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Gil Hodges
First baseman
Born: April 4, 1924(1924-04-04)
Princeton, Indiana
Died: April 2, 1972 (aged 47)
West Palm Beach, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
October 3, 1943 for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
May 5, 1963 for the New York Mets
Career statistics
Batting average     .273
Home runs     370
Runs batted in     1,274
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Gilbert Raymond Hodges (April 4, 1924 – April 2, 1972) was an American first baseman and manager in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the major leagues' outstanding first baseman in the 1950s, with teammate Duke Snider being the only player to have more home runs or runs batted in during the decade. For a time, his 370 career home runs were a National League (NL) record for right-handed hitters, and briefly ranked tenth in major league history; he held the NL record for career grand slams from 1957 to 1974. He anchored the infield on six pennant winners, and remains one of the most beloved and admired players in team history. A sterling defensive player, he won the first three Gold Glove Awards and led the NL in double plays four times and in putouts, assists and fielding percentage three times each. He ranked second in NL history with 1,281 assists and 1,614 double plays when his career ended, and was also among the league's career leaders in games (6th, 1,908) and total chances (10th, 16,751) at first base. He managed the New York Mets to the 1969 World Series title, one of the greatest upsets in Series history, before his death in 1972.

Contents

Career

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Early years

Hodges was born Gilbert Ray Hodges in Princeton, Indiana, the son of coal miner Charlie and his wife Irene; the family moved to nearby Petersburg when Gil was seven. Hodges was a star four-sport athlete at Petersburg High School, earning a combined seven varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track. He declined a 1941 contract offer from the Detroit Tigers and instead attended Saint Joseph's College with the hope of eventually becoming a collegiate coach. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, and appeared in one game for the team as a third baseman that year. He entered the Marine Corps during World War II after having participated in its ROTC program at Saint Joseph's, serving as an anti-aircraft gunner in the battles of Tinian and Okinawa and receiving a Bronze Star and a commendation for courage under fire for his actions. After his 1946 military discharge he returned to Brooklyn and saw play as a catcher in 1947, joining the team's already solid nucleus of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Carl Furillo; but the emergence of Roy Campanella made it evident that Hodges had little future behind the plate, and he was shifted by manager Leo Durocher to first base, where his play came to be regarded as exemplary. Hodges' only appearance in the 1947 World Series against the New York Yankees was as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Rex Barney in Game 7; he struck out. As a 1948 rookie, he batted .249 with 11 home runs and 70 RBI.

On June 25, 1949, he hit for the cycle. He led the NL in putouts (1336), double plays (142) and fielding average (.995) that season, and tied Hack Wilson's 1932 club record for right-handed hitters with 23 homers. His 115 RBI were fourth in the NL, and he made his first of seven consecutive All-Star teams. Facing the Yankees again in the 1949 Series, he batted only .235 but did drive in the sole run in Brooklyn's only victory, a 1-0 triumph in Game 2. In Game 5 he hit a 3-run homer with two out in the seventh to pull the Dodgers within 10-6, but struck out to end the game and the Series. On August 31, 1950 against the Boston Braves, he joined Lou Gehrig as just the second player since 1900 to hit four home runs in a game without the benefit of extra innings; he hit them against four different pitchers, with the first coming off Warren Spahn. He also got 17 total bases in the game, tied for third in major league history. That year he also led the league in fielding (.994) and set an NL record with 159 double plays, breaking Frank McCormick's mark of 153 with the 1939 Cincinnati Reds; he broke his own record in 1951 with 171, a record which stood until Donn Clendenon had 182 for the 1966 Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished 1950 third in the league in both homers (32) and RBI (113), and came in eighth in the MVP voting. In 1951 he became the first Dodger to hit 40 home runs, breaking Babe Herman's 1930 mark of 35; Campanella hit 41 in 1953, but Hodges would recapture the record with 42 in 1954 before Snider eclipsed him again with 43 in 1956. His last home run of 1951 came on October 2 against the New York Giants, as the Dodgers tied the 3-game NL playoff series at a game each with a 10-0 win; New York would take the pennant the next day on Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World". Hodges also led the NL with 126 assists in 1951, and was second in HRs, third in runs (118) and total bases (307), fifth in slugging average (.527), and sixth in RBI (103).

