David Wright has now hit in 24 consecutive regular-season games, tying the franchise record set by Hubie Brooks in 1984 and equaled by Mike Piazza in 1999. Wright has done it across two seasons which makes it a different animal from its predecessors, so even if he hits in a 25th straight tonight in Florida — which would be excellent — Hubie's notch on the Mets' statistical bedpost appears safe…for at least a couple of weeks (I heartily endorse gang-breakage of every Met offensive record in 2007, save maybe for Joe McEwing's).
Mike Piazza is an era of Mets history incarnate. His 24-game hitting streak was appreciated mightily between May 25 and June 22, 1999, but is it one of the first things you think of when you think of Mike Piazza the Met? First 24 things?
Hubie Brooks? That's a different story. He's not to be wholly defined by what he did between May 1 and June 1, 1984. Though it would land awfully high on theoretical Hall of Fame plaque, it would be a tad unfair to boil two honorable Met hitches encompassing six Met seasons to one month of a fine player's career.
Given that The David has vaulted the topic of Met hitting streaks to top of mind, I thought it appropriate to revisit the Met career of The Hubie, primarily as recounted in 2005's One Hundred Greatest Mets of the First Forty Years, in which our Mr. Brooks ranked No. 60.
It is, sadly, the human condition to lock in one's perception of a situation even when faced with evidence to the contrary. For example, the New York Mets have never been able to do anything with that nettlesome (or Nettlesless) third-base position.
We all know that throughout their entire history it's been one disaster after another, from Cliff Cook to Joe Moock to, god help us, Joe Foy. It's a charming enough storyline to have inspired the ditty about the Seventy-Nine Mets Who Played Third on An Amazin' Era, the team's 25th anniversary video. Yessir, playing third for the New York Mets is like drumming for Spinal Tap: Sooner or later, you're bound to blow up, and not in the way the kids mean.
Except that by 1986, the third-base curse was, for all practical purposes, reversed and buried by Hubie Brooks. The organization did its best to perpetuate the tepid image of the hot corner even when confronted with a competent practitioner. Called up in September 1980, Hubie was handed No. 62, as if to say, third base will eat you alive, kid, don't even bother.
After acquitting himself reasonably in his trial (and working his way down from 62 to 39 to 7), Hubie showed up to spring training 1981 to find Joe Torre handing the job to outfielder Joel Youngblood, who didn't want it, and then catcher John Stearns, who stepped on a ball and couldn't play it. Left with only a third baseman to play third base, Torre had no choice but to pencil in Hubie Brooks at the 5-slot, and Hubie Brooks stayed there for the better part of the next four seasons.
He didn't move off of third until, team man that he was, he shifted to short to make room for Ray Knight in the late summer of '84. Hubie was shortly thereafter packaged for Gary Carter, a trade nobody could rationally dispute.
He left two legacies in his wake:
1) Brooks was followed at third by, roughly, Knight, HoJo, Magadan, Bonilla, Kent, Alfonzo, Ventura, Alfonzo again, Wigginton and Wright. Sure there were some gaps and yeah, the total's grown from 79 when that song was recorded to 134 (including exactly one inning of one game played by Kevin Morgan in 1997, the only inning of the only game he ever played in the Majors), but the position's been held down by reasonably able men for decent stretches of time.
2) When Mike Piazza hit safely in 24 straight games in 1999, it was Hubie Brooks' 15-year-old mark that he matched with an eighth-inning homer off Vic Darensbourg. Gary Cohen announced it with something like “Move Over Hubie!”
It's not so bad to root for a team on which Hubie Brooks could endure so long as an aspirational figure, even for the greatest-hitting catcher of all time.