When Green Bay Packers fans think of legendary Packers, fans probably think of Hall of Famers Reggie White, Bart Starr, Vince Lombardi, or Don Hutson. One player who Packer fans should remember and know was the multi-dimensional Robert “Cal” Hubbard. A versatile football player, Hubbard was a man who participated in professional sports nearly his entire life, and was born to be a Packer.
Although most Packer fans today most likely had never seen Hubbard play, the name may ring a bell to some fans, as his name is displayed and honored in Lambeau Field’s Ring of Honor. Hubbard, who wore five different numbers in his six-year career with the Packers, was one of the most diverse football players and people fans would’ve ever known or seen.
Born October 31, 1900 in Keytesville, Missouri, Hubbard was a person who preferred the small-town atmosphere over the spotlight.
Hubbard, who was 200 pounds by age 14, was not only a big guy, but a fast football player before high school. Hubbard graduated from Keytesville High School, but also attended one year at Glasgow High School in Glasgow, Missouri, because Glasgow offered something which Keytesville didn’t have: football.
After high school, Hubbard was ready to enroll in the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Hubbard though was physically ineligible after Military Academy officials had realized that Hubbard was flat-footed. As a result, Hubbard played college football from 1922-1924, playing offensive tackle and defensive end/outside linebacker for head coach Bo McMillin at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In 1925, McMillin left Shreveport to become the head football coach at Geneva College in Pittsburgh, Penn. Hubbard followed McMillin to Pittsburgh, sat out the 1925 season, and finished his final year of eligibility in 1926 playing for McMillin in Geneva.
Hubbard, who reportedly had an outstanding combination of size (6’2", 250 lbs) and speed (ran a 100-yard dash in 11 seconds), was signed by New York Giants shortly after graduating from college.
As a rookie, Hubbard starred at defensive end, helping a Giants’ defense post ten shutouts in 13 games, while allowing only 20 points the entire season. Hubbard earned All-NFL league honors while helping the Giants win the NFL title.
During his second NFL season, Hubbard requested a trade to the Packers after the Giants had played a road game in Green Bay during the 1928 season, as he was uncomfortable living in a big city. The Giants granted Hubbard’s request, and the Packers had gained a highly valuable asset and key player in Curly Lambeau’s championship football teams.
Lambeau, who moved Hubbard from defensive end/outside linebacker to offensive tackle, helped lead the Packers to three consecutive NFL titles (NFL Record) in his first three seasons in Green Bay. Hubbard was named to the All-NFL team six years in a row (1928-1933), proving to be one of the game’s most dominant players of his era. After the 1933 season, Hubbard momentarily retired from football before returning to the Packers before the 1935 season.
After the 1935 season, Hubbard returned to the New York Giants. In 1936, Hubbard played five games for the Giants and one game for the Pittsburgh Pirates (modern-day Steelers) before retiring from Professional Football for life. Hubbard though was still heavily involved in professional sports.
From 1936 through 1951, Hubbard was a Major League Baseball American League umpire. Remembered as one of the best officials in the game, Hubbard was an umpire in the 1938, 1942, 1946, and 1949 World Series, and the 1939, 1944, and 1949 All-Star games.
During his umpiring career, Hubbard helped Major League Baseball come up with an officiating system where officials had clearly defined duties on the field of play to get the best view and most accurate calls. Hubbard’s system improved officiating in baseball, and Major League Baseball added a member to officiating crews and fully adopted the new system.
In 1951, Hubbard’s officiating career came to an early end after he had suffered an eye injury while hunting. Although he was done officiating games on the diamond, Hubbard became an American League umpiring supervisor, and was later named American League umpire-in-chief from 1958-1969.
In 1962 and 1963, Hubbard was inducted into the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames, respectively. In a 1969 poll by the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee, Hubbard was named the NFL’s greatest offensive tackle in league history.
In 1976, Hubbard became only the fifth umpire in baseball history inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hubbard is still the lone person to be enshrined in both the Pro Football and Baseball Hall of Fames.
In October 1977, Hubbard died of cancer in St. Petersburg, Florida. Hubbard’s name not only lies in Lambeau Field’s ring of honor, but in seven Hall of Fames around the country. “Cal Hubbard Field” at Milan High School (Milan, MO) and Keytesville High School are named in his honor at the school’s football and baseball fields, respectively.
Hubbard was a modern-day Joe Thomas at offensive tackle and Aldon Smith at outside linebacker in football, and a Jim Joyce-esque official in baseball. He preferred the small-town atmosphere over the big city lights. It’s hard to imagine a person like Hubbard in today’s professional sports world, and fans will most likely never see, or hear, of another Cal Hubbard excelling at the highest level in sports ever again.
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