Hodges was an eight-time All-Star, from 1949–55 and in 1957. With his last home run of 1952, he tied Dolph Camilli's Dodger career record of 139, and he passed him in 1953; Snider would move ahead of him in 1956. He again led the NL with 116 assists in 1952, and was third in the league in home runs (32) and fourth in RBI (102) and slugging (.500). A great fan favorite in Brooklyn, he was perhaps the only Dodger regular never booed at their home park, Ebbets Field. Fans were very supportive even when Hodges suffered through one of the most famous slumps in baseball history, going hitless in the last nine games of 1952; during the 1952 World Series against the Yankees, he finished the Series 0-21 at the plate as Brooklyn lost in seven games. When his slump continued into the following spring, fans reacted with countless letters and good-luck gifts, and one Brooklyn priest – Father Herbert Redmond of St. Francis Roman Catholic Church – told his flock: "It's far too hot for a homily. Keep the Commandments and say a prayer for Gil Hodges."[1] Hodges began hitting again soon afterward, and rarely struggled again in the World Series.

Hodges was involved in a blown call in the 1952 World Series. In the fifth game, Johnny Sain, batting for the Yankees in the 10th inning, grounded out—so said first base umpire Art Passarella. The photograph of the play, however, shows Sain stepping on first base while Hodges, also with a foot on the bag, reaches for the ball, which is about a foot away from his glove. Still, Passarella called Sain out. Baseball commissioner Ford Frick, an ex-newspaperman himself, refused to defend Passarella.

He ended 1953 with a .302 batting average, though only fifth in the NL in RBI (122) and sixth in home runs (31). Against the Yankees in the 1953 Series, Hodges hit an impressive .364; he had three hits including a homer in the 9-5 Game 1 loss, but the Dodgers again lost in six games. Under new manager Walter Alston in 1954 he enjoyed one of his best campaigns, setting the team home run record, hitting a career-high .304 and again leading the NL in putouts (1381) and assists (132). He was second in the league to Ted Kluszewski in home runs and RBI (130), fifth in total bases (335) and sixth in slugging (.579) and runs (106), and placed tenth in the MVP vote.

The Boys of Summer

The 1955 season saw his regular-season production drop off to a .289 average, 27 HRs and 102 RBI, but the year ended with a most satisfying conclusion. Facing the Yankees in the World Series for the fifth time, he was 1-for-12 in the first three games before coming around. In Game 4 he hit a 2-run homer in the fourth inning to put Brooklyn ahead 4-3, and later had an RBI single as they held off the Yankees 8-5; he scored the first run in the 5-3 win in Game 5. In Game 7 he drove in Campanella with two out in the fourth for a 1-0 lead, and added a sacrifice fly to score Reese with one out in the sixth. Johnny Podres scattered eight New York hits, and when Reese threw Elston Howard's grounder to Hodges for the final out, Brooklyn had a 2-0 win and the first World Series title in franchise history.

In 1956 he had 32 home runs and 87 RBI as Brooklyn won the pennant again, and once more met the Yankees in the World Series. In the third inning of Game 1 he hit a 3-run homer to put Brooklyn ahead 5-2, and they went on to a 6-3 win; he had three hits and four RBI in Game 2's 13-8 slugfest, scoring to give the Dodgers a 7-6 lead in the third and doubling in two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings for an 11-7 lead. In Game 5 he struck out, flied to center and lined to third base in Yankee Don Larsen's perfect game, and Brooklyn went on to lose in seven games.

