Discover30 for 30 PodcastsSEARCHING FOR HOBEY BAKER Episode 3: Going West


Update: 2024-06-121


This episode of Searching for Hobie Baker delves into the life and death of the legendary athlete, focusing on his time as a fighter pilot in World War I. The episode explores Hobie's training, his experiences in aerial combat, and the unique challenges faced by pilots during the war. It also examines Hobie's relationship with Percy Pine, a Princeton alum and heir to a family fortune, and the intimate letters they exchanged during the war. The episode raises questions about the nature of their relationship, considering the social norms of the time and the lack of clear labels for same-sex relationships. The episode culminates in a discussion of Hobie's tragic death in a plane crash shortly after the war ended, exploring the possibility of suicide and the factors that may have contributed to his decision. The episode concludes with a reflection on Hobie's legacy and the enduring impact of his story on American sports.


Hobie Baker's Training and Early Experiences in World War I

This Chapter discusses Hobie Baker's training as a fighter pilot in the late summer of 1917, highlighting the challenges he faced and his determination to succeed. It also describes an accident he encountered during training, showcasing his skill and resilience in bringing his damaged plane safely to the ground. The chapter emphasizes Hobie's love for flying and his comparison of aerial combat to football, highlighting the deadly nature of the air war.

The High Mortality Rate of World War I Pilots

This Chapter explores the shockingly short life expectancy of World War I pilots, with statistics revealing the high number of casualties due to both combat and accidents. It introduces Jeremy Kinney, a World War I aviation expert, who provides insights into the challenges faced by American pilots during the war.

The Role of Aviation in World War I

This Chapter discusses the rapid evolution of aeronautical technology during World War I and the three classes of planes used: bombers, scout planes, and fighters. It highlights the role of pursuit planes flown by top pilots like Hobie, many of whom came from elite colleges. The chapter also describes the US Army Air Service's bumpy beginning, entering the war ill-equipped and undertrained.

Hobie's Letters and His Relationship with Percy Pine

This Chapter focuses on Hobie's letters to Percy Pine, a Princeton alum and close friend, providing an intimate window into their evolving relationship. The chapter explores the nature of their connection, considering the possibility of a romantic or sexual relationship, and examines the historical context of same-sex relationships in the early 20th century. It also discusses the loss of Percy's letters to Hobie, which would have provided further insights into their relationship.

Hobie's War Experiences and His Time in Paris

This Chapter explores Hobie's experiences as a World War I pilot, highlighting the high stakes and deadly nature of aerial combat, but also the moments of wonder and beauty he encountered. It discusses the contrast between the air war and the grim existence of soldiers in the trenches, and Hobie's visits to Paris, where he enjoyed the city's bohemian delights and rekindled his friendship with Cole Porter.

Hobie's Engagement to Mimi Scott

This Chapter discusses Hobie's engagement to Mimi Scott, a wealthy socialite and Red Cross nurse he met in Paris. The chapter explores the social norms of the time, which often pressured men, even those who were gay, to marry women. It also examines the potential impact of Hobie's financial constraints and the differences in their social status on their relationship.

Hobie's First Kill and His Leadership Role

This Chapter describes Hobie's first aerial combat experience and his first kill of a German plane. It highlights his excitement and fulfillment in combat, and his leadership qualities, which led to his appointment as squadron leader. The chapter also discusses his second and third confirmed kills and the end of World War I.


Hobie Baker
Hobie Baker was an American athlete who excelled in both football and hockey at Princeton University. He was known for his athletic prowess, sportsmanship, and charisma. After graduating from Princeton, he served as a fighter pilot in World War I, where he earned a reputation for bravery and skill. He tragically died in a plane crash shortly after the war ended.

Percy Pine
Percy Pine was a Princeton alum and heir to a family sugar and banking fortune. He was known for being gay and had a close relationship with Hobie Baker. They lived together in New York City for over two years after Hobie graduated from Princeton. Pine sent Hobie care packages during the war and exchanged intimate letters with him. He played a significant role in funding the Hobie Baker Memorial ice rink after Hobie's death.

