Ken Hubbs

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Ken Hubbs
Ken Hubbs 1963.jpg
Second baseman
Born: (1941-12-23)December 23, 1941
Riverside, California
Died: February 13, 1964(1964-02-13) (aged 22)
Provo, Utah
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 10, 1961, for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1963, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
Batting average.247
Home runs14
Runs batted in98
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Kenneth Douglass Hubbs (December 23, 1941 – February 13, 1964) was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1963. At 20 years of age, Hubbs was named the 1962 NL Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie in baseball history to win a Gold Glove Award. Hubbs was killed at age 22 when the private plane he was piloting crashed near Provo, Utah prior to the 1964 season.

In his short big-league career he was an excellent fielder, already earning a Gold Glove Award; assessments of his hitting were more mixed, as he was still developing as a hitter.[1][2][3] In 1962, becoming the first rookie in baseball history to win a Gold Glove Award, Hubbs set several fielding records and convincingly won the 1962 National League Rookie of the Year Award.[4] At the time of his death, Hubbs was among the best defensive second basemen in the game.[5]

Early life[edit]

Hubbs was born in Riverside, California on December 23, 1941, the son of Eulis and Dorothy Hubbs. The family resided in nearby Colton, California.[6] Ken was the second oldest of five boys, raised with brothers Keith, Gary, and twins Kirk and Kraig.

When he was a few months old, in the spring of 1942, Ken suffered a ruptured hernia. He wore a truss for five years until the hernia healed in kindergarten. A doctor had told the family that Ken “ will never be able to do things other kids can do in sports.” [7][8]

Ken's father contracted polio when Ken was around nine and became dependent on a wheelchair. After he was stricken, Ken's father left the railroad industry and began a successful career in insurance.[7]

Hubbs played in the 1954 Little League World Series, as his Colton little league team advanced and represented California.[9] California the beat Virginia in the first round and Illinois in the second. In the final game of the Series, the team from Schenectady, New York beat California 5-3.[10] Two future big league players played on the Schenectady team: Jim Barbieri and Billy Connors. Connors and Hubbs would become minor league teammates. Highlights of Hubbs playing defense at shortstop were captured on film.[11] The video includes a play where Hubbs ran from the shortstop position to back up the second baseman and caught a bloop fly into short right field. Hubbs had stepped in a hole during a picnic, just before Colton’s trip to the Little League World Series, breaking his toe. But, he played in the entire tournament with the toe, hobbling around the bases when he hit a home run.[8]

High School career[edit]

At Colton High school, Hubbs was a four sport athlete. He excelled in three sports, baseball, basketball and football at a national level and also competed in track as a high jumper. Honored by the California Interscholastic Federation in all three sports, Hubbs was an All-Southern Section for two years in football, basketball and baseball, an achievement matched at the time, 1959, by only three others: Glenn Davis, Bill McColl and Marty Keough.[12]

A gifted athlete, Hubbs could pitch with either arm and at 6'2", could stand flat-footed under a basket, jump and dunk a basketball behind his head with both hands. In 1958-1959, he was a high school All-American in two sports, football (quarterback) and basketball. He was recruited by the University of Notre Dame to play quarterback and offered a scholarship by UCLA's John Wooden to play basketball.[13][8][8]

In 1958, in a well publicized basketball game at Long Beach City College against Santa Maria High School, Hubbs made a half-court shot to end the first half. He followed up by scoring five points in the last 23 seconds of regulation, including a jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, scoring 23 points in a Colton 53-49 win.[8][14]

After breaking his foot before a football game, Hubbs put his foot with a cast inside a size-14 shoe and played that Friday night.[8]

"Ken was undoubtedly the best football player I ever coached,' said Coach Joe Lash his football coach at Colton High School. His basketball coach, Tom Morrow, said, "Kenny Hubbs was the best all-around basketball player I ever saw for a boy his age."[15]

After high school graduation in 1959, Ken was weighing attending college at either the University of Southern California or Brigham Young University. However, Cubs scout Gene Handley signed Hubbs to a contract that came with a $50,000 signing bonus.[7][8]

Baseball career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

Hubbs signed as an amateur free agent with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1959 season.

