Cal Hubbard made three athletic halls of fame - two as a football player and one as a baseball umpire - and it would be difficult to say which distinction pleased him most. No other man in the history of sports over attained all three.
The gentle giant - 6 feet 5, 250 pounds - died of cancer Monday night, three days after celebrating his 77th birthday at Gulfport, Fla. a suburb of St. Petersburg and the home of his son, Dr. Robert Hubbard.
He never played a day of major league baseball, yet he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. He made it because he was an umpire, and he was only the fifth umpire so honored. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962, and was a charter member of the newly formed Pro Football's Hall of Fame a year later.
Mr. Hubbardwas one of the legendary "Iron Men" who played both ways - on offense an defense - when football was a different game. He was among the first of the mobile big men, later to proliferate in the ranks of pro football.
He joined the New York Giants in 1927, spent five years with Green Bay, returned to the Giants in 1936, and ended his football career that same year with the Pittsburgh pirates, later to become the Steelers.
As a rookie in 1927, he was a key-stone in the Giant's championship defense that limited opponents to only 20 points all season. A powerful blocker. Mr. Hubbard has been credited with being the first man to pull out of the line and lead the interference and also was the first to pursue the ball-carrier in the days when the tackle generally was rooted to his position. And he never made more than $200 a game.
"A lot of people didn't know it," he once said, "but I was a baseball umpire for most of the years I played football. I started in the Piedmont League in 1936, when I quit pro football, I was brought to the American League by Will Harridge, then the President.
"Mr. Harridge didn't pick me because I was a big man - although it was a funny switch at that. Tommy Connolly was the chief of umpires in the American League and he was a little guy - about 5-2 or so."
It's true that Harridge did not have stricker physical enforcement in mind in picking Mr. Hubbard. For Mr. Hubbard had qualities other than size. He was well liked and respected by the players, who say: "If Cal Hubbard runs you (ejects a player from the game), you must have been awfulnasty."
Mr. Hubbard was a diplomat. He rarely had to get physical with a player, but when there was a show-down, he was a tiger.
When the American League race came down to the wire in 1967, with the Boston Red Sox winning the penant, Mr. Hubbard, as chief of umpires, received a record number of complaints about his men from the players, managers and owners. "The colars must be getting a little tight," he observed. "Every time somebody loses a game, it's the umpire's fault. I must say I have seen an umpire blow a decision."
Mr. Hubbard was made assistant supervisor of umpires in 1952, after a shotgun pellet in his right eye, the result of a hunting accident, ended his umpiring days.
Mr. Hubbard was appointed chief of the umpires by Harridge and served under him and then Joe Cronin, who became the American League president in 1959. He remained chief umpire until 1969, when he retired to a farm in Milan, Mo. At the advice of his doctor, he moved to Treasure Island, near St. Petersburg, Fla., last year.
Mr. Hubbard liked to reminisce about his football career.
"I don't know what I would have done under the system they use now," he once said. "I can't understand some of these big guys who play now, not putting out 100 per cent for the time they're in the game.
"When I was with Giants in 1936, on my last legs, we played the Chicago Bears. That meant Bronko Nagurski, who to my mind was the greatest football player that ever lived. He was playing fullback then after making All Pro as a tackle.
"Anyway, we were playing the Bears and I told Nagurski: 'Take it easy on the old man, Son.'Bronko came right at me the nextplay and I had to be carried off the field. 'Sorry, Pop,' he said while they were getting the stretcher, 'but football isn't a game for old men.'"
Mr. Hubbard always played it cool as an umpire and never explended more energy than necessary - particularly when he was working first base. He would give the "out" sign with the barest movement of the thumb, without saying a word. It frustrated many a player.
In his last years as the chief of umpires, he found it difficult to stay awake when he attended an afternoon game. On one such occasion in Washington, he was photographed taking a snooze.
"So what?" he laughed, "Maybe if these guys hit the ball once in a while the crack of the bat would keep me awake."
Born Robert Calvin Hubbard in Keytesville. Mo., on Oct. 14, 1900, the young Hubbard was a superb athlete in high school. He won letters in four sports - baseball, football, baseball and track.
He attended Centanary College in Shreveport. La., and then transferred to Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa., playing football at both schools. He joined the pros after college.
Upon his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967, Mr. Hubbard made the usual speech of thanks, and then drew a big laugh when he said: "If I knew Iwas going to live this long. I would have taken better care of myself."
Besides his son, Robert, Mr. Hubbard is survived by hiw wife, Mildred, of the home in Treasure Island; another son, William F., of Milan, Mo.; and a sister, Mary Belle, also of Milan.