Some things are not always cut and dry. Take for example my Chicago Cubs collection. My collecting A.D.D. gets in the way sometimes and I venture to buy a game used this, or a memorabilia that.
About seven or eight years ago I liked the way an autographed baseball displayed on a shelf. And a collection began. My number one collection is Cubs baseball cards as I continue my pursuit to acquire one million of them. Number two in my Cubs collection is signed baseballs which numbers around 400 balls….all Cubs and former Cubs.
You could say autographs in general on number three on my Cubs collecting totem pole. When I go to minor league games, Cubs Conventions, and Spring Training I will bring along baseballs, 8×10 photos, and cards to get signed. Honestly, I have no idea what my Cubs autograph collection numbers, but it’s at least a couple thousand signatures and probably more.
Recently, as I build the all-time Chicago Cubs roster database on this website to show off the collection I began eBay searches for lesser known players. This led me to an autograph collector in Alabama where I have bought a couple dozen signed index cards of players dating back to the turn of the century.
One of the signed index cards he had for sale was a player by the name of Jack Katoll. “Big” Jack Katoll played for both the Cubs and the White Sox, in two different centuries. This Katoll signed index card sat on my watch list for a few weeks, but just didn’t feel like forking over $100 for a signed piece of paper.
A search began. There must be other sellers with vintage autographs…and I found some. One seller even had a Jack Katoll autograph, and not only was it slabbed by Beckett…it was a letter written on a 3×5 index card talking about his career.
Katoll made his debut with the Chicago Orphans (now known as the Cubs) on September 9, 1898 against the Reds in Cincinnati.
And here’s the box score for Jack Katoll’s big league debut in 1898.
Katoll appeared in one more game for the Orphans in 1898. He earned the start just three days after his debut in relief. The young pitcher tossed a complete game against the Pirates, but suffered the loss in a 3-1 setback. His final line of 1898 was an 0-1 record with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched. Only one of his four runs allowed was earned in his two appearances.
The following season, Katoll started two games for the 1899 Orphans. His numbers were not as good as his rookie campaign as he finished with a 1-1 record with a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings.
The German-born Katoll next appeared with the White Sox during the 1901 and 1902 seasons. Katoll won 11 games and pitched 208 innings during the 1901 season. His final year in the big leagues, 1902, was split between the Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.
Now to the oldest autograph in my Cubs collection, Jack Katoll. I placed some best offers to the seller, two of them were rejected. When I messaged the seller, he gave me a bottom line price, which I agreed to because this is a rare piece not only because of its age, but the detail in the note signed by Katoll. It reads….
“I pitched ball for the Cubs in ’98 they were then called the Anson Colts and Tom Burns was my manager Frank Chance was a checker then from the Cubs. I went to St. Paul with (Charles) Comiskey. Sincerely, Jack Katoll.”
It’s a rarity to find such a signature because Katoll passed away in 1955 at the age of 82. He spent his post-baseball playing days near Woodstock, Illinois. Here is Jack Katoll’s obituary from June 1955.
I am very happy to find an autograph from a player that played for the Cubs in the 1800’s.