America is a land full of opportunity. To date, there is just one man who is enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame: Cal Hubbard. He was indeed a jack-of-all-trades, a man who helped invent the linebacker position and later served as one of the best umpires of his era for the American League. This is his story.
Robert Calvin "Cal" Hubbard was born on Halloween night, 1900 in Keytesville, Missouri to a farmer and his wife. Though Hubbard graduated from the local high school, it didn't have a football team, a growing passion of his. So he meandered over to nearby Glasgow so that he could play on the gridiron for a year.
Despite his desire to play at West Point, Cal Hubbard was denied entry upon his physical due to flat feet. Instead, he enrolled in Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, partly because it offered football. He played tackle for three years there until his coach Bo McMillin moved on to Pittsburgh's Geneva College. After a year of sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules, he led Geneva to an upset over Harvard in his first game as a Golden Tornado. Upon graduating with an education degree, he signed with the New York Giants for $150 a game.
As a rookie, Cal Hubbard helped lead a historic defense, giving up just 20 points all year as the Giants claimed their first league title. Hubbard was sensational that year and was even named first-team All-Pro. He even helped invent a position, with Giants head coach Earl Potteiger moving Hubbard, the team's offensive center, five yards behind the tackles while he was on defense. son instead of being what is now known as a nose guard, he served as one of the game's earliest middle linebackers.
Leader of a championship-winning team and inventor of a new position, yes, times were good in the Big Apple for the rookie, but Cal Hubbard started to feel an unease growing within his belly. He had never enjoyed the big city life, but coming from small-town America, he had no idea just how much he despised the lifestyle.
During a trip to Green Bay in the midst of the 1928 season, Hubbard talked to Packers coach Curly Lambeau and asked for a trade after the game. He was granted his release and soon began enjoying an illustrious career as a Packer. The following year, the Packers began a run for the ages, winning three straight league titles. In those years, Hubbard earned first-team All-Pro honors at both guard and tackle.
In the offseasons, Cal Hubbard umpired baseball games throughout Green Bay. He was beginning to see life after football. After another All-Pro season in 1933, he retired as a player to coach lineman at Texas A&M. However, the pull of the game remained strong and he returned to the NFL in 1935, playing for the Giants and the Pirates before retiring after 1936 with baseball calling his name.
"The best umpire is one who can handle a difficult situation and keep players in the game. However, you've got to know the rules" -Cal Hubbard
Switching careers is never easy, but Cal Hubbard proved to be an exception. Blessed with what has been speculated 20/10 vision and a large man at 6'3" 250 lbs, he could see plays better than most and was hard to intimidate. He could also be a bit of a softy, rarely throwing people out of games.
It was because of his blossoming reputation that Cal Hubbard was first considered to work the World Series in his second year. However, he had been caught at a racetrack and given the recent Black Sox Scandal still simmering, commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis denied Hubbard the opportunity. Hubbard had to wait another year before umpiring his first Fall Classic, the 1938 World Series pitting the Yankees against the Cubs.
Hubbard would go on to umpire in four World Series (1942, 1946 and 1949) and three All-Star Games, showing off his intellect, keen eye and judgment before the whole world. Along the way, he became widely known and revered by players and managers alike for his extensive knowledge of the rulebook.
But success can be fleeting in the National Pastime. In 1951, misfortune struck when a ricocheting bullet struck his eye, permanently weakening his once great vision. But Cal Hubbard was tough and he soon made the transition to becoming supervisor of umpires in the American League. He proved to be an excellent supervisor, establishing the roles and positions that helped manage an impartial game. He even helped Emmett Ashford become the first African American umpire in the major leagues.
After 17 years of service as the supervisor of the American League's umpires, Cal Hubbard retired in 1969, having lived a full and fulfilling athletic life. Having already been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, Hubbard was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. He had little more than a year to enjoy this rare achievement though, as Cal Hubbard passed away on October 17, 1977. To date, he remains the only man whose legacy resides in both Halls of Fame.