As a 20 year-old playing for the Chicago Cubs in 1962, Ken Hubbs hit .260/.299/.346 with five home runs and led the league, unhappily, in strikeouts and grounding into double plays. Ken, however, let his glove do the talking and ended up setting Major League records for consecutive errorless games (78) and chances (418) at second base that season. For his efforts, Hubbs was named National League Rookie of the Year and awarded the Gold Glove.
In 1963, Hubbs regressed and hit only .235/.285/.322; however, he was able to cut his strikeouts by 27% and otherwise put together another nice season patrolling second base for the Cubs.
As spring training 1964 approached, Hubbs was enjoying the last couple weeks of the off-season by participating in a basketball tournament in Utah. Two weeks prior, Hubbs had obtained his pilot’s license and he and a friend, Dennis Doyle, flew from Colton, California to the tournament in Hubbs’ single-engine Cessna 172.
On February 13, 1964, Hubbs was prepared to leave Utah for the flight back to Colton. He was cleared for takeoff at 10:00 a.m. in snowy conditions with poor visibility. Unfortunately, Hubbs and Doyle never made it home, his plane crashing into ice-covered Utah Lake, near Provo. The bodies of Hubbs and Doyle were recovered by divers after the crash site was located by rescue workers.
The investigation of the crash showed that the plane hit the icy lake surface at a 70° to 80° angle, with the right wing making first impact. The investigator deemed this a “graveyard spiral” typically caused when a pilot loses sight of the horizon in bad weather. Too young, Hubbs and Doyle were taken.
Back at his home, Hubbs proudly displayed a baseball Stan Musial had signed for him at Wrigley Field in 1963. His spring training duffel bag was packed and his 1964 contract was in the top drawer of his dresser, ready to go. No one knows what Ken Hubbs might have done had he been able to play out his career but, perhaps, Ernie Banks summed him up best with this quote in the The Sporting News, “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.”
For their 1964 set, Topps issued the “In Memoriam” card for Hubbs, seen here.