By Pete Ehrmann Special to Published Sep 23, 2014 at 4:03 PM

Most armchair Packers historians know Cal Hubbard played in Green Bay for six years, anchored the defense during the team’s first NFL championship reign from 1929 to '31, and is the only person enshrined in both the Pro Football and Baseball Halls of Fame because after he hung up his cleats, Hubbard was an iconic major league umpire for 14 years.

But it’s a little-known fact that the man Red Grange called "the greatest tackle I ever played against – or got clobbered by" was actually a three-sport man, although Hubbard’s 1930 foray into professional boxing ended after just one fight and proved, in the words of one wag, that "as a boxer, Cal is a great tackle."

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 250-pound Missouri native was probably not so much interested in boxing glory as in parlaying the Packers-Chicago Bears rivalry into a one-shot financial windfall in a bout against Bears center George Trafton.

Fellow All-Pro Trafton tossed his helmet into the ring on Dec. 16, 1929, in a five-rounder against baseball player-turned-boxer Art "The Great" Shires before a packed White City Arena in Chicago.

Shires had decided to while away his suspension from the White Sox for brawling with manager Lena Blackburne by going after the then-vacant heavyweight title. He won his first fight by KO on Dec. 9. Critics were underwhelmed, but the whirling turnstiles that night prompted Trafton to challenge Shires to a fight.

It was a ponderous clinch-fest at the end of which Trafton won the decision, which was all the encouragement he needed to keep boxing. Plus that he could make more money in a few fights than his entire annual salary for hiking pigskins.

In just four fights, Shires hauled in triple the $2,900 the White Sox paid him in ’29, but on Jan. 19, 1930 baseball commissioner Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis ordered him to give up boxing if he wanted to ever play big league baseball again. Shires obeyed.

The 6-2, 235-pound Trafton won his second bout on Jan. 16, and signed to fight Battling Criss in Chicago on Feb. 7 – the same day as Hubbard’s pro-ring debut in Green Bay.

When the Green Bay Press-Gazette announced that the Packers’ star would box the four-round main event at the Columbus Club, the story said Hubbard had done some boxing at Geneva College in Pennsylvania, where he’d won All-American honors on the gridiron.

The Milwaukee Journal mentioned that Hubbard had demonstrated his knockout punch in a game against the Bears the previous fall when, retaliating against Chicago guard Bill Fleckenstein for sticking a finger in his eye, Hubbard "socked him so hard he heard the birdies."

Jack Price of Oshkosh was supposed to be Hubbard’s first gloved opponent, but on the day of the fight nobody could find him. So out of the other corner instead came Ed Platten, a local heavyweight whose claim to have mowed down everybody put in front of him while boxing in the southwestern USA as "Pete Maher" is unsupported by any record book; and was undermined anyway two weeks before the Hubbard fight when Platten got smacked around in his hometown debut by Tiny Hable of Oshkosh.

(In Hable’s first scheduled Green Bay appearance not long before that, he forfeited on the ground he had a belly ache).

Despite looking "remarkably fast for an ‘elephant" in training, reported the Press-Gazette, "it was only (Platten’s) ability to take a lot of punishment that kept him from taking the count" against Hable.

The worst punishment doled out in the Hubbard-Platten fight was to the ring at the Columbus Club auditorium, which shuddered under the combatants’ combined 507 pounds.

The crowd of about 1,000 cheered in the second round when the 252-pound Packers idol tagged Platten several times. But for all his "willingness and gameness," said the Press-Gazette the next day, Hubbard "exhibited little in the way of boxing skill. Before the contest was over both he and Platten were so tired that they would had had trouble answering the bell for another round."

The verdict was a draw, and thereafter Hubbard decided to stick with playing football and umpiring baseball.

207 miles south of Green Bay that night, George Trafton knocked out Battling Criss in three rounds.

A month later, future heavyweight champion Primo Carnera sent the Bear into permanent hibernation from boxing by knocking him out in 54 seconds. Trafton – who became a line coach for the Packers in 1944 – went into the Football Hall of Fame in 1964, a year after Hubbard.

As for Ed Platten, after another desultory fight or two he was heard from no more. Maybe it’d be a different story if he’d put that elephantine quickness to work for Curley Lambeau, instead.

Pete Ehrmann Special to
Pete Ehrmann is a sports historian whose stories apear at His speciality is boxing.