Sep 23, 2016

Early Eighties Mets Infielder: Hubie Brooks (1980-1984)

Hubert Brooks Jr. was born on September 24, 1956 in Los Angeles California. Brooks began his college days at Whittier College then moved on to be a star baseball player at the great baseball school of Arizona State University, in the late seventies. He played infield there on the 1977 NCAAA Championship team with future Atlanta Braves slugger Bob Horner, the 1978 number one draft pick overall.

The six foot right hand hitting Brooks, was the New York Mets first round draft choice (third pick overall) in that same 1978 draft. The infielder was a great curve ball hitter with good speed on the base paths. He hit .305 in 1979 at AA with Jackson earning a late season promotion to the AAA level. He hit .297 with 14 stolen bases at AAA Tidewater in 1980 before getting a late season promotion to Shea Stadium. The Mets were desperate for some talent & Brooks became quick fan favorite.

Brooks made his debut at San Diego on September 3rd, batting in the 5th spot while playing at third base. At first he wore the uniform number 39 before taking over Ed Kranepool’s old uniform #7 which he became more familiar with. In his third career game he got two hits scoring his first run in a 8-7 loss to the Padres. On October 4th he hit his first career HR in a 5-2 win at St. Louis, in the final four games of the year he dove in five runs. In 1980, Brooks had 25 hits in 81 at bats, batting .309 showing a lot of promise for the future.

On Opening Day 1981 Brooks got his first hit of the year & then had a three hit game on the second day of the season. In May he hit safely in 20 of 24 games bringing his average up to .340. He fell into a short slump and then the Players went on strike for the next two months. When play resumed on August 10th, he had a fantastic week gathering 12 hits, with three HRs & seven RBIs. On August 11th he tied up a game in Chicago with an 8th inning sac fly. Later in the top of the 9th his double scored Ellis Valentine in what would be the game winning run. He drove in two more runs the next day at Wrigley Field as well.

On August 28th he doubled off Brooklyn Born Joe Sambito with the game winning run in the bottom of the 8th inning, to beat the Houston Astros. In September he had a ten game hit streak, including a four hit day on September 20th in a Shea game against the Cardinals. He closed out the year hitting safely in 13 of 15 games in mid September finishing the month of September with 14 RBIs.

In the 1981 strike shortened he did not disappoint batting .307 (8th in the league) with 21 doubles, posting the team’s best on base percentage (.345) and earning a spot on the Topps All Star Rookie team. He hit 4 HRs with 9 stolen bases 34 runs scored 2 triples & 38 RBIs in 98 games played. Brooks came in third behind Fernado Valenzuela & Tim Raines in the Rookie of the Year voting.

He was the Mets regular third baseman that season but led the NL in errors (21) at that position posting a .924 fielding %. He would make over 20 errors in each of the next four seasons, coming in the league's top three in errors three separate times.

In mid April 1982 he drove in five runs in a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. On May 13th Brooks had a big three hit day against the reigning World Champion Dodgers in a game at Shea Stadium. He drove in all four runs of Pete Falcone & the Mets 4-2 win over Burt Hooton. Two days later he helped the Mets to a 6-5 over the Dodgers with a 5th inning bases loaded base hit off Dave Stewart, that scored all three runners. He closed out May with a four hit day at Shea in a game against the Astros. On June 9th he grounded out in the bottom of the 9th inning, but scored the game winning run off the Pirates Kent Tekulve in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. Brooks missed over two weeks of action in June, with injury & then after a brief return missed three weeks in July.

He returned in August but never got back to top form the rest of the season. On October 1st Terry Leach & John Denny pitched nine scoreless innings against each other in a game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. In the top of the 10th Porfi Altamirano came in to relieve Denny allowing a walk to Dave Kingman & a single to Gary Rajsich. Brooks follwed with a base hit scoring the only run of the game in the 1-0 squeaker.

For the 1982 season his hitting fell off, dropping to a .249 average with two HRs 20 doubles a .315 on base % & 40 RBIs playing in 126 games. By 1983 he would stay healthy & play in over 150 games for the Mets becoming a steady everyday player for the next two seasons. On May 6th in a game against the Reds at Shea Stadium, Brooks came in as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning. After the Reds went ahead, Brooks homered to tie the game leading the Mets to a 13th inning victory on George Fosters three run walk off HR.

On May 16th he drove in three runs at Pittsburgh in a big 11-4 Mets victory. He hit safely in 14 of 20 games that month & finished May with a game winning single against the Padres John Montefusco in San Diego. On June 23rd Brooks hit a three run HR off Dave Von Ohlen & the St. Louis Cards, while driving in another run with a base hit, leading the Mets to a 7-5 win. On June 28th in St. Louis in the first game of a double header against the Cardinals, Brooks had a five hit day, including a double & RBI. in a 10-1 Met win.

On July 25th he helped the Mets rally from three runs down in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Atlanta Braves. Brooks drove in the first run of the inning, with a single off Steve Bedrosian & then scored the tying run on George Fosters double. Keith Hernandez also crossed the plate with the game winning run on that Foster double. On August 7th he had another four RBI day, it came in a three hit performance at Wrigley Field. In September he drove in runs in five straight games from the 15th through the 19th. On the last night of that stretch, he had a walk off game winning RBI single off the Pittsburgh Pirates closing ace Kent Tekulve.

