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Pro Football Hall of Famer Cal Hubbard Umpired Three World Series

Pro Football Hall of Famer Cal Hubbard Umpired Three World Series

10/23/2018
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The only professional in history to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Baseball Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame is Cal Hubbard. This week as the Boston Red Sox/Los Angeles Dodgers get ready to play in the 114th Fall Classic, we look at the special life that was such an unusual journey from the gridiron to the diamond.

Cal Hubbard was born in Keytesville, Missouri the son of a small family farmer. Cal graduated from Keytesville High School, but because the school had no football team he also attended one year at Glasgow High School in nearby Glasgow, Missouri, which did offer football. He aspired to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York; however a physical discovered he had flat feet, eliminating him from eligibility.

He began his dual pathway to football and baseball umpiring at age 18. His college career was circuitous to say the least, attending Chillicothe Business College, Centenary, where he was the school’s first All American, and then Pittsburgh’s Geneva College, which upset Harvard in 1926.

As he began his pro football career with the New York Giants in 1927 at $150 per game. Hubbard is widely credited with being the “first” pro football defensive player to play the “linebacker” position. In college, the position evolved starting in 1904. With most players performing both on offense and defensive, the offensive “center” who played defense was placed “in the center of the defense” just behind the tackles. Giant Head Coach Earl Potteiger like Hubbard’s speed at 6’3” 250 pounds and moved him about 5 yards behind the defensive line. The Giants won an NFL Title that season.

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Needing more income, Hubbard  started umpiring in the minor leagues in 1928 and continued to do so for his entire NFL career. Even though the Giants won an NFL Title, Hubbard did not like big cities and threaten to retire if not traded to the Green Bay Packers. A good choice, for under Hall of Famer Green Bay Packers Coach Curly Lambeau, Hubbard added 3 more NFL titles to his resume, even though Curly moved Hubbard back to the defensive line as a tackle. It was at this position that Hubbard stopped the likes of Red Grange and Bronco Nagurski on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the initial Enshrinement Class of 1963. In the 1969 poll by the Hall of Fame Committee, he was voted the greatest tackle of all time.

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But his minor league baseball umpiring was moving up the career ladder and with 4 NFL titles, he was making more money in baseball because of the longer season and more games. From 1933-36 he coached at Texas A&M, came back to Green Bay and finally back to the Giants but played only six games when he got the call to move up to the “Big Show”

From 1936-51 he was part of the umpiring crew for 3 All Star Games and 3 World Series, 1942, 1946, and 1949, involving the Yankees and Cardinals, the Red Sox and Cardinals and finally the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. He was at home plate in the ’46 World Series when Enos Slaughter scored from first base on a single, the famous “mad dash” and Hubbard called him safe on the infield relay from Johnny Pesky. In the 1949 World Series, Hubbard was part of the history, the first World Series game played at night under the lights. The next one played at night was not until 1971.

Hubbard’s career was cut short from an off season hunting accident that impaired his vision, but he became a supervisor for the umpiring crews. Using his football experience, he was credited standardizing the movements of umpires (there were only three and they were allowed to roam)  on the field with defined duties and increased the number of umpires from three to five. This was the foundation on which MLB established new officiating standards in 1952

He loved small towns and lived in Milan, Missouri during this football and baseball careers. The high school football field is named for him. He retired in 1972, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 in recognition as an umpire and supervisor,  only the fifth umpire to be so honored up to that time. He died due to cancer October 17, 1977, in St. Petersburg and  is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Milan, Missouri. He was survived by wife Mildred and two sons, Dr. Robert Hubbard, and William "Bill" Hubbard

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