Hobart Amory Hare Baker, better known as "Hobey" was born in Bala Cynwyd (pron.: KIN-wuud), Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. He attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, graduating in 1909. In 1910, he enrolled in Princeton University. During his time at Princeton, he was elected to the Ivy Club, while also playing baseball, football and hockey. Because Princeton's athletic rules limited athletes to participation in only two varsity sports, Baker gave up baseball, concentrating on football and hockey. By the time he graduated, he had led Princeton to a national championship in football in 1911 and two national championships in hockey in 1912 and 1914. F. Scott Fitzgerald idolized Baker so much that he included him as a character in his 1920 novel 'This Side of Paradise'.
Soon after his graduation from Princeton, Baker was offered a job at J.P. Morgan. Through a friend, Percy R. Payne III, Baker was introduced to Jeanne Marie "Mimi" Scott, a socialite, whom he began dating. Although offered a professional contract to play hockey for the Montreal Canadians, Baker turned them down. He didn't think athletes should be paid. He did continued to play amateur hockey and traveled with an all-star team from Philadelphia. He played his last hockey game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Duquesne Gardens on March 24th, 1917.
Hobey Baker was the restless type who thrived on action, flying became the ultimate action for him. He joined General Leonard Wood’s Civil Aviation Corps and began training on Governor’s Island in Manhattan. He was among the first Americans to ship off for Europe in August of 1917. Once in France, this sports star showed his aptitude as a flyer and a fighter as well as being a natural leader. Promoted to lieutenant in March 1918, Baker was soon sent to the front in April and assigned to the 103rd Aero Squadron, formed from former members of the Lafayette Escadrille and Lafayette Flying Corps in January 1918. On May 21st, he helped bring down an enemy plane for the first time in his career, but due to a complicated system of confirming kills, he was not given credit for it. In a letter home describing the battle, Baker said it was the "biggest thrill I ever had in my life", and compared it to euphoria after a big game.Throughout the spring of 1918, Baker continued to fly combat missions over the front. He also continued his relationship with Mimi Scott, who had enlisted as a nurse and worked at a hospital in Paris.
After his first confirmed victory on May 21, 1918, the French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
During the summer of 1918, Baker was transferred to the 13th Aero Squadron after commander Captain Charles Biddle, requested that he join the squadron as a flight commander. Though reluctant to leave the 103rd, Baker felt that Biddle would not have requested him without confidence in his abilities. On July 20, the 13th Aero Squadron recorded its first confirmed victory during a flight led by Baker. He and two other men shot down a German plane. In August, Baker was promoted and given command of his own squadron; the 141st Aero Squadron, composed of 26 pilots and 180 enlisted men stationed behind the front line. Delays in the arrival of planes and equipment meant that Baker's squadron was unable to participate in the final major offensives of the war. In September, Baker became engaged to Scott. He asked Pyne to sell a bond to pay for an engagement ring, and the newspapers in the United States carried headlines that announced the engagement.
Early in October, Baker was promoted to the rank of captain. The planes and equipment arrived for his squadron soon after. Baker had the planes painted in Princeton's black and orange and adopted a tiger for the squadron insignia. He recorded two more confirmed victories on October 28 and November 5, the last of his career.
Around the time of the armistice, Baker's engagement with Mimi Scott broke off. She then began a relationship with an American diplomat in Paris, Philander Cable, who she later married.
On December 21, 1918, Baker received orders to return home. Reluctant to leave France, he wanted to take a final flight at his squadron's airfield in Toul. Rather than take his own plane, he elected to take a recently repaired one instead, that was in need of a test flight. The other pilots saw this as a bad omen and tried to persuade him against it. In heavy rain, Baker took off and began to level off at 600 feet. A 1/4 mile into the flight, the engine failed. The SPAD was generally easy to crash-land if necessary, something Baker had done before at the cost of a few broken ribs. A few hundred yards from the airfield, his plane crashed nose first into the ground. He was quickly freed from the aircraft by his men, but died in an ambulance minutes later. His orders to return home were found in his jacket pocket.
Though newspapers reported that Baker had died as a result of engine failure, unsubstantiated rumors began to circulate that his death was not accidental. Those who knew him were aware of his reluctance to return to civilian life and his sadness over the loss of Mimi. He could have returned home and played professional sports, and earned far more money than from a job in finance. A career in business held no appeal. During a weekend vacation with a fellow Princeton graduate, Baker revealed that he felt his life was over, and he would never again experience the thrills of football or hockey.
Hobey Baker was buried in a small military cemetery near Toul, but in 1921, his mother had his remains moved to the family plot in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
In his memory, the top US Collegiate Ice Hockey Player each year is awarded the Hobey Baker Memorial Trophy.