Wilbur Huckle

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Wilbur Allan Huckle (born December 23, 1937)[1] is a former baseball prospect for the New York Mets, who achieved "fan favorite" status, despite never actually making the team. Wilbur's reputation — presumably developed from spring training dispatches and broadcasts, and augmented by the assonance of his name — was such that fans began appearing at Shea Stadium, during the building's inaugural season of 1964, wearing "Wilbur Huckle for President" pins. Huckle threw and batted right-handed, stood 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) tall, and weighed 175 lb (79 kg).

As far as appearance and position, one blogger remembers him this way:

"Wilbur was a Mets farmhand in the '60's, a shortstop who also played some third base. There was really nothing special about him except for his name and the fact that he looked exactly the way you might expect someone named Wilbur Huckle to look, with red hair and a million freckles."[2]

According to journalist Keith Olbermann, photographer Steve Moore recalls that Huckle actually received a callup to the Mets in 1963, on the same day as Cleon Jones, but was optioned out without ever appearing in a game.[3] Mr. Moore's contention has not been verified to date and has, in fact, been challenged by the researchers contributing to Mets by the Numbers.[4] The author there contends that Huckle indeed was invited to work out with the Mets in September 1963, but was never added to the major league roster.[5] The Website offers a transaction record and newspaper clipping as evidence.

Career Minor League Statistics[1]
746 2768* 2554 233* 662 85 19 14 174* 36* 18* 205* 173* .259 .314* .324 .638* 827
* data is incomplete

Huckle and Tom Seaver[edit]

By 1967, Wilbur was still in the team's system, becoming the first professional roommate of Tom Seaver, generally thought of as the greatest player in Mets history, during Seaver's first pro season in Jacksonville, Florida. Seaver's memories suggest that Huckle was somewhat flakey:

"My first year in professional baseball, I roomed with a fellow named Wilbur Huckle, who played the infield for Jacksonville. We had a rather unusual relationship. I never saw Wilbur Huckle in our room — at least not awake.

I never talked with him. I never heard him. I never ate a meal with him. When I came in at night, early or late, he was either out or asleep. And when I got up in the morning, he was always gone. He got up early and went on long walks by himself."[6]

Huckle's prowess as a roommate is matched only by his reputation as a teammate:

"Lots of guys tried, but nobody ever beat Wilbur Huckle getting into street clothes after a game... . Once, I heard, when Wilbur was playing in a lower minor league, his team was on a losing streak, and when they lost their sixth or seventh in a row, the manager started screaming at his players as they entered the clubhouse. "Sit down on the benches", he hollered. "This has gone too damn far. Just sit down and think about your mistakes. Think about your errors. Nobody's taking a shower until I say so." The manager was facing the whole team, scowling and storming, and right behind him stood Wilbur Huckle, fresh out of the shower, toweling himself dry."[6]

Post-playing career[edit]

Managerial Career
Year Team League W L Pct. Finish
1972 Batavia Trojans NY-Penn 29 40 .420 6th
1973 Batavia Trojans NY-Penn 33 36 .478 5th
1974 Batavia Trojans NY-Penn 20 49 .290 6th
Totals 3 Years 82 125 .396

He played in the Mets' minor league system from 1963–1971. After his active career ended, Huckle went on to manage the Batavia Trojans of the New York–Penn League for three seasons during their period as a Mets affiliate, but his teams evidenced little success (see table at right).