Our prayers to the baseball gods have been answered.
Gilbert Ray Hodges, Brooklyn’s adopted beloved son, was finally elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame — in his 35th appearance on a ballot more than 52 years since his name first appeared.
In those 52 years, Hodges had received more than 3,000 votes on the various Hall of Fame ballots, though never the magic number for enshrinement. However, on Dec. 5, 12 out of 16 votes on the Golden Days Era Committee ballot were enough for the late great Brooklyn Dodger to reach the 75 percent threshold.
“I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the 1950s. “This is something that’s going to reverberate for years to come. It’s a wonderful thing for everybody concerned. There’s no doubt in my mind that perseverance paid off.”
Hodges joins former Chicago White Sox star Minnie Miñoso and Minnesota Twins’ electees Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva as new Hall of Famers. The Early Baseball Era Committee chose Negro League stars Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler. All six players will be part of Cooperstown’s Class of 2022, along with any players selected on Jan. 25 from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
What likely changed this time around was that the voters only focused on the 20-year period from 1950 through 1969. That was a slight change from past Golden Era ballots. In those 20 years, Hodges exerted his dominance as a player and captured that World Series title as a manager — all of which supported his case for election.
For Hodges’ 95-year-old widow Joan — who still lives in the home the couple shared on Bedford Avenue during his Brooklyn Dodger days — this day was decades in the making. Though she always considered her husband a member of her own Hall of Fame, now at least she knows Gil will be enshrined alongside baseball’s greatest players.
“I was very thrilled,” said Joan the morning after the vote. “He’s very deserving.”
Hodges’ son Gil Jr. headed into work the evening of Dec. 5 after not hearing anything for several hours. He had grown so accustomed to not receiving the call, so he continued about his regular business.
However, while he was at work, he heard that his mother did in fact receive the long-awaited call that his father is now a Hall of Famer.
“I said to the guys at work, ‘Hey listen, I gotta go!’ ” Hodges Jr. said. “They asked if I could stay for another hour and a half, and I said, ‘I’ve been waiting 50 years for this. I’m not staying five minutes!’”
Over the next 24 hours, Hodges Jr. fielded hundreds of congratulatory calls, emails, and texts — even from some phone numbers he didn’t know. He’s always said that his father is in “his” Hall of Fame, yet now he can proudly say that his dad is in “the” Hall of Fame.
“This Hall of Fame announcement was the greatest thing for my mother that has taken place in decades,” he said. “I’m just so happy that she was here and with us to see this because that was more important than anything.”
His numbers alone should have gotten him elected a long time ago. In 18 seasons as a player, the former parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians, Midwood, was an eight-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion in seven trips to the Fall Classic for the Dodgers. Starting in 1957, he won the first three Gold Glove Awards for first basemen at a time when there was only one award for both leagues.
For the 1950s, Hodges finished second in total home runs (310) and RBI (1,001) behind only Snider, his teammate and now fellow Hall of Famer. In total, he finished his career with a .273 batting average, 370 home runs, and 1,274 RBIs. When he retired, his 370 homers were ranked 11th in history and the third-most ever by a right-handed hitter, behind only baseball immortals Jimmie Foxx and Willie Mays.
Hodges will soon have a Hall of Fame plaque just like his teammates Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and Pee Wee Reese. He was just as much a part of the team’s success in the 1950s as any of those players, so now he’s taking his rightful place alongside these Brooklyn legends.
When Hodges’ former teammate Carl Erskine found out the good news, he said he was relieved. Though he always felt Hodges would someday be elected, Erskine said he was feeling anxious until that day actually came, and now it’s here.
“I was very close to Gil because both of us were from Indiana,” the soon-to-be 95-year-old Erskine told me following the vote. “It was quite a thrilling event and well-deserved certainly. I’m glad it was decisive finally.”
As a manager, Hodges harkened back to his military days to instill a sense of discipline into a New York Mets franchise that had been the laughingstock of the league since its inception in 1962. The result: A 1969 World Series championship that we’re still talking about today as a miracle.
In addition to the statistics and championships, it was Hodges’ integrity and character as a player, manager, and person that should have made this day come much sooner. However, his family members — who patiently waited all these years — can finally revel in the fact that he’s made the Hall.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony takes place on Sunday, July 24 in Cooperstown. Expect throngs of old-time Brooklyn Dodger fans and also plenty of Mets fans to head there in person to celebrate the strong, quiet man who played and managed with dignity and respect at all times.
Thus concludes the age-old debate about whether Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame. Not only is he a Hall of Famer in the minds and hearts of his family and fans, but he’s now also officially earned the title after many years of patiently waiting.
Baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges — that sure does have a nice ring to it!
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.