Legendary former Mets manager Gil Hodges is among 10 candidates who are on the Veterans Committee ballot for the Hall of Fame that was released on Thursday. Once and for all, let’s get him in there.
It’s well known that Hodges has received more votes than anyone who is not in the Hall. His 63.4% in 1983 is the highest total for anyone who didn’t get in the following year. Of course, Hodges did not have a following year — that was his 15th and final time on the ballot. Veterans Committees have ignored him since, but this is the first time the committee will consider his candidacy after getting revamped a second time (the first revamping led to no one getting elected).
Hodges is certainly a worthy candidate. He hit 370 home runs, which may not seem like a lot now, but when he retired he was in or near the top 10 all-time. He had 30+ home runs in five consecutive seasons when hitting 30 homers was an accomplishment. He drove in 100+ runs seven straight times. He was an eight-time All-Star. He was a career .273 batter — not great, but on par with such recent inductees as Andre Dawson. Defensively, Hodges was the best first baseman of his day. The Gold Glove wasn’t introduced until 1957, 10 years after his career began. Hodges won it the first three seasons when he was already in his mid 30s (one of them was on display at his bowling alley in Brooklyn — I used to marvel at it and his other baseball mementos when I was a kid). He was also a leader of those great Brooklyn Dodgers teams.
Then there is his managerial record. He struggled in his first five years at the helm of terrible Washington Senators teams, but he found his way in New York, of course leading the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series championship. He was developing into an excellent manager when a heart attack killed him days before the 1972 season was about to start.
Hodges was also by all accounts a great man. Of course, there of lots of great men who are not in the Hall of Fame (and some rotten ones who are), but his solid character should be enough to push him through. He was widely respected throughout the league. Tom Seaver, for example, cannot say enough nice things about him.
Among the 16 people on the committee are Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda and Don Sutton. Kiner always spoke highly of Hodges, and Lasorda and Sutton are Dodgers, the former a huge booster for his team. Perhaps the three of them can convince the other members (unless Kiner is upset that Hodges had one more homer than him!). Hodges needs 75% of the vote when the committee marks its ballots on December 5 at the winter meetings — that’s 12 votes.
It’s about time Gil Hodges took his rightful place in Cooperstown.