On Dec. 27, 1919, theatrical producer and Red Sox owner Harry Frazee announced he would deal any player except right fielder Harry Hooper.
While Babe Ruth was the most popular baseball player in the world, Hooper, then 32, was the venerated team captain. He managed the outfield, ordered the lineup and called pitches. Hooper claimed it was his idea to move Ruth from pitcher to everyday player. He was probably right.
Hooper was a spectacular fielder who delivered in clutch situations. Teammate Smoky Joe Wood once said, “ When the chips were down, that guy played like wildfire.” He typified baseball’s transition from an East Coast game played by rowdy illiterates to a respectable sport with broad national appeal. Hooper grew up in Santa Clara County, Calif., and earned an engineering degree from St. Mary’s College. His family moved west during the Gold Rush, and it was on a trip back east with his mother to visit family that Hooper saw his first baseball game.
Hooper played in one of the finest outfields in baseball history, with Tris Speaker in center and Duffy Lewis in left. That they played so well is remarkable considering the religious rivalries dividing the Red Sox then. Speaker, a Protestant, didn’t speak to Catholics Hooper or Lewis for an entire season.
Hooper was a solid leadoff hitter with a lifetime .281 average and the Red Sox record for triples (130) and stolen bases (300). Hooper and only one other player, Heinie Wagner, played on four Red Sox World Series championship teams. in the 1912 World Series Hooper took a home run away from the New York Giants by catching the ball barehanded while falling into the bleachers. (There is no record of the Boston police reaction to Hooper’s feat.)
Though Frazee said he wouldn’t trade Hooper, he sent him to the Chicago White Sox after the 1920 season. Perhaps the less said about another player Frazee traded, the better.