Harry Hooper: An American Baseball Life

by Paul J. Zingg

Paul J. Zingg. Harry Hooper: An American Baseball Life. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2004

The University of Illinois Press has reissued Zingg's biography of baseball Hall of Famer Harry Hooper in its Sport and Society series. Zingg, an administrator at California Polytechnic State University and an author of a book on the Pacific Coast League, used the Hooper family's extensive files on his career. Hooper played during the years when professional baseball had been established, but was still maturing.

A California native who starred for St. Mary's College, Hooper worked as a surveyor for the Western Pacific Railroad and played semipro ball before turning pro with the Red Sox, becoming a starter by 1910. He played with Duffy Lewis and Tris Speaker in one of baseball's greatest outfields. Hooper contributed to four Boston Red Sox world championship teams, both in the field and at the plate. In addition, he lobbied to change Babe Ruth from a pitcher to a hitter, helping change baseball history forever. In 1920, as part of the infamous series of episodes known to all Red Sox fans, cash-starved Sox owner Harry Frazee continued selling off his best players, including Hooper who was sold to the Chicago White Sox.

Hooper had a decent career with the Chicago White Sox, playing five years at a high level. Released after the 1925 season, he was out of baseball in 1926 then spent a year as player/manager with the San Francisco Missions of the Pacific Coast League. He later coached at Princeton in 1931-1932 before leaving baseball for good.

The remaining years of Hooper's life were spent mainly as a postmaster in California and in various business ventures. Long retired when the Hall of Fame opened, Hooper was initially forgotten by the institution, until an organized campaign, starting in 1966, led him into the Hall in 1971. Later in the book, Zingg also covers the Hooper's attempt to receive his 1918 World Series Championship pin. The baseball hierarchy had withheld these to punish the Sox players for threatening to strike the Series over withheld promised pay. To date, these pins have never been awarded and baseball commissioners have refused to change the original ruling.

Zingg uses Hooper's life to illustrate several baseball themes, notably the development of college baseball and the impact of those players on the sport. As the author traces Hooper's career, he sets his life and the sport's rising importance in the wider context of American history, relating both national and local historical trends. Strongly recommended.

Peter L. de Rosa

A version of this is available from The Society for American Baseball Research


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