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Ken Hubbs

Ken Hubbs

Position(s):
2B
Born:
December 23, 1941
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
175 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-10-1961 with CHN
Allstar Selections:
1962 GG, 1962 ROOK


The 1962 NL Rookie of the Year set a major-league record with 78 consecutive errorless games. He handled 418 chances over that stretch, also a record. "Hubbs of the Cubs" was the first rookie to win a Gold Glove, and also set a National League record with 661 at-bats. Hubbs died in February 1964, when a private plane he was piloting crashed in Utah.

Biography:
Kenneth Douglass Hubbs (December 23, 1941 – February 13, 1964) was an American second baseman who played from 1961 to 1963 for the Chicago Cubs in the National League. He was killed in a plane crash near Provo, Utah prior to the 1964 season.

In his short big-league career, Hubbs was considered to be an excellent fielder but a poor hitter. In 1962, he became the first rookie to win a Gold Glove Award, and set several fielding records. Those achievements helped him win the National League Rookie of the Year Award that season. At the time of his death, Hubbs was considered to be one of the best defensive second basemen in the game.

Early life
Hubbs was born in Riverside, California and resided in nearby Colton.

He played in the 1954 Little League World Series. Colton represented California. They beat Virginia in the first round and Illinois in the second. In the final game of the Series, Schenectady, New York beat California 5-3. Two future big league players played on the Schenectady team: Jim Barbieri, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Bill Connors, with the Chicago Cubs, both in 1966. Highlights of Hubbs playing defense at shortstop base were captured on film. 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 was elected ASB president at Colton High School his senior year.

In high school he excelled in 3 sports, baseball, basketball and football. He was honored by CIF in all three. In 1958-59, he was a high school All-American in two sports, football (quarterback) and basketball. He was recruited by Note Dame to play quarterback and by UCLA's John Wooden to play basketball.

"Ken was undoubtedly the best football player I ever coached,' said Joe Lash former Colton High School football coach. His basketball coach echoed 'Kenny Hubbs was the best all-around basketball player I ever saw for a boy his age."

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

In 1959, Hubbs played for Morristown, Tennessee in the Class D Appalachian League. He played outfield and shortstop in the all-rookie competition. He was 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.

In the July 18, 1959 game Hubbs lead the Morristown Cubs to a 20-0 victory over the first place Salem Pirates. Hubbs and teammate Jim Purslow each hit 2 home runs and a double. Each man scored 5 runs while the Pirates where held to 4 hits.

Morristown continued the offensive barrage 5 days later against Wythville. Hubbs started a 7 run first inning with a home run. Morristown won the slug fest, 9-7.

Organized Baseball was using a first year draft in 1959, in an attempt cut down on signing bonuses given to young players. The Cubs AAA club in Ft. Worth recalled Hubbs in October. Then, Chicago purchased his contract outright in November. The end result of this maneuvering was to protect Hubbs from being taken in the draft. This was a sign that the Cubs clearly expected Hubbs to make the Major League team in the future.

Hubbs went to the Cubs Rookie Camp spring training in 1960 as a shortstop/outfielder.

Major league career
During the 1961 season, the Cubs played Don Zimmer and Jerry Kindall at second base, both of whom struggled at the plate; while Zimmer made the National League All-Star team that year, he only hit .252 while Kindall hit .242. Hubbs was called up from the minor leagues in an attempt to solve the Cubs' difficulties at second base. He entered the Cubs lineup on September 10, 1961 in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He had three at-bats, gaining two hits and one run batted in in a 12-5 Cubs loss. He played in ten games in his debut season, with five hits in 26 at bats, and one home run.

The New York Mets drafted Zimmer in the 1961 expansion draft, and the Cubs traded Kindall, leaving Hubbs as the starting second baseman for ninth-place Chicago in 1962. Hubbs played in 160 games on the season, getting 172 hits with five home runs and 49 runs batted in. He led all National League rookies in games, hits, doubles, triples, runs, and batting average. He was named the Rookie of the Year, earning 19 out of 20 votes and becoming the second consecutive Cubs player to win the award after Billy Williams won the award the previous season. In the field, he set records with 78 consecutive games and 418 total chances without making an error, breaking Bobby Doerr's Major League Baseball records. His performance made him the first rookie 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. On September 30, he started a triple play in the final game of the season against the Mets.

Hubbs was well liked by his teammates. Ernie Banks remembered "Lots of young players do something special and you can't talk to them anymore. 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 at times 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 Ron Santo quit smoking.

In the 1963 season, Hubbs played in 155 games, earning a career low .235 batting average with eight home runs and 47 runs batted in. His fielding helped the Cubs achieve an 82-80 record.

Death

Hubbs had a fear of flying. Roommate Ron Santo described the sheer terror Hubbs dealt with every time the team flew. Hubbs decided to meet the fear head on by taking flying lessons. He took the lessons during the off season between the 1963 and 1964 Major League Baseball seasons. He received his pilot's license in January 1964. Hubbs's long time friend, Dennis Doyle, was a new father in February 1964. Doyle's wife had taken the train from Colton, California to Provo, Utah to spend time with her parents and their new grandchild. Hubbs and Doyle set out to surprise Doyle's wife with a one day trip to Provo on February 12. While in Provo, the pair decided to stay the night and return to Colton the next day. Hubbs played in a charity basketball game that night.

A storm arrived in the Utah Valley the morning of February 13. Hubbs thought he could beat the storm and decided to attempt the return flight. Hubbs and Doyle took off in a red and white Cessna 172 from Provo Airport, which sits on the edge of Utah Lake. Hubbs did not file a flight plan but told staff at Provo Airport that the pair were heading for Morrow field near Colton, California. Euliss Hubbs, Ken's father, reported that they had not arrived in Colton by Friday, February 14. A search began Saturday morning in areas of Utah, Nevada and California along a route the pair might have used.

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." Rescuers found the plane's wreckage a quarter mile south of Bird Island in Utah Lake. The weather temperature was estimated as -1 F, and it had been snowing heavily. Hubbs's funeral was held several days later in his hometown of Colton. Services were held in the Colton High School gymnasium because of the huge crowd that wanted to view Hubbs's casket. Fellow Cubs teammates Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Glen Hobbie and Don Elston were among the pallbearers.

Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Kenneth Douglas 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."

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

Shortly after Ken's death, the Ken Hubbs Foundation was organized in 1964 to honor the life of this young, gifted athlete. Since 1964, the Ken Hubbs Award has been given to the best high school male athletes in the greater San Bernardino, California area.

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