World War I
World War I, also known as the Great War, was a global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918. It involved the majority of the world's great powers, grouped into two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Central Powers. The war was characterized by trench warfare, new technologies like machine guns and poison gas, and a high number of casualties. Aviation played a significant role in the war, with pilots engaging in aerial combat and reconnaissance missions.

Same-Sex Relationships
Same-sex relationships refer to romantic or sexual relationships between people of the same gender. The historical understanding and acceptance of same-sex relationships have varied significantly across cultures and time periods. In the early 20th century, same-sex relationships were often stigmatized and hidden, with individuals facing social and legal consequences for expressing their sexuality. The episode explores the challenges faced by same-sex loving men in a time when societal norms often pressured them to marry women.

Aerial Combat
Aerial combat refers to fighting between aircraft, primarily during wartime. It involves pilots maneuvering their planes to gain an advantage over their opponents, using weapons like machine guns and bombs. The episode highlights the dangers and excitement of aerial combat during World War I, as well as the unique skills and strategies required for success.

Going West
In the context of World War I, "going west" was a euphemism for dying in combat. The episode uses this phrase to emphasize the high mortality rate of pilots during the war and the constant threat of death that they faced.

Cole Porter
Cole Porter was a renowned American composer and songwriter, known for his witty and sophisticated musical style. He was a contemporary of Hobie Baker and attended Yale University, where he composed the college's fight song. Porter was known for his social circles and his parties, which often involved celebrities, artists, and musicians. He was also known for his homosexuality, which he kept private due to societal pressures.

Lafayette Eskadrille
The Lafayette Eskadrille was a squadron of American fighter pilots who fought for France during World War I. It was known for its bravery and skill, and its members included some of the most famous American pilots of the war. Hobie Baker was assigned to the Lafayette Eskadrille in 1918.

Hobie Baker Award
The Hobie Baker Award is an annual award given to the top men's college ice hockey player in the United States. It is named after Hobie Baker, a legendary Princeton athlete who excelled in both football and hockey. The award honors Baker's athletic prowess, sportsmanship, and character.


  • What were some of the challenges faced by American pilots during World War I?

    American pilots during World War I faced numerous challenges, including a lack of adequate training and equipment, a high mortality rate due to both combat and accidents, and the constant threat of death. They also had to contend with the psychological strain of aerial combat and the grim realities of war.

  • What was the nature of Hobie Baker's relationship with Percy Pine?

    The episode explores the possibility of a romantic or sexual relationship between Hobie Baker and Percy Pine, considering the intimate letters they exchanged and the fact that they lived together for over two years. However, due to the loss of Percy's letters and the social norms of the time, the exact nature of their relationship remains unclear.

  • What are some of the lingering questions surrounding Hobie Baker's death?

    There are lingering questions about whether Hobie Baker's death was a tragic accident, a result of bad judgment, or a deliberate act of suicide. The episode explores the possibility of suicide, considering Hobie's emotional state, his fear of returning to a society that was increasingly hostile towards gay men, and his uncertainty about his future.

  • How has Hobie Baker's legacy impacted American sports?

    Hobie Baker's legacy continues to impact American sports through the Hobie Baker Award, which is given annually to the top men's college ice hockey player. The award honors Baker's athletic prowess, sportsmanship, and character, and serves as a reminder of his enduring impact on the sport.

  • What are some of the challenges faced by gay and bisexual athletes in sports today?

    Gay and bisexual athletes in sports today still face significant challenges, including homophobia, lack of representation, and fear of coming out. The episode highlights the fact that there are still no openly gay or bisexual players in the NHL, and only two outgay athletes in the NFL have had very brief tenures.

Show Notes

As WWI rages, Hobey arrives in France to prepare for aerial combat. He embraces being a fighter pilot, finding the adrenaline-fueled commonality between war and sports.

While in Europe, Hobey exchanges dozens of affectionate and loving letters with Percy Pyne. And during his off-duty forays into Paris, Hobey experiences the city’s lively cultural scene – including a reignited friendship with famed songwriter Cole Porter.

After proving his combat valor in the air, Hobey – now a captain - receives his orders to return home, but he insists on taking one last flight. It would turn out to be his last one.

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Comments (1)

H Ferry

Incredible series. I had no clue who Hobey Baker was and the impact he has had on today's sports. Wow!

Jun 23rd








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