It’s only fitting that a major decision concerning a legendary Brooklyn Dodger will have to “wait till next year!”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Golden Days Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame has pushed back its election until next fall after originally being scheduled for this year’s Winter Meetings. Up for consideration is the great Gil Hodges.
This committee specifically focuses on the years 1950-1969, which is a slight change from the previous Golden Era time period of 1947-1972. Anyone who followed Hodges’ baseball career knows this: He was a dominant right-handed power hitting and slick fielding first baseman all throughout the 1950s, and as a manager, he of course turned the hapless New York Mets into the 1969 World Series champions.
That is quite the impressive body of work for the former parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians, Midwood. Yet for some reason, Hodges has had trouble getting elected to Cooperstown.
In 2012, Hodges received nine votes from the Veterans Committee. He needed 12 of 16 for enshrinement, which is the same 75 percent any player, coach or contributor needs for election. In 2014, he wound up in the three-or-fewer voting category.
Every few weeks, it seems Hodges’ son, Gil Hodges Jr., is reminded of this baseball travesty. Since he shares a name with his father, Hodges Jr. often receives the question of whether his dad is in the Hall of Fame whenever he meets someone new. Unfortunately, he still has to answer in the negative.
“As his son, it’s always easy to say he should be in, but after all these years of being objective, statistically wise I’m pretty sure he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Hodges Jr., who currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Just look at what Hodges accomplished as a player. He was an eight-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, including the long-awaited 1955 title in Brooklyn. 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 decade of the 1950s, Hodges was second in home runs with 310 and second in RBIs with 1,001. His teammate Duke Snider bested him slightly in both categories with 326 homers and 1,031 RBIs. The “Duke of Flatbush” was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.
“These are the things that I’m hoping the Veterans Committee looks at during the period defined,” Hodges Jr. said. “If they do that, his records will speak for themselves. I think — with the grace of God — hopefully he’ll get in.”
Several weeks ago when Mets forever ace Tom Seaver died, Gil Hodges’ name was back in the news cycle, since Seaver always credited his manager for turning him into a professional pitcher. Seaver gets a lot of the credit for helping to pull off the ‘69 miracle, yet it was Hodges at the helm the whole time, guiding the bunch to an improbable victory over the mighty Baltimore Orioles.
Due to his untimely death from a heart attack at age 47 while still managing the Mets in 1972, Hodges was no longer a presence at the ballpark, which could have served as a catalyst for getting him elected to the Hall of Fame. Many inductees stick around the game after they retire, which keeps them relevant for when they’re up for a vote.
Over the years, Hodges Jr. has learned not to get his hopes up, yet next fall, he does hope the voting committee specifically looks at the specific period for which they are being asked to vote.
“I’ve seen a lot of things transpire in the game of baseball,” Hodges Jr. said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s (Hodges) in my Hall of Fame, which is a lot more selective.”
Hodges’ 94-year-old widow Joan is doing well, and Hodges Jr. said he would be thrilled if his mom got to see her husband finally enshrined in Cooperstown.
“I would like my mom to be alive to see this,” Hodges Jr. said. “The fact that she knew he got in would be something that would be meaningful to me, more so than anything else.”
The Hodges family has already been waiting so long, but if they have to “wait till next year” just this one last time, that likely wouldn’t be an issue.
Let’s continue to hope and pray that the long-awaited day comes for Joan, Gil Jr. and the scores of Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Mets fans who long to see Hodges take his rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.