Baseball, Basketball Standout Played for Love of the Games
By Yvonne   Shinhoster Lamb Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007
On a windswept April day in 1933, Knocky Thomas rattled off three prodigious hits to help give his  McKinley Tech baseball team
a victory  over rival Western High School.
Knocky's first hit sailed in the general direction of Fifteenth and H streets, several blocks distance,  a 1933 Washington Post
article recounted. The second was a line drive that whistled over [a player's] head in center field to the far corner of the running
track. Thomas also stole home after getting on base through an error and working his way around the circuit to third, for a perfect
With two home runs and a triple, Knocky Thomas was in his element on the Eastern High School field where the inter-high
school game was played. The Tech Maroons beat Western's Red Sox 14 to 7.
As good as he was in baseball as a hitter and a catcher, the tousled-haired Thomas also excelled in basketball in high school.
He was called an ideal defensive player and one of the best scorers on his team when he was named to the All-High Team in
His prowess on the field and the court earned him an athletic scholarship to the University of Maryland, where he received letters
in the two sports from 1934 to 1936. And well into his 40s, Thomas continued to win honors as a sandlot player in Washington
-- as part of a grand era of baseball that filled the Ellipse with powerful players and plenty of spectators.
He touched on every important aspect of sports in Washington, D.C., at that time," said a daughter, Kay Thomas Hoyle of
Lewes, Del.
Thomas played baseball for as long as he could because he had talent and ability, and he loved the game, said his other
daughter, Dorothy Thomas Boucher, also of Lewes.
Fred "Knocky" Thomas, a standout high school, college and sandlot athlete, was 92 when he died Feb. 9 at the Mary
Washington Health Center in Colonial Beach, Va. He had Alzheimer's disease.
A native of Washington, he grew up following in the footsteps of his big brother, Lewis. Whereas Lewis, who was also called
Knocky -- later Big Knocky, to differentiate between the two -- was an outstanding football player and track star, "Little Knocky"  
Thomas made baseball and basketball his passions.
After graduating from McKinley Tech, where he was a catcher and a point guard, he followed his brother to Maryland. Thomas
idolized his brother, who set football and tracks records at Maryland that have never been broken, his daughters said.
In baseball at Maryland, Thomas helped lead the Terps to their 1936 Southern Conference Championship and played with
future pro Charlie Keller. For a while, the young athlete played for the Salisbury Indians, the farm club of the former Washington
For years, amateur baseball was huge in Washington, attracting talented players to teams fielded by businesses and
government offices. Thomas played on a number of sandlot teams, including Cameo Furniture and Heurich Brewery, which won
the American Amateur Baseball title.
On the Ellipse, where some of the games were played on four ballfields, fans crowded bleachers, sat on the ground and stood
along the sidelines. When we would go to those games, we would have to get there early -- they were packed, Hoyle said.
Everybody was jockeying for positions.
Thomas, a modest man with a spontaneous streak, reveled in the game and sometimes played with broken fingers. Not
everyone understood his devotion to sports, though. He had the pressure of everyone telling him it was time to quit, Hoyle said.
So in his 40s, he gave up playing but not his love of sports. He remained an ardent Washington Redskins fan.
For more than 20 years, Thomas worked with the U.S. Postal Service, retiring from the motor vehicle department in 1974. He
married twice. His first marriage to Lilah R. Thomas ended in divorce; his second wife, Marion E. Thomas, died last year.
When his daughters were growing up, he would sometimes come home, pile them into the car and take them on trips to West
Virginia, Ocean City and elsewhere. Sometimes they would take a train. He didn't curse or smoke, his daughters said, and
would light up a room when he entered.
In recent years, Thomas, a grandfather of five and great-grandfather of 11, was reminded of his glory days. One of his proudest
moments, his daughters said, came when he was inducted into the Home Plate Club's Sandlot Hall of Fame in 1971. He also
was recognized in 1992 with induction into the Jocks Reunion Hall of Fame. The plaque noted his outstanding and exceptional
achievements in high school and sandlot sports.
Fred "Knocky" Thomas