In 1959, Hubbs played in Morristown, Tennessee for the Morristown Cubs of the Class D Appalachian League. Playing outfield and shortstop in the all-rookie competition, Hubbs appeared in 59 games, had 198 at-bats and a batting average of .298. His 50 runs batted in and 8 home runs were enough to earn a nomination for player of the year in the Appalachian League.

On July 18, 1959, he led Morristown to a 20-0 victory over the first place Salem Pirates. Hubbs hit 2 home runs and a double and scored 5 runs. Morristown continued the offensive barrage 5 days later against Wytheville. Hubbs started a 7 run first inning with a home run, and his team won the slugfest, 9-7.[16][17]

Organized baseball initiated a player draft in 1959, in an attempt to cut down on large signing bonuses given to young players. The Cubs' AAA club in Ft. Worth recalled Hubbs in October and then purchased his contract outright in November. The end result of this maneuvering was to protect Hubbs from being drafted by another club. This was a sign that the Cubs clearly expected Hubbs to make the major league team in the near future. When Hubbs was promoted to the Class AAA Fort Worth Cats of the American Association to conclude the 1959 season, he appeared in nine games, with two hits in nine at bats.[18]

Hubbs went to the Cubs' rookie camp for spring training in 1960 as a shortstop/outfielder, however with Ernie Banks established at shortstop, Hubbs moved to 2nd base in 1961.[19][8]

In 1960, Hubbs began the season with the Class A Lancaster Red Roses of the Eastern League, where he hit .216 with 6 home runs and 47 RBI in 97 games and 366 at bats playing under Manager Phil Cavarretta. He finished 1960, playing 38 games with the Class AA San Antonio Missions of the Texas League, hitting .220 with one home run and 9 RBI.[18]

Coach Bobby Adams was instrumental in Hubbs transition to second base. “He had me work on the pivot 100 times a day. I was doing it in my sleep.” Hubbs said of Adams. “Every day, Lou Klein and Bobby Adams would have me out there practicing the double play, thousands of times, I was almost ready to quit and go home. I don’t know what kept me going, but I’m glad I didn’t quit. I’ve decided this is where I want to be.”[7]

Hubbs played in 1961 for the Class AA Wenatchee Chiefs of the Northwest League. With Wenatchee, Hubbs played 138 games, hitting .286 with nine home runs and 68 RBI, along with 20 doubles, six triples and nine stolen bases. Hubbs was then called up to the Chicago Cubs in September, 1961. Hubbs also committed only eight errors all season.[18]

Major league career[edit]

Hubbs in 1964

During the 1961 season, the Cubs played both Don Zimmer and Jerry Kindall at second base. Zimmer made the National League All-Star team that year, and hit .252, while Kindall hit.242.[20] Hubbs made his major league debut on September 10, 1961 against the Philadelphia Phillies, with three at-bats, two hits and one run batted in in a 12-5 Cub loss. Outfielder Lou Brock also made his debut that day for the Cubs.[21][22] Overall, Hubbs played in ten games in September 1961, with five hits in 26 at-bats and one home run, at age 19.[20]

Prior to the 1962 season, the expansion New York Mets drafted Don Zimmer in the 1961 expansion draft and the Cubs sibsequently traded Kindall. Their departures opened toe door for the 20 year old Hubbs to become the starting second baseman for the eventual ninth-place Cubbs in 1962.

Hubbs would play in 160 games in 1962 hitting .260, with 172 hits with five home runs and 49 runs batted in.[23] He led all National League rookies in games, hits, doubles, triples, runs and batting average.[24]

On April 17, 1962, Hubbs went 5-for-5 with two runs scored against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game Pittsburgh won, 10-6. “Better learn how to pitch to this boy, he’ll be around a long time,” said Pirates hall of fame manager Danny Murtaugh.

