Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.
Sometimes no matter how crappy he is in the clutch, a baseball player can be beloved for his name only. You know, the perfect baseball name. Like Duffy Dyer, Tug McGraw or Coco Crisp, whose name was so cool that fans thought he would be another Johnny Damon by coolness alone. I’m embarrassed to say I bought Crisp’s rap album.
The novelty wears off of course, when the realization kicks in that a guy with a boring name that hits .285 is far preferable to the “colorful, zany character in the clubhouse” who hits .230. Yes, I mean you, Kevin Millar. (For the record, I did not buy any of his albums).
But back to politics. Wilbur Huckle was a minor league fan favorite in the Mets farm system who didn’t even get one of those Moonlight Graham pity at-bats in the major leagues. In 1964, flush with excitement over their new digs at Shea Stadium, New York fans jokingly formed the “Metropolitan Party” and nominated Huckle as their presidential candidate.
Occasionally at Fenway, you’ll see a handmade “David Ortiz for President” sign vying for four seconds of TV coverage. But these buttons were everywhere at Shea.
Huckle, who was the minor league roommate of future Mets Hall of Famer Tom “Terrific” Seaver, did not wind up with any electoral votes against Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater — but how many light-hitting Mets minor leaguers from the 1960s do we still talk about today?
Huckle’s brief cult hero status was captured in the book, “Williamsport’s Baseball Heritage,” by James P. Quigel and Louis E. Hunsinger:
“Shortshop Wilbur Huckle had the surest hands of any Mets infielder and delighted Bowman Field fans with his hustle and work ethic. Though small in stature, the affable redhead was a scrapper and one of the most popular players during the Mets years in Williamsport. He often conducted impromptu fielding clinics for neighborhood kids outside his Cherry Street apartment before arriving at the ballpark for official duty.”
“Affable redhead?” Sounds like a description of Lucille Ball.
The fact that Mets fans zealously adopted Huckle reminds me of Charlie Brown’s undying devotion to his favorite baseball player, Joe Shlabotnik, who batted .004 in one season due to a lucky bloop single. He also once threw out a runner who had fallen down between first and second base.
After retiring, Shlabotnik went on to manage one game with the Waffletown Syrups and was fired for ordering a suicide squeeze play with no one on base, according to the historians at Peanuts Wiki.
Huckle went on to manage the Batavia Trojans for three seasons (1972-1974), skippering his clubs to two sixth place finishes and one fifth place finish.
If you’re reading this, Mr. Huckle, please get in touch and let Mets Nation know which candidate you are supporting in 2008!
If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!