Hooper prided himself on being a college man of high ideals during an era when most ballplayers weren’t, and he nearly became a civil engineer before the lure of big money led him to sign with the Red Sox for $2,850 in 1909. Extremely popular with teammates, fans, and even opponents, he was the right fielder in the fabled “Million Dollar Outfield” with Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis. He taught himself to play the difficult sun field and invented the famous rump slide to snare short flies and stop with his body those he could not reach. His strong, accurate arm accounted for 150 of the trio’s 455 assists. Hooper never led the American League in any of the important offensive categories, but he did compile a valuable .403 on-base average as the Red Sox leadoff hitter from 1909 to 1920, and became the Red Sox’ all-time leader in triples with 130 and in stolen bases with 300. He went on to collect 2,466 hits over 17 seasons.
The strongly religious Hooper was reputed to have prayed for a Boston victory in the final game of the 1912 Series and to have attributed to divine intervention his bare-handed, game-saving catch off Larry Doyle which prevented victory by the Giants. Years later at an old-timers’ game, Doyle was asked if he remembered Hooper and replied, “How in hell can I ever forget him!” In 1915 Hooper became the first player to hit two homers in a single World Series game.
Recalling his years with the Red Sox, Hooper told Lawrence Ritter that it was he who convinced manager Ed Barrow to move young Babe Ruth to the outfield on the days when Ruth was not pitching in order to exploit Ruth’s crowd appeal and ability as a slugger. That was in 1919, shortly before owner Harry Frazee sold off his best players, including Ruth, for cash. Disgusted by the sales, Hooper held out for a salary of $15,000. Frazee dealt Hooper for cash and two reserve outfielders to the Chicago White Sox, whose owner, Charlie Comiskey, hoped that the acquisition of a big-name player would restore credibility to his franchise, which had been shattered by the Black Sox scandal. The unhappy Hooper threatened to retire, but finally joined the White Sox for a salary of $13,250 which he told Comiskey he would accept as a goodwill gesture toward the new club. Five years later, when the White Sox had seemingly righted themselves with an influx of young talent, Comiskey reduced Hooper’s salary to a stingy $7,000.
Hooper retired to enter the booming real estate market. He later coached baseball at Princeton and was the postmaster of Capitola, California. In 1971 Hooper was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.