Happy Birthday, Hub Knolls!

Hub Knolls got a two game tryout with Brooklyn in 1906 after getting a tryout with the 116-win Cubs.  Unfortunately, he got swatted around for 13 hits and a couple of walks in 6.2 innings and earned a ticket back to the minor and semi-professional leagues.

“Our fellows collected only five safe knocks from the moist ball delivery of Sir Oscar Lath Knolls. Sir Oscar is a heaver of some note and has an easy, not to say graceful, motion while pushing the pill. This in itself was deceitful, but the artful dodges of the lathered pellet endowed Sir Oscar with highly deceptive powers. No batters can get hits off a dodging sphere that just crosses the corners of the plate.”

“Standards Suffer Reversal of Form”, Joliet Evening Herald, 03 June 1912, Page 10.

Oscar Edward Knolls was born to William and Mary (Powloski) Knolls in Valparaiso, Indiana on 18 December 1883.  William was of German descent and died in 1891.  Mary was a local Valparaiso girl who gave William eight children (Oscar was #5) and then had two more with a second husband in the early 1890s.   After the turn of the century, Knolls went to work with the mail delivery cars, serving as a station clerk on various lines.

We first learn of Knolls the professional baseball player when he is listed as the captain and pitcher for the Letter Carriers semi-pro team in 1905.  A few weeks later, he was pitching for a successful semi-pro team called the Marquettes.  Racking up a number of high strikeout games, including a 21 K game in extra innings against a semi-pro team called the Schoenhofens, Knolls is called “…the local Rube Waddell” in a Chicago Tribune note.  He eventually received a tryout with Evansville.   At that point, the Chicago Cubs signed him away from Evansville and offered to trade Tufts graduate pitcher Frank Dickinson to Evansville as compensation.  Dickinson, as you can imagine, wasn’t interested…

President Murphy secures the release of Oscar E. Knolls, a pitcher, from the Evansville club of the Central League. Knolls is a giant in stature, being over six feet tall and weighing over 190 pounds when in pitching condition.

He is only 21 years old and is a resident of Chicago, being employed as a clerk in the Edgewater station of the post office. He is said to have a world of speed and was first recommended to Manager Chance last fall. Manager Ryann of the Evansville club predicted much for the new man yesterday.

“The reason I sold him to Chicago,” he said, ” is that he wanted to get into fast company and was not content with the Central League. He is the best young pitcher I have seen in years and his fielding is as fast as his pitching.”

“Not to Play With Chicago”, Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY), 23 February 1906, Page 17.

Dickinson had beaten Yale, Holy Cross, and Princeton while at Tufts, earning a look with the Cubs and signing with Chicago after registering for classes in analytical chemistry at the University of Chicago.  This would be as close to a major league pitcher Dickinson would get.

As some of the Cubs headed to spring training, Knolls was actually sent off by a number of his fans and friends at the train station.

There was a good sized crowd of fans at the station to see the players off, and the departure was enlivened by the singing of the Marquette quartet, which was there to give Oscar Knolls a fitting sendoff and made themselves a decidedly pleasing feature of the occasion. This quartet accompanied the Marquettes on their trips when Knolls was pitching for that club.

“Nationals Off For West Baden”, Chicago Tribune, 07 March 1906, Page 8.

Knolls had impressive moments playing with the soon to be pennant-winning Cubs behind him.

Oscar Knolls. the Chicago lad who allowed the Hoosiers only two hits yesterday, was photographed today in a dozen different positions. Knolls promises to be a find. In action he resembles Chesbro or Powell, but fields better than either, and in addition to his pitching is a good batsman.

“Chicago Nationals Down Indianapolis Team Easily.”, Chicago Tribune, 05 April 1905, Page 10.

As spring training ended, the Cubs figured they had enough pitching and traded Knolls to Brooklyn for Harry Gessler.  Gessler never played for the Cubs (or any other major league team).  With Brooklyn, Knolls got in a game on May 1st and another on May 6th.  In that last game, Knolls was clocked for eleven hits and two walks in 5.2 innings.  He did, however, smack a double as a hitter…  His days as a major league pitcher were pretty much over. Soon after, Knolls ditched Baltimore and was back pitching semi-pro ball in the Chicago area – which eventually earned him a blacklist from professional baseball.  And, at least for a short time, he wasn’t always popular with his teammates.  Having pitched in faster company he would mix really impressive outings with games where he didn’t seem interested in playing with players who weren’t professionals.  When he was on, though, Knolls was difficult to hit.  He duplicated his 21 strikeout game for the Marquettes in 1906 going twelve innings and allowing just two hits.  Knolls was locally famous, and tabbed to face Walter Ball of the Leland Giants, a famous Negro team of the period in an exhibition game.

