Huckleberry Found

Hopefully this doesn’t make the World’s Worst Person, but I’m compelled to point out Keith Olbermann’s recent whack at obscure Mets history on his new blog isn’t entirely accurate. The entry concerns Wilbur Huckle, a Met farmhand of the 1960s perhaps best remembered for having been Tom Seaver‘s first roommate in the minor leagues. Olbermann reports that Huckle in September of 1963 was called up to the Mets but didn’t get into a game, relegating him to a rare group of obscure major leaguers he calls the Bill Sharman Society, comprising (by his count) 51 ballplayers who appeared on major league rosters but never in a major league game.

The MBTN Research Team, to whom this news was a surprise, swiftly leapt into action and today can reveal the actual truth: Although Wilbur Huckle indeed spent time with the team in September of 1963 he was not officially added to the roster and as a result could not have appeared in a Major League game.

As illustrated in the transaction record on the left, direct from the Hall of Fame and the outstanding collection of Met Roster Maven “Jason from New Jersey,” Huckle, who was signed as a free agent in May of 1963 and assigned to Class A Raleigh, would not be added to the 40-man roster until October 15 of that year. (Looking further into his career, you’ll see Huckle was recalled the following September  from Williamsport but did not report to the Mets — a situation similar to that which we examined about Met farmhand Steve Simpson recently. Finally in December of 1964, Huckle is outrighted to Buffalo and off the 40-man roster forever).

So what was Huckle doing with the Mets then? It appears they simply invited him to New York that month to work out with the team, a practice we still see sometimes when minor league coaches like Luis Natera are brought up, issued uniforms and populate the bench. The below article also provides some explanation, though its obvious that the neither the writer, nor Wilbur Huckle’s father, understand that a guy’s contract must be purchased before he can play with the big club.

So Huckle, by MBTN rules, was never an official occupier of a big-league number on the Mets (though I’d be interested just the same in seeing the roster Keith Olbermann’s friend says he appears on). I would also think Huckle would not qualify as a citizen of the Sharman Society although that’s Keith’s Dumb Obsession, not mine. That group should include two Mets: reserve catcher Billy Cotton (1972) and minor-league slugger Terrel Hansen (1992).

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  1. Jon Springer says:

    Access Denied to Secret Society

    Submitted by (not verified) on Fri, 05/01/2009 – 1:58pm.
    And still champion…Mets by the Numbers.

    “Down goes Olbermann
    Down goes Olbermann
    Down goes Olbermann…”

    This doesn’t make him the Worst Person in the World or anything, there’s about four million Yankees fans who should be eligible first, but he should have asked the source before going public with any Mets nominee for any Sharman Society that doesn’t have Mr. Whipple as proprietor (that’s a joke for anyone born before the Joel Youngblood Era). Superb work, sir. And quicker than an Ollie Perez pitch on its way to visit the Pepsi Porch.

    I’d send a copy of the book MSNBC’s way and tell him to learn his numbers, though methinks he already has a copy.

  2. Rory Costello says:

    According to The Sporting News (September 4 and October 19, 1963), Huckle was with the Mets for about 10 days in between the end of the Carolina League season (September 8) and being called to military service (September 19). The Mets had a nine-game homestand at the Polo Grounfs from 9/10 through 9/18. Huckle was in uniform (number not disclosed) while working out.

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