Hubbs was named the 1962 Rookie of the Year, earning 19 out of 20 votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was also named the Rookie of the year by The Sporting News, receiving 120 votes. He became the second consecutive Cubs player to win the award. as his Cubs teammate and future hall of famer Billy Williams had won the award in 1961. Pete Rose would win the award in 1963. No other Cub had since won the award until Jerome Walton in 1989.

In the field, Hubbs was outstanding. As a rookie, he set major league records with 78 consecutive games and 418 total chances without an error, breaking Bobby Doerr's Major League Baseball major league records in both categories.[5] In post season awards, Hubbs became the first rookie ever to win a Gold Glove Award. He also led the league in two less desirable categories that season by striking out 129 times and grounding into 20 double plays.[23] On September 30, he started a triple play in the final game of the season against the Mets.[25] His glove from 1962 is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.[26]

Partway through the 1962 season, Cubs owner Philip Wrigley had called Hubbs into his office, tore up his existing contract and doubled his salary.[8]

Hubbs was well liked by his teammates, who included future hall of famers Williams, Banks, Ron Santo and Lou Brock. Ernie Banks remembered, "Lots of young players do something special and you can't talk to them any more. Not Ken. One day, he got seven hits in a doubleheader. Pretty good for a rookie. But he didn't talk or act any differently than when he didn't get a hit." He was known for his faith. Reporters often noted that he did not smoke or drink alcohol, and that he attended church services while on the road with the team. With Hubbs's encouragement, teammate and future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ron Santo quit smoking.[27]

“He was a Mormon, deeply religious, never swore, never drank, played hard, played the game,” reflected Santo. “He was talented. You knew this guy was going to be great. He would always go out with us. He wouldn’t drink, but he’d have as much fun as we did.”[7]

In 1963 Hubbs played in 155 games and batted .235 with eight home runs and 47 runs batted in and his superior fielding helped the Cubs finish over .500 at 82-80.[23] [5]

Death[edit]

Hubbs had a fear of flying. He decided to challenge this fear head-on by taking flying lessons in the winter between 1963 and 1964. Hubbs then received his pilot's license in January 1964. On February 12, Hubbs flew from California to Provo, Utah with his friend Denny Doyle to surprise Doyle's wife, who had recently given birth to the couple's child. That night, Hubbs played in a charity basketball game sponsored by Brigham Young University.[1][28]

A snow storm developed in the Utah Valley the morning of February 13. Hubbs thought he could beat the storm and decided to attempt the return flight. He and Doyle took off in a red and white Cessna 172 from Provo Airport, which sits on the edge of Utah Lake. He hadn't filed a flight plan but just told airport staff that the pair were heading for Morrow Field near Colton, California.[4] Euliss Hubbs, Ken's father, called to report that they had not arrived in Colton by Friday the 14th. A search began Saturday morning in areas of Utah, Nevada and California along a route the pair might have taken.

Utah's civil aeronautics director, Harlon Bement, noted there had been no record of radio contact with Hubbs after takeoff, adding, "This means the plane could be fairly close [by]."[29] Rescuers found the wreckage a quarter mile south of Bird Island in Utah Lake. Both Hubbs and Doyle died in the crash. The air temperature was estimated as -1 °F, and it had been snowing heavily.[5]

Hubbs's funeral was held several days later in his hometown of Colton. Services were held in the Colton High School Whitmer Auditorium because of the huge crowd that wanted to view Hubbs's casket. At the funeral, the automobile procession to his burial was two miles long. Fellow Cubs Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Glen Hobbie and Don Elston were among the pallbearers.[5] He was buried at Montecito Memorial Park, in Colton.[30][14]

Ron Santo had visited his friend and teammate in California two days before the crash and had gone up up in Hubbs' plane during the visit. After parting, Santo went to his home in Seattle, while Hobbs headed to Provo. Santo recalled Hubbs telling him “When I get up there, Ron, and I fly, it’s like being next to God. It’s like I’m next to God.” [31]

Ernie Banks said of Hubbs' death, “Any athlete who ever played with Hubbs will dedicate the rest of his career to Ken because he was the zenith in inspiration and enthusiasm as well as desire and determination.”[7]

Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Kenneth Douglass Hubbs was more than just another baseball player. He was the kind of athlete all games need. A devout Mormon, a cheerful leader, a picture-book player, blond-haired, healthy, generous with his time for young boys; he was the kind of youth in short supply in these selfish times."[32]

“There isn’t a man in Chicago who wouldn’t have been proud to have him as a son,” said Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.[8]

“Ken and I were both religious, we were always joking – trying to convert each other. I’m Catholic, he was a Mormon. But after he died, I had to see a priest," said Ron Santo. “I couldn’t understand it. I mean, he loved life. He was a great human being. This was a kid who didn’t even smoke or drink. Why him?”[8][26]

Said Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, who then was a Cubs’ radio announcer: “At the time he died, I felt he was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. His bat hadn’t come around, but it would have.”[12]

“Kenny would have been one of the all-time greats,” said Cubs teammate Don Elston. “Kenny was one of the to-be all-stars, Hall of Famers.”[21]

Billy Connors, Hubbs' Little League world series rival, became a teammate and friend in the minor leagues. Connors eventually became a long time major league pitching coach. He said of Hubbs, “I’ve seen a lot of professional players through the years, but I would describe Kenny as a perfect player. He had great talent, great makeup, an amazing will to win.”[21]

Personal[edit]

Hubbs came from a devout Mormon family and often visited children in hospitals and spoke to church groups.[8]

Ken's older brother, Keith Hubbs, played football at Brigham Young University. Later, Keith served as President of the Ken Hubbs Foundation for 38 years and oversaw the annual selection process for the Ken Hubbs Award until his death in 2018 at age 80. Keith named first son after his late brother and his son, Ken, threw out a first pitch at Wrigley Field in 2003.[6]

The Ken Hubbs Foundation was established shortly after his death. Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley donated gate receipts and other monies from a May 4, 1964 Cubs-Dodgers game to the foundation. The Ken Hubbs Foundation also received many donations from fans, among them, Holly Schindler, age 12, from who wrote with her donation: “I am a loyal Cub fan and Ken Hubbs was my hero. I knew all statistics of him, height, weight, etc., even the color of his eyes. I have even converted from a Sox fan to a Cubs fan. I was grieved to hear of the young athlete’s death, and I feel terribly sorry for the Hubbs family. This is part of my allowance, and I feel better by donating.”[7]

Honors[edit]

Hubbs was awarded the 1959 Los Angeles Examiner Trophy as the “Best All-Around Athlete in Southern California”.[21]

After his death, the Ken Hubbs Foundation was established in his honor.

Hubbs' glove used in the errorless streak in 1962 is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.[26]

Since 1964, the Ken Hubbs Award has been given to the best high school male athletes in the greater San Bernardino, California area. Beginning in 2012, a female athlete is also honored. Beginning in 2019, an athlete of high character is also honored. Pro Football Hall of Fame player Ronnie Lott was a recipient in 1977. Other recipients include MLB player Greg Colbrunn (1987), Olympic runner Ryan Hall (2001) and Green Bay Packers 1st round pick Kenny Clark (2013).[33][34]

Colton High School named their gymnasium the "Ken Hubbs Gymnasium". A collection of trophies and other memorabilia are on site.[35]

Hubbs's uniform number 16 was never retired by the Cubs, but was kept out of circulation for about three years before being issued to another player.

In 1964, Topps issued a special card for Hubbs with a black band and reverse white text reading, "In Memoriam" on the card face. The card was numbered 550.[36]

