Chicago Cubs: Kobe Bryant demise recalls Cub Ken Hubbs death

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs:  The death of Chicago Cubs, second baseman, Ken Hubbs

No one was more scared of flying than Hubbs. In true fashion, Hubbs took on his fear by getting a pilot’s license and bought himself a four-seat Cessna 172 airplane. He had only recorded about 71 hours of flight time up to his death.

On February 12, 1964, Hubbs and his friend Denny Doyle flew from California to Provo, Utah, to surprise Doyle’s wife, who had recently given birth to the couple’s child. While Doyle visited with his new baby that evening, Hubbs played in a charity basketball game sponsored by Brigham Young University.  It was not unusual for Hubbs to dedicate his time to charity coaching, playing, or helping using his celebrity, which Hubbs was becoming accustomed. However, the last sport Hubbs would ever play, was that basketball game, the night before his death.

Early the next morning, a snowstorm developed in the Utah Valley area where Hubbs was staying with Doyle. Hubbs and Doyle discussed the weather and the reports claiming that the inclement weather was to turn worse as the day progressed. Hubbs and Doyle thought they could beat the rough oncoming storm by departing right away February 13, Thursday morning.

Hubbs and Doyle took off in Hubbs Cessna 172 from Provo Airport. Provo Airport sits on the edge of Utah Lake, which borders to the west of the airport. Utah Lake is the state’s largest freshwater lake at roughly 148 square miles. Hubbs was in such a hurry to beat the weather that he didn’t file a flight plan but instead told airport staff that he and Doyle’s destination was Morrow Field, near Colton, California.

The friends never made it to Colton as Hubbs plane crashed into the ice-cold Utah Lake some five miles from where they took off.  Rumors say that Hubbs tried to turn back to Provo after takeoff and was making his turn around Utah Lake when the weather overcame his plane.

The next day, Friday the 14th, Hubbs’ father, Euliss Hubbs, called to report that the two friends had not arrived in Colton, California.  It was not until the morning of Saturday, February 15, that a search began in areas of Utah, Nevada and California for any sign of the Cessna 172.  Finally, rescuers found the wreckage of the Cessna 172, a quarter-mile south of Bird Island in Utah Lake. Bird Island sits in the southern central portion of Utah Lake, just north of Lincoln Point.

Both Hubbs and Doyle died in the crash, which was blamed on the weather more than Hubbs’s skills.  The air temperature at the time of the accident was estimated as -1 °F, and it had been snowing heavily during the Cessna’s return flight to Colton, Califonia.