He got a second look with Joe Cantillon’s Washington Senators in 1907 but didn’t make the team, so he went back to the Marquettes.  By the end of that season, he tried to get reinstated in professional baseball (he was still reserved by Brooklyn), but his application was denied as he was still considered a “jumper.”  In 1908, he landed in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The next year, he was with Hobart where he beat a team from the city of his birth while striking out 14 batters.  By 1911, Knolls seemed to be running out of pitches in his arm.  At first he was pitching in Joliet, a suburb of Chicago.  Then, he had an arm injury and left that club for other options.  In September, he was released after pitching for Escanaba in Michigan.  Returning home, he landed one more time with the Marquettes that now occasionally played in the Federal League park in Chicago – now Wrigley Field – in 1913.  After that, Knolls is no longer found in box scores.

His career over, Knolls settled down and in 1921 he married Mabel C. Behrens in Indiana.  For years, Oscar and Mabel lived in Chicago while caring for her father, Edward.  Oscar continued to work for the American Railway Express Company, while Mabel logged hours as a salesperson for a department store.  Knolls was walking along Jackson Boulevard in Chicago on 1 July 1946 when he had a heart attack and passed to the next league.  His obituary listed only his wife as a surviving family member.

Sources:

Baseball-reference.com
Findagrave.com

1910, 1920, 1940 US Census Data
Indiana Marriage Records
Cook County (IL) Death Records
World War I Registration Card
World War II Registration Card
Social Security Application Record

Cava, Pete. “Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players: A Biographical Dictionary, 1871 – 2014”, Page 109.

“Oscar Knoll Promoted”, Louisville Courier Journal, 24 August 1905, Page 10.

“Local Intelligence”, Woodstock Sentinel, 13 April 1905, Page 5.

“Factory News”, Woodstock Sentinel, 27 April 1905, Page 4.

“Record Ball Day of Local Season”, Chicago Inter Ocean, 18 June 1905, Page 12.

“Jack Vance Quits Spauldings”, Chicago Tribune, 7 January 1906, Page 3.

“News of Sports”, Decatur Daily Review, 7 February 1906, Page 3.

Westville Indicator, 22 February 1906.

Decatur Daily Review, 25 February 1906, Page 3.

“Nationals Off For West Baden”, Chicago Tribune, 07 March 1906, Page 8.

“Chicago Nationals Down Indianapolis Team Easily.”, Chicago Tribune, 05 April 1905, Page 10.

“Gessler Goes to Chicago”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 April 1906.

“Review of Baseball Deals Made Since Beginning of the Century”, Anaconda Standard, 1 March 1914, Page 3.

“Knolls Was Not Hittable”, Chicago Inter-Ocean, 20 May 1906, Page 14.

“Pitcher is Almost Mobbed By His Own Teammates”, Chicago Tribune, 21 May 1906, Page 8.

“Issues a List of Ineligible Men.”, Chicago Tribune, 15 August 1906, Page 8.

“Semi-Pros Take Minor Leaguers”, Chicago Inter Ocean, 30 September 1906, Sporting Section Page 3.

“Great Pitching By Knolls.”, Chicago Tribune, 08 October 1906, Page 10.

“Sporting Notes”, Fort Wayne News, 9 October 1906, Page 7.

“Moran’s Men To Meet Keary’s Marquettes”, Joliet Evening Herald, 23 August 1907, Page 14.

“National Commission Decisions.”, New York Times, 15 September 1907, Sport Section Page 1.

“From the Files of the Kenosha News”, 5 April 1958, Page 7.

“Do You Remember the Day?”, Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso, IN), 23 August, 1929, Page 4.

“Standards Win By Slashing Ball”, Joliet Evening Herald, 03 July 1911, Page 8.

“Players Secured”, Chicago Tribune, 25 August 1911, Page 1.

“Releases Announced”, Escanaba Daily Press, 06 September 1911, Page 1.

“Standards Suffer Reversal of Form”, Joliet Evening Herald, 03 June 1912, Page 10.

“East Chicago to Play Marquettes”, Hammond Lake County Times”, 24 July 1913, Page 5.

“Stricken On Street; Dies”, Chicago Tribune, 2 July 1946, Page 19.

“Knolls, Oscar E. (Obit)”, Chicago Tribune, 2 July 1946, Page 18.

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