Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati


submitted by Shirlene Jensen 2008
transcribed by Linda Boorom

image of flyer passed out at a recent Retiree's luncheon

Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati, Inc.

"Shorty was five feet and one inch tall but he had a 10-foot heart." - From the eulogy of Father James N. Brichetta, pastor, St. Xavier Church.


   The Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati, Inc., has dedicated its 1980 baseball season to the memory of George (Shorty) Normile, who fathered the program 48 years ago.

   Shorty died last Jan. 8th, one day short of his 84th birthday. It was on another winter day in 1931 that the idea which became Knothole was born.

   Shorty and a few friends, athletes all, were idly telling stories to each other in the old Deer Creek Commons Fieldhouse. Two police teams were playing basketball in the gym. Outside, it was snowing.

   It also was the depths of the Depression, and Shorty worried aloud about what would happen the next summer when hordes of Cincinnati basin youths (lots more people lived there back then) were turned loose on sidewalks with no supervision, nothing to do, and scant prospects of summer jobs.

   Shorty's idea to deter delinquency was to put every boy possible on a baseball team. Great idea, agreed the over-age athletes. But who would form the teams? Who would provide equipment? Where could the boys play? The men thought of myriad problems and wondered who would solve the, and suddenly they looked at each other and knew -- themselves, that's who.

   Undoubtedly, these pioneers wheeled, cajoled, and begged in a practically moneyless time to get things started. Tiny things, like getting one new baseball for any given game, were perils. The pioneers excavated their own pockets.

   And the first game was played at Deer Creek Commons in April 1932.

   Nobody can recall the name of the genius who came up with the title of Knothole, but ancient records of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission show this list of the earliest leaders:
   Shorty Normile, Bill Bailey, Harry Dinkelaker, Phil Domino, Sam Davis, Ray Hoffman, John Lanigan, Frank Maddon, Joseph Blum, and Jim Wolstenholme.

   What they started nearly a half century ago now is the largest youth baseball program of its kind in the nation, with approximately 35,000 youngsters playing on nearly 2000 teams throughout south-western Ohio and northern Kentucky.

   Shorty perennially used a one-sentance description of why Knothole is good: "Show me a kid throwing a baseball and I'll show you a kid who won't throw rocks."

   Everybody knows what a great athlete Shorty was in his youth, even if he only weighed 112 pounds, and how he is in the Hamilton County Hall of Fame. But he did seem to have one failing.

   A bachelor, he apparently felt as if every boy in Greater Cincinnati belonged to him. In a way, they did.

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©2008 by Linda Boorom