Casting A Hall of Fame Vote for Gil Hodges

SportsLifer@sportsliferCorrespondent IIFebruary 21, 2011

OK. someone’s gotta help his cause. Crunch the numbers, do the math. Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame.

For more than a decade—beginning in 1949 until the late 50s—Gilbert Raymond Hodges was as good as any first baseman in baseball. He was an eight-time All-Star during that span, and his batting statistics and fielding prowess over shadowed those of any other first baseman in that era.

Hodges appeared in one game as a third baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, then entered the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He served as an anti-aircraft gunner in the battles of Tinian and Okinawa, receiving a Bronze Star and a commendation for courage under fire for his actions.

Gil Hodges hit 370 home runs lifetime, batted .273, and drove in 100 runs seven straight years, beginning in 1949. Hodges hit at least 30 homers in a season six times, and at one time late in his career broke Ralph Kiner’s National League record for career home runs by a right-hand batter. He is one of the few batters to hit four home runs in a single game and his 361 homers remain second in Dodger history to Duke Snider’s 389.

He was the cornerstone at first base for a Dodgers team that won five pennants and a World Series in Brooklyn. And later Hodges helped lead the Dodgers to another championship in 1959 in Los Angeles, with 25 homers and 80 RBIs.

World Series Heroics
Beloved by Dodger fans, he drove in both runs of Game 7 of the 1955 World

Series as the Dodgers beat the Yankees, 2-0, to won their first and only championship for Brooklyn. He batted .391 in the 1959 Series and his home run in the eighth inning of Game Four gave Los Angeles a 5-4 win en route to its first championship in Los Angeles.

Hodges was a Gold Glove first baseman in an age before they gave out Gold Gloves. Hodges was one of the best right-hand fielding first basemen in history. He led the league in fielding percentage four times and in putouts and assists three times. and ranks second behind Charlie Grimm in NL career double plays by a first baseman.

But the trump card that separates Hodges from other candidates is his managerial record, albeit brief, topped by a World Championship in 1969. After winding up his career with the original Mets in 1963, Hodges was traded to the Washington Senators for Jimmy Piersall and replaced Mickey Vernon as manager. Hodges managed the Senators through 1967 and they improved each season.

Hodges took over the reins of the Mets in 1968. One year later the Miracle Mets became perhaps the most improbable champion in baseball history, rising from ninth place the previous year to win 100 games before sweeping the Braves in the first NLCS and later topping the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in five games in the 1969 World Series.

Hodges managed the Mets to a pair of third-place finishes in 1970 and 1971, but died of a heart attack while playing golf with other members of the Mets coaching staff just days before the 1972 season, two days shy of his 48th birthday.

Hodges came close to being elected to the Hall of Fame several times by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In his final year on the ballot in 1983, he garnered 63.4 percent of the vote, just short of the required 75 percent. Perhaps it’s time Cooperstown took another look at his credentials.

Related Hall of Fame Posts

Guidry vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare

Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall