Carl Holling (Trading Card DB)

Carl Holling

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Carl Holling (Trading Card DB)On February 4, 1921, Carl “Babe” Holling was arrested for burglary of a San Francisco apartment … while holding his first major-league contract in his pocket.1

After charges were eventually dropped, the pitcher parlayed his two years with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League into being one of a bumper crop of California recruits in 1921 for new manager Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers. After landing in Cobb’s proverbial “doghouse” in 1922, Holling wound up on the suspended list for four years for refusing a trade to the Boston Red Sox, preferring instead to return to the confines of the West Coast.

Carl Theodore Holling was born on July 9, 1896, in Dixon, California (near Davis) to Emil Holling, a farmer, traveling salesman, then later a grocery clerk; and Louise (née Schirmer) Holling. All of Emil and Louise’s parents were German-born. Carl’s brother Vernet (Vern) was one year older. As of 1900, the Hollings lived in the village of Silbeyville, now deserted and part of neighboring Dixon. By the mid-aughts, they had moved to San Francisco.

Emil was an excellent shot, holding until September 1906 the Golden Gate Gun Club record with a score of 97 clays out of 100. He passed his skill down to Carl, and the pair used to attend Blue Rock (clay) shoots together. Sportswriter Fred Sawyer’s Who’s Who in Baseball would later write, regarding Carl, that “Holling is a crack shot with a shotgun and also with a rig rifle, and for a couple of years traveled about the country for the Peters Cartridge Co., taking part in the various shoots. So good did the firm think of young Carl’s shooting that when the lad was only 15 years of age the company offered to back him against any person of his age in the United States in such a contest.”2

By May 1915, Holling manned third base for the Ambrose Tailors in an Oakland amateur league.3 Pitching for the Monterey Barracudas of the semipro Mission League in 1916, it was reported that “Hollings [sic] is but a youngster and uses a wicked spitter which he crossfires, making it no easy ball for a batter to build up his batting average.”4 Monterey folded in late July, so Holling jumped to a Concord team.5 In August, Carl and brother Vern formed the battery for the Olympus Parlor squad in the Native Sons’ (of the Golden West) League.

Holling started 1917 with the Spokane Indians of the Class B Northwestern League after being recruited by a fellow Bay Area resident, manager Nick Williams.6 A report indicated that “his real position, they say, is short field, but Williams thinks he may develop into a good twirler.”7 Another filing stated “the San Francisco lad favors an underhand ball and has good control on this style of delivery.”8

Holling started at third base on Opening Day for Spokane, which had 20-year-old Bob Meusel as a first baseman and Lyle Bigbee, Carson’s brother, in the outfield. Holling beat Butte’s “Iron” Joe McGinnity – then 46 but still far from the end of his pitching days – on April 29 for his first professional victory, and only one with Spokane.9 Soon, Holling’s pitching arm “went bad on him, forcing him to quit [pitching] for the remainder of the year.”10 Holling was released by Spokane in early May,11 quickly signing with the Tacoma Tigers. By early July, Holling had left the Tacoma squad, playing shortstop for the J.S. Duthie team in the Seattle Shipyards league and later for a Wilkeson (Washington) semipro team.

In the fall, he signed with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League for the 1918 season. Tacoma contested the signing, and Holling was one of seven players placed on Tacoma’s suspended list. During the winter of 1917-18, he pitched for the Southern Pacific Railroad and then the champion Commission Merchant team in the Oakland Midwinter League. He attended Oakland’s spring camp but was released. By May 1918 and through year-end, he played for Moore Shipyards, where he was employed as a shipfitter, in the Shipbuilders League. Fellow Moore shipfitter Clyde “Buzzy” Wares remarked “that he [Holling] had the makings for a real pitcher.”12

In 1919, Holling earned another invitation to the Oaks camp, where he held the main starting lineup hitless in a March intersquad matchup.13 He later tossed eight innings of one-run ball in relief of Ray Kremer against the Chicago Cubs on April 6 in the Oaks’ final tune-up prior to the PCL season.14 Three days later, Holling made his PCL debut and shut out Sacramento, 1-0, in the state capital.15 By June, after a shutout of Portland, Holling was drawing the attention of a New York Yankees scout, Bob Connery.16 The rookie logged 300 innings that season for the fifth-place Oaks, posting a 14-20 mark as one of the three main starters, following Kremer and Buzz Arlett. In the offseason, he went hunting with his Oaks teammate Louie Guisto.

Holling enjoyed a wonderful first half of the 1920 season with the Oaks, winning his first seven decisions. He defeated San Francisco, 3-2, in 10 innings on April 16 thanks to his own home run. Holling won a new suit from manager Del Howard after defeating Salt Lake City on April 25 for his fifth consecutive victory.17 He finally fell, losing 2-1 to the Vernon Tigers in 11 innings on May 8.18

Through Los Angeles-based scout Eddie Herr, the Detroit Tigers began negotiating for Holling’s services. Herr stated, “Holling is a great pitcher and has the makings of a greater one. He possesses size [6-feet-1 and 172 pounds], speed, a change of pace, and I’ve seen him enough to know that his head is chockful of baseball knowledge. Detroit will have him next year if Frank Navin takes my tip.”19

Curiously, and immediately after his seven-game winning streak, Holling proceeded to lose seven in a row, including claims of quitting on the error-prone Oaks in a June 6 defeat to Vernon, during which he lobbed the ball over the plate.20 Unannounced was that Herr and Howard had already reached a gentleman’s agreement for Holling’s 1921 delivery to Detroit. Herr later claimed Holling was “a future Grover Cleveland Alexander.”21 The Oaks finished in sixth place in 1920. “Babe” Holling pitched in barnstorming games with Ty Cobb during the Detroit legend’s first tour of the West Coast in late 1920. Before the 1921 season, the Tigers sent Babe Pinelli, Ray Brubaker, Joe Boehling, and Ernie Alten to Oakland to complete the Holling transaction, with Holling receiving a $3,000 contract.22

Holling was arrested on February 4, 1921, on a robbery charge after he entered a San Francisco woman’s apartment and stole clothing and money. Holling, who lived in the same apartment building with another woman entrusted with the victim’s key, took $20 and some clothing. Holling admitted the theft, claiming he was broke and needed the money. He helped officers recover the stolen clothing, which he had gifted to his mother.23 During a search of Holling, officers found his Detroit contract in his pocket. The victim knew Holling and was quoted as saying that had she “known it was Holling who had entered her apartment she would not have made a complaint.” Four days later, the charges were dropped.24

Early reports from the Tigers’ 1921 camp in San Antonio asserted that Holling had a solid reputation, didn’t drink or smoke, and that the recent accusations laid against him were unjust.25 He roomed with a fellow Bay Area pitcher, lefthander Bert Cole. Multiple Coast League recruits, including Johnny Bassler, Lu Blue, Cole, Harvey “Suds” Sutherland, and Holling, graced Cobb’s Detroit roster.26 Holling made the squad and started the Tigers’ third game of the season, on April 19. He held the visiting Cleveland Indians hitless for the first four innings. Unfortunately, he later surrendered nine runs in the seventh inning, and 12 total for the day.

His second start against the Indians in Cleveland went much better. Holling pitched seven and one-third innings, allowing but two unearned runs in the Tigers’ eventual 5-2 win in 10 innings. Afterwards, venerable American League umpire Billy Evans heaped high praise on the youngster, claiming, “I never saw a young pitcher break into the big leagues who had so much stuff and knew how to use it.” Fellow umpire George Hildebrand, listening in on Evans’ interview, concurred, stating “He’ll be Detroit’s best pitcher before the season is over.”27 Holling posted his first complete game on May 29. However, five days later, Holling, Dutch Leonard, and Cole surrendered seven home runs to the Philadelphia Athletics.

The Tigers finished the season in sixth place, with Holling posting a 3-7 record and 4.70 ERA28 over 136 innings. Nonetheless, The Sporting News surmised that Holling, “with the experience he has gained this season, will be a more valuable man next year.”29

Holling married Edna Adelaide in 1921. In the fall, he played with his Detroit manager Ty Cobb’s San Francisco squad against Rogers Hornsby and a Los Angeles team (the first time the two legends had met), in the four-team Winter League.30 In a portent of things to come, Holling was inserted as a pinch-runner by Cobb in the ninth inning of one contest and got picked off.

