This story appeared at the beginning of 1918, but by the time the year had closed out, Hobart “Hobie” Baker was dead — killed by injuries sustained in a military plane crash in France mere hours before he was due to leave to return to America.
Although he was gone at age 26, he has been anything but forgotten. In addition to being one of the first 12 players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945, and one of the charter members of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973, in 1981, Baker was also memorialized with The Hobey Baker Award, awarded annually to the best player in NCAA hockey.
Hobey Baker is “making good” again
Hobey Baker’s new feats will outclass anything he ever did on the athletic field
Baker always did make good. But his new feats will outclass anything he ever did on the athletic field. The Princeton athlete is now a Lieutenant in the American Flying Corps. He is “somewhere in France.” And Lieut. Hobey Baker has just brought down his first German plane. He got his first German Saturday. The event was given a brief mention in the war news. No details — just the plain statement that it had been done.
To the War Department, the shooting down of an enemy plane is just a part of the day’s work. But to the thousands of friends of Hobey Baker, it announces the beginning of a new career that may be as great — with an ordinary share of good luck — as that of any of the famous airmen of Canada, France, England, or Italy.
Hobey Baker has very unusual advantages as a fighting man. He is one man in thousands — one of the greatest athletes ever developed in American schools and colleges.
Football, baseball and hockey
When Hobey was at Princeton, he was a famous football player, a great baseball player, and rated top list in many other sports. He captained the football and baseball teams. His gridiron feats filled hundreds of sporting columns. He was picked for the “All-American Eleven” by scores of football critics.
There wasn’t the slightest doubt that he was the best ice hockey player in America. In that game, he was absolute king. And Princeton coaches have told me that Hobey Baker showed such remarkable speed that had he chosen the track as one of the limited number of major sports he was allowed to compete in he would have been “a 9 3-5 second man” in the 100-yard dash. It is said that he once ran 100 yards on the Princeton track, clad in a football suit and in football shoes, in 10 seconds flat.
When Hobey Baker graduated and was known no more to the Princeton teams, he was still the hero of the Princetonians who followed closely his hockey play with a club team, and listened with interest to the news that Hobey Baker had enlisted for the aviation service. This was years ago, when there was little reason to think that the United States would soon be in the big war that was just beginning.
But Hobey probably expected to have his chance. In any case, flying, and war flying, offered a new adventure — a thrill greater than any he had ever known before, even if he went through his work far from the applause of the gathered multitudes that had always roared his name from the side lines.
Baker as an airman
The first time I saw Hobey Baker, after he had gone into the Aviation Corps as a student, was in one of his first long flights. It was on the day of a Princeton-Harvard game at Princeton. While the game was on two specks appeared above the northern horizon. They grew until it was seen that they were army planes. One of the planes circled above the field, and spiraling down to a moderate height sailed slowly overhead and turned again to the north.
“It’s Baker,” yelled a megaphone cheer leader. “It’s Hobey Baker.” And so it was. Hobey had flown down to see his old team win — to see the game as he had never seen it before.
After that there were occasional reports about Hobey’s increasing skill. He took long flights and became a first class airman.
And now he is on the actual fighting line, and has “brought down his German.” If there is anything in natural skill and courage, in clear-strain manhood, in all around athletic prowess and the fighting spirit that fills a man with aggressive action, in the cool-headed generalship that makes a man sought after as captain of his college teams — and in the luck that follows the successful — Lieut. Hobey Baker will make his mark in this war.