On June 26, 2002, the Chicago Cubs honored Hubbs' memory, with “Ken Hubbs Memorial” day at Wrigley Field. Fans in attendance received a replica of his 1962 Topps Rookie Baseball card.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Rob Neyer. Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. Simon and Schuster. p. 48. ISBN 0-7432-4174-6.
  2. ^ Dick Rosetta (February 14, 1994). "Remembering 1960s Cubs Second Baseman Ken Hubbs". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved April 12, 2013. Kenny was a great young fielder and a pretty good hitter -- Bob Kennedy
  3. ^ Earl Gustkey (July 5, 1993). "Memories of Ken Hubbs Live On : Nearly 30 Years Later, the Town of Colton Still Is Recovering From His Death at 22". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2013. At the time he died, I definitely felt he was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. His bat hadn't come around, but it would have. -- Lou Boudreau
  4. ^ a b "Cubs Star Killed in Utah Air Crash". New York Times. 1964-02-16. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e Peter Golenbock. Wrigleyville, A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs. St. Martin's Press. p. 382. ISBN 0-312-15699-5.
  6. ^ a b "Remembering Keith Hubbs: The man behind the Ken Hubbs Award". October 23, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ken Hubbs | Society for American Baseball Research". sabr.org.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Feb 13, foxsports; ET, 2014 at 1:30p (February 13, 2014). "Fifty years later, memories of Ken Hubbs still glowing". FOX Sports.
  9. ^ Team roster http://www.littleleague.org/series/history/rosters/1954rstr.htm
  10. ^ LLWS scores 1954 http://www.littleleague.org/series/history/scores/1954line.htm
  11. ^ Film of '54 Colton LL team found, by John Murphy, The Sun, (San Bernardino, CA), August 15, 2004
  12. ^ a b "Hubbs' Death Brought Sorrow to Southland". Los Angeles Times. February 13, 1999.
  13. ^ jongree, Author (January 2, 2017). "Death & Baseball Cards".
  14. ^ a b "Multisport Standout". Los Angeles Times. December 30, 1999.
  15. ^ "The Natural" by Bob Cunningham. Inland Empire magazine, May 1999, pg 50-53.
  16. ^ "Pair in Strikeout Show" The Sporting News, August 5, 1959, page, 42.
  17. ^ "Two Long Streaks Snapped" The Sporting News, July 29, 1959, page 38.
  18. ^ a b c "Ken Hubbs Minor Leagues Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com.
  19. ^ "Cubs Tout Santo as an Outsider in Hot Sack Derby" The Sporting News, by Edgar Munzel, February 3, 1960, page 9.
  20. ^ a b "1962 Chicago Cubs stats in Baseball-Reference". Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  21. ^ a b c d Cite error: The named reference auto7 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  22. ^ "Cubs-Phillies game stats in Baseball-Reference". Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  23. ^ a b c "Ken Hubbs stats in Baseball-Reference". Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  24. ^ David Nemec. The Baseball Rookies Encyclopedia. Brassey's Inc. p. 230. ISBN 1-57488-670-3.
  25. ^ Peter Golenbock. Amazin': The Miraculous History of New York's Most Beloved Baseball Team. St. Martin's Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-312-30992-9.
  26. ^ a b c "#Shortstops: Ken Hubbs' history alive in Cooperstown". Baseball Hall of Fame.
  27. ^ Mormons in the Major Leagues | by Jim Ison | Action Sports | Cincinnati | 1991| pg. 66-69.
  28. ^ "Chicago Cubs History: Ken Hubbs Killed in Plane Crash". February 13, 2017.
  29. ^ "Provo, UT Baseball Star Ken Hubbs Killed In Plane Crash, Feb. 1964 - GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods". www3.gendisasters.com.
  30. ^ "Memories of Ken Hubbs Live On : Nearly 30 Years Later, the Town of Colton Still Is Recovering From His Death at 22". Los Angeles Times. July 5, 1993.
  31. ^ Ernie Banks: The Life and Career of "Mr. Cub" Lew Freedman 2019, p. 92. ISBN 978-1476667119.
  32. ^ Los Angeles Times; "The Pride of Colton" by Jim Murray, April 28, 1964
  33. ^ "Ken Hubbs: A Glimpse of Greatness". www.kenhubbs.com. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  34. ^ "Overall Winners | Ken Hubbs". www.kenhubbs.com.
  35. ^ Zimnuich, Fran (2007). Shortened Seasons: The Untimely Deaths of Major League Baseball’s Stars and Journeymen. USA: Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 240. ISBN 9781589793637.
  36. ^ "1964 Topps Baseball Set Might Rub Off on You". 22 May 2015.

External links[edit]