Early during the Tigers’ 1922 camp in Augusta, Georgia, Cobb considered starting Holling on Opening Day.31 However, by the end of camp, Cobb had become quite disappointed in Holling’s performance in exhibition contests. Cobb did start Holling, once again, in the third game of the season, on April 15, again versus the Indians. He “presented a shining mark for the Indians to shoot at during the two innings of his regime,” surrendering eight hits and six runs before being relieved by “Lil” Stoner, in Stoner’s major-league debut.32 Holling got in “Dutch” with manager Cobb, who was “very much disgusted with Holling’s work, and. . .has just about given up all hope of making a winning pitcher out of him.”33

After six weeks without any game action, Holling begrudgingly pinch-ran for an ailing Lu Blue on May 29, only after allegedly telling Cobb to “pick someone else.” He was forced out at second base after lollygagging, further infuriating Cobb, who told President Navin to get rid of Holling.34 Holling stayed with the club but didn’t pitch again for Detroit for seven weeks, until July 7, in both games of a doubleheader sweep of the Washington Senators, earning the victory in the nightcap. He pitched another inning two days later, surrendering four runs against the Senators. Holling then did not take the mound for two months, until September 9, part of a 16-0 shellacking by the St. Louis Browns. In his five games pitched that season, Holling surrendered 21 hits in just over nine innings.

At the end of the season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, along with Danny Clark, Howard Ehmke, Babe Herman, and $25,000, for Rip Collins and Del Pratt. Holling refused to report to the Red Sox, preferring to instead play on the West Coast, so the Red Sox filed a $15,000 claim against the Tigers for Holling’s disappearance.35 Holling would not return to the majors. In his 40 games across two big-league seasons, he lost eight of 12 decisions and compiled a 5.02 ERA.

In March 1923, Holling signed with the Madera Coyotes of the non-affiliated San Joaquin Valley League. He won a 17-inning game over Stockton on June 17,36 but by July had moved to the Fresno Tigers. The next year, he pitched some for Napa of the Napa Valley League, then his hometown Dixon Dairymen, with local Dixon star Ray Rohwer on the opposing side.37 In 1925, Holling pitched for banned Jimmy O’Connell’s Bay Area all-star team.38 As of November 1926, Holling remained on the Red Sox ineligible list.

By June 1927, Boston agreed to have Holling pitch for the Mission (San Francisco) Bells of the PCL. In nine games, he posted a 2-3 mark, before being returned to Boston’s control. Boston agreed to again let Holling go to Mission (now called the Reds) on option for 1928. Holling went 17-14 for Mission under manager Red Killefer. At the end of 1928, Boston sold Holling to the Los Angeles Angels for a reported sum of $10,000.39

Holling pitched to an 8-13 record in 1929. In June 1930, the Angels released the seldom-used and ineffective “Babe” to make room for Carroll Yerkes.40 Holling pitched that summer with the Woodland Oaks in the Sacramento Valley League.41 He and Johnny Couch of Marysville were labeled the “cream” of the league crop.42 In August, Holling began playing with the San Mateo Blues of the State League under manager Justin Fitzgerald.43 He re-signed with Mission in spring 1931, but was released in mid-April. He played through at least 1932 with San Mateo.

Holling and his wife Edna lived in San Francisco in the mid-1930s; Carl was working as an electrician. The couple had no children. Edna died in March 1937.44

Holling remarried in January 1938 in Santa Barbara to Helen Francis (Hourihan) McAuliffe, who had two young sons. By 1950, Helen and Carl were separated. Carl later worked as a watchman at a lumberyard.

Carl Holling died on July 18, 1962, in Santa Rosa, California from lung cancer that had spread to his brain.45 He is buried at Santa Rosa Memorial Park.



This biography was reviewed by Eric Vickrey and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Terry Bohn.


Sources,, and



1 “‘Babe’ Holling is Jailed Here as Burglar,” San Francisco Examiner, February 4, 1921: 11.

2 From Carl Holling’s Baseball Hall of Fame player file.

3 “Richmond-Ambrose Notes,” Oakland Tribune, May 23, 1915: 50.

4 “Locals Feel Ready for Victory Today,” Monterey Daily Cypress, June 4, 1916: 1. He was listed as Hollings or Halling in early newspaper reports.

5 “No Baseball Next Sunday,” Concord (California) Transcript, August 3, 1916: 1.

6 “Nick Signs Up Busher; Beats Coasters to It,” Spokane Chronicle, March 14, 1917: 16.

7 “13 Innings and Victory for the Cubs,” Stockton (California) Daily Evening Record, March 19, 1917: 5.

8 “Lad Works Hard for Tribe Job,” Spokane Chronicle, March 26, 1917: 14.

9 “‘Iron Man’ Fails to Hold Indians,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, April 30, 1917: 6; “M’Ginnity Bumped in Second and Fourth,” Anaconda Standard, April 30, 1917: 12. does not list Holling’s record with Spokane.

10 “Big Carl Holling Sticks at Frisco,” Spokane Chronicle, April 7, 1919: 15.

11 “Nick Williams Changes Notion, Keeps McMorrin,” Great Falls (Montana) Tribune, May 9, 1917: 10.

