Wednesday, August 10, 2011
#265) HUBIE BROOKS
Hubie Brooks was selected by the New York Mets organization in the first round (third overall pick) of the free agent draft on June 6, 1978. The Atlanta Braves took his Arizona State teammate, Bob Horner with the first overall pick. "What stands out to me, and I think about this so much," Brooks recalled about his introduction in New York following the draft. "My first interview was with Lindsey Nelson at Shea. I was from California and I'd seen him on TV with his different colored jackets and he was talking to me! When I went back to my hotel, I thought about it and I couldn't believe it. It dawned on me where I was playing. That is really a fond memory."
Hubie quickly worked his way through the minor-league system, and following a full year with Triple-A Tidewater was brought up to New York. He made his major-league debut in a Mets uniform on September 4, 1980. Brooks was the starting third baseman, but went hitless facing the Padres in San Diego that day. However, he was impressive over the late season audition and finished with a home run, 10 RBIs, and a .309 batting average in 24 games.
The Mets were glad to insert the rookie into the mix of a previously problematic third base position. Hubie was an accomplished athlete who was also given time in the outfield. The result being a club-leading .307 batting average in 98 games. Brooks was honored with National League Player of the Week honors on September 20, 1981. Hubie would finish third in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Fernando Valenzuela and Tim Raines.
Brooks was named the Mets' everyday third baseman for 1982. A pulled left hamstring forced him to the disabled list from June 28th to July 22nd. The injury seemed to work against him as his batting average fell to .249 for the season. His two home runs in 126 games was also quite low for a corner infielder. Still he remained the third baseman for most of the next two years for a struggling New York ballclub. "I know what it's like to lose 100 games in a year." Hubie remembers. "We came last two years in a row with the Mets, and believe me that's no fun." So when the team acquired third baseman, Ray Knight in a trade on August 28, 1984, he accepted a permanent change to shortstop. Even though that assignment came with only one day's notice. Brooks explained, "we were in the pennant race...I couldn't be selfish." The Mets would ultimately finish behind the Chicago Cubs for second place in the N.L. Eastern Division.
On December 10, 1984, New York traded Brooks along with Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Gary Carter. The trade came as a surprise to Hubie who would go on to make two Major League All-Star appearances for the Expos. "But that's how the game is." said Brooks. "That trade had to be made for them to get what they wanted. I've never felt bad about that. Something had to go and it was me. I never took it personal. At least the Mets thought well enough of me to give me my first opportunity."
In a strange turn of events the Mets brought Hubie back to the team for the 1991 campaign. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Bob Ojeda, and Greg Hansell on December 15, 1990. Now a veteran power-hitter he was added to fill the void left by Darryl Strawberry's departure through free agency. Brooks made his return to New York quickly known with a steal of home to provide the decisive run in the season opener, and a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Mets a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium the very next game. "I'm glad to see the fans didn't forget me," said Hubie. "I always wanted to come back to where it started."
He was traded to the California Angels for Dave Gallagher on December 10, 1991. Brooks retired from the game in 1994, and moved back to the Los Angeles area where he grew up. "I came on back home and I had a daughter and we've been raising her," Hubie said of he and his wife Nedjin in 2010. "I haven't been in baseball at all. I've been able to be home. When you're younger playing ball, you're not really home."
I created Hubie Brooks card from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 6, 2011.