialty. You have starters and relievers and a closer. I mean, it really opened up the eyes of what relievers were able to do and how important they were."

Rays closer Troy Percival said he was "absolutely thankful" for Holtzman coming up with a way for relievers to quantify what they were accomplishing on the field.

Jerome Holtzman, 1926-2008

"Nowadays it's really become a specific role," said Percival, who has 343 career saves. "And nowadays, if you hadn't had the save, you'd probably have eight relievers sitting down there in the bullpen not knowing when they were going to pitch. It changed the face of baseball.

"You look back and say, 'I have so many innings and such and such ERA.' But now you look back and say, 'I have so many saves.' Even the holds, they weren't out there. They have those for setup men. They have something they can grasp -- 'Hey, this is what I did. I led the league in holds. I led the league in saves.' I think it was good for the game."

Good for the game and particularly good for the bank accounts of relievers.

"Made a lot of people a lot of money putting that 'S' next to their name," Wheeler said. "It's important to the game. You have to be a certain type of person to go out there in the ninth inning day in and day out. Get that 27th out. It's not an easy out to get."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.