On the season he hit .251 with 18 doubles 4 triples 5 HRs & 58 RBIs. Brooks stole just six bases, drew just 24 walks & posted a .284 on base. At third base he posted a .950 fielding percentage turning 25 double plays & making 21 errors. That season the Mets finished 6th (68-94) under managers George Bamberger & Frank Howard.

In 1984 the Mets were a much improved team as Davey Johnson took over as manager. The Mets would go on to win 90 games (90-72) finishing in second place, as young players like rookie sensation Dwight Gooden brought the Mets back into the spotlight. Brooks had his best season with the Mets that year as well. He started out slow batting just .203 in the first month of the season, although he did hit three HRs & drove in eight runs.

Then in May he went on fire, he had a hit in every game he played in in that month. Brooks set a Mets record at the time with a 24 game hitting streak, passing Mike Vails’ old mark of 23 set in 1975. He was batting .306 when the streak ended in June & then he continued to hit safely in the next 8 of 11 games, having him hit safely in 32 of 35 games. He helped the Mets driving in key runs as well; on May 4th he & Keith Hernandez drove in the only two runs of Ron Darlings shut out against the Astros.

On May 11th he drove in one of the two runs off Fernando Valenzuela, in Dwight Gooden's eleven strike out, four hit shutout in Los Angeles. In June he remained hot keeping his average well above the .300 mark. In the middle of the month he drove in runs in eight of nine games & hit four HRs with five multi hit games.

On July 6th he hit a HR off the Reds Jeff Russel scoring the only run of the game helping Ron Darling to a 1-0 win. On July 20th he singled off the Reds Jay Tibbs breaking a 2-2 tie & giving Dwight Gooden a 3-2 win. Brooks would contribute with RBIs in three straight Mets one runs that week. On a twelve game August home stand he had 19 hits, including seven games with two or more hits. In that stretch he hit three HRs & drove in 13 runs right in the heat of the summer's pennant race. That month he drove in 23 runs overall & scored 15 runs.

On August 8th he had a big four hit day scoring four runs , although the Mets lost to the Cubs at Wrigley Field 7-6. On August 13th he had a big three hit day, with a walk & four RBIs in the first game of a double header in San Francisco. Over the next 16 games Brooks would drive in at least one run in thirteen of those games. He began September with five hits in a double header sweep at Shea against the San Diego Padres. In that night cap he drove in three runs in the 10-6 Mets win. On September 9th he hit a three run HR leading the Mets to a 5-1 win over the Cubs at Shea Stadium.

On September 12th as rookie phenom Dwight Gooden broke the NL Rookie strikeout record, while striking out 16 Pittsburgh Pirates on a five hit shutout, it was Brooks who supplied the offense driving in both Mets runs. (ceterfieldmaz was in attendance that night).

Hubbie finished the year hitting 16 HRs, with 23 doubles, 73 RBIs, 61 runs scored and a .283 average. He had 45 games where he had more than one hit throughout the season. He almost doubled his base on balls as he drew a career high 48 walks raising his on base % to .341 %. He also played 26 games at short stop and was used as a pinch hitter by manager Davey Johnson.

In the off season Brooks was the main chip in a blockbuster trade, going to Montreal along with along with catcher Mike Fitzgerald & Herm Winningham in exchange for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. In 1985 the Expos converted him to a full time short stop, & he became the first short stop since Ernie Banks to drive in 100 runs. He was so valuable to his third place Expo team he came in 14th in the league's MVP voting. Brooks hit .269 with 13 HRs 34 doubles, 7 triples (9th in the NL) & 100 RBIs (6th in the NL) posting a .310 on base %.

In 1986 he had a great first half, batting .333 making his first of two straight All Star games. After the break he played in only five more games as an injury ended his fine season. He played in only 80 games batting .340 with 14 HRs 18 doubles & 58 RBIs. In 1988 he hit 20 HRs & drove in 90 runs (9th in the league), converting from a short stop to play the outfield. In his first year playing outfield he posted a .968 fielding % making nine errors. He remained in Montreal through the 1989 season when he signed as a free agent in his home town of Los Angeles with the Dodgers.

In 1990 he won the Dodger fans over early on by hitting a game winning three HR on Opening Day. For the season Hubbie hit 20 HRs 28 doubles 90 RBIs & a .266 batting average. After just one season in L.A. he made a triumphant return to New York with the Mets in 1991 getting traded in exchange for Bobby Ojeda.

He only hit .238 and ended up being a huge disappointment like the rest of the’91 team that finished in fifth place. He hit 16 HRs & drove in 50 runs, with 11 doubles & a .238 batting average.

It was a brief stay, after that season he was sent to the California Angels for Dave Gallagher. In California he only hit .216 and went to the Kansas City Royals in 1993. There he improved to a .286 average playing in 75 games (168 at bats). Brooks retired after the 1994 baseball strike.

Brooks played 15 seasons batting .269 lifetime with 1608 hits 149 HRs, 290 doubles 31 triples 387 walks & 824 RBIs with a .315 on base %. With the glove he committed 90 errors playing at 516 games at third base, turning 80 double plays with a .936 on base %. In the outfield he played 582 games making 35 errors with 32 assists & a .966 fielding %. Brooks also played 371 games at short stop, 13 games at first base & 7 games at second base.

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