12 Eddie Murphy, “Halton-Didiers and St. Mary’s Fail to Score a Run When Howard’s Men Win 2 Games,” Oakland Tribune, March 17, 1919: 10.

13 Eddie Murphy, “Carl Holling and Buz Arlett are Ready to Start Season,” Oakland Tribune, March 22, 1919: 10.

14 Bob Shand, “Ray Kremer Almost Done to Death in the Opening Frame When Cubs Score Four Tallies,” Oakland Tribune, April 7, 1919: 10.

15 “Carl Holling Proves Find of the Coast League for 1919 Season,” Oakland Tribune, April 10, 1919: 14.

16 Bob Shand, “New York Yankees Hot on the Trail of Pitcher Carl Holling,” Oakland Tribune, June 23, 1919: 10.

17 “Oaks and Bees Break Even on the Day’s Play,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 1920: 9.

18 Harry A. Williams, “Piercy Grabs Pitching Duel,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1920: 8.

19 Harry M. Grayson, “Detroit May Get Holling in Big Deal,” Los Angeles Evening Express, May 14, 1920: 31.

20 “Tigers Defeat Oaks, 9-4; Worst Game of Season,” San Francisco Examiner, June 6, 1920: 16.

21 Harry M. Grayson, “E. Herr Believes Holling Future Alexander,” Los Angeles Evening Express, December 3, 1920: 33.

22 Bob Shand, “Reduced Contracts are Offered Seattle Players,” Oakland Tribune, February 9, 1921: 10.

23 “‘Babe’ Holling is Jailed Here as Burglar.”

24 “Accused Ball Player Free,” San Francisco Examiner, February 9, 1921: 5.

25 Harry Dayton, “Holling Looks Good for Steady Job with Tigers,” Flint (Michigan) Daily Journal, March 18, 1921: 26.

26 Harry Bullion, “All Coast League Recruits Win Permanent Tiger Jobs,” Detroit Free Press, March 18, 1921: 11.

27 “Umpire Bill Evans Says Carl Holling Pitches Well,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 15, 1921: 49.

28 Per the player page in Baseball-Reference, his ERA was 4.30. The Game Log, which is accurate, shows an additional five earned runs and an ERA of 4.70.

29 H.G. Salsinger, “History of Season Will Play Up Tigers,” The Sporting News, September 15, 1921: 2.

30 “Hornsby’s Team Wins from Ty Cobb’s Locals,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 1921: 14; Harry B. Smith, “It’s Not Such a Small World When Cobb and Hornsby Come West to Be Introduced,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 1921: 15.

31 Harry Bullion, “Oldham, Cole, or Holling Will Be Tigers Pitcher Opening Day at Cleveland,” Detroit Free Press, April 2, 1922: 22.

32 Harry Bullion, “Holling Crumples in Second and Indians Smother Tigers; Score is 11 to 4,” Detroit Free Press, April 16, 1922: 23.

33 Eddie Murphy, “Cubs Claim to Have Best Curve Artist in Ex-Angel Heaver,” Oakland Tribune, May 17, 1922: 28.

34 “Diamond Chatter,’ Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, June 11, 1922: 37.

35 “Red Sox Seek Damages When Pitcher is Lost,” Lima (Ohio) Gazette, March 31, 1923: 9.

36 “Madera Wins 2 to 1,” Hanford (California) Sentinel, June 18, 1923: 4.

37 John J. Peri, “Wilds Hangs Up Another Shutout for the Indians,” Stockton Daily Evening Record, July 14, 1924: 6.

38 “O’Connell’s Stars Play Zinggs Today,” Oakland Tribune, May 31, 1925: 26.

39 “Holling Bought by Los Angeles,” San Jose Evening News, December 7, 1928: 21.

40 “Carl Holling Gets Released by Angels,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1930: 10.

41 “Holling Shows Class on Mound as Oaks Win Over Dantes, 6-1 Score,” Woodland (California) Daily Democrat, July 5, 1930: 4.

42 Bill Conlin, “Johnny Couch and Carl Holling Draw Praise for Showing of Oaks, Giants in Second Half Valley League Race,” Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, California), July 25, 1930: 12.

43 “Holling Wins for San Mateo,” Woodland (California) Daily Democrat, August 11, 1930: 3.

44 “Holling’s Wife Dies,” San Francisco Examiner, March 27, 1937: 25.

45 Bill Lee: The Baseball Necrology, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company (2003): 186.

Full Name

Carl Theodore Holling


July 9, 1896 at Dixon, CA (USA)


July 18, 1962 at Santa Rosa, CA (USA)

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