In 1957 Hodges set the NL record for career grand slams, breaking the mark of 12 shared by Rogers Hornsby and Ralph Kiner; his final total of 14 was tied by Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey in 1972, and broken by Aaron in 1974. He had another excellent season, finishing seventh in the NL with a .299 batting average and fifth with 98 RBI, and leading the league with 1317 putouts. He was also among the NL's top ten players in HRs (27), hits (173), runs (94), triples (7), slugging (.511) and total bases (296); in late September he drove in the last Dodger run ever at Ebbets Field, and also the last run in Brooklyn history. He was named to his last All-Star team, and placed seventh in the MVP balloting. After the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles, on April 23, 1958 he became the seventh player to hit 300 home runs in the NL, connecting off Dick Drott of the Chicago Cubs. That year he also tied a post-1900 record by leading the league in double plays (134) for the fourth time, equaling McCormick and Kluszewski; Clendenon eventually broke the record in 1968. But he had only 22 HRs and 64 RBI as the Dodgers finished in seventh place in their first season in California. Also in 1958, he broke Camilli's NL record of 923 career strikeouts.

Things turned around in 1959 as the Dodgers captured another NL title, with Hodges contributing 25 HRs and 80 RBI and hitting .276, coming in seventh in the league with a .513 slugging mark; he also led the NL with a .992 fielding average. He batted .391 in the 1959 World Series against the Chicago White Sox (his first against a non-Yankee team), with his solo home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 giving the Dodgers a 5-4 win, as they triumphed in six games for another Series championship. In 1960 he broke Kiner's NL record for right-handed hitters of 351 career home runs, and appeared on the TV program Home Run Derby. In his last season with the Dodgers in 1961, he became the team's career RBI leader with 1254, passing Zack Wheat; Snider moved ahead of him the following year. Hodges received the first three Gold Glove Awards ever presented from 1957 to 1959; his career fielding average of .992 is outstanding.

Return to New York

After being chosen in the expansion draft, Hodges was one of the original 1962 Mets; despite knee problems he was persuaded to continue his playing career in New York, and he hit the first home run in franchise history. By the end of the year, in which he played only 54 games, he ranked tenth in major league history with 370 HRs – second to only Jimmie Foxx among right-handed hitters.

Managerial career

After 11 games with the Mets in 1963, during which he batted .227 with no homers and was plagued by injuries, he was traded to the Washington Senators in late May for outfielder Jimmy Piersall with the purpose of him replacing Mickey Vernon as Washington's manager. Hodges immediately announced his retirement from playing in order to clearly focus on his new position. The Giants' Willie Mays had passed him weeks earlier on April 19 to become the NL's home run leader among right-handed hitters; Hodges' last game had been on May 5 in a doubleheader hosting the Giants (who had moved to San Francisco in 1958).

Hodges managed the Senators through 1967, and although they improved in each season they never achieved a winning record. One of the most notable incidents in his career occurred in the summer of 1965, when pitcher Ryne Duren – reaching the end of his career and sinking into alcoholism – walked onto a bridge with intentions of suicide; his manager talked him away from the edge. In 1968 Hodges was brought back to manage the perennially woeful Mets, and while the team only posted a 73-89 record it was nonetheless the best mark in their seven-year existence. In 1969, he led the "Miracle Mets" to the World Series championship, defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles; after losing Game 1, they came back for four straight victories, including two by 2-1 scores. Finishing higher than ninth place for the first time, the Mets became not only the first expansion team to win the Series, but also the first team ever to win the Series after finishing at least 15 games under .500 the previous year. Hodges was named The Sporting News' Manager of the Year.

The moment many Mets fans of a certain age and Hall of Fame slugger and Mets announcer Ralph Kiner consider the most memorable in team history, and the turning point in the team’s 1969 season, came in the third inning of the second game of a July 30 doubleheader against the Houston Astros. When the Mets' star left fielder Cleon Jones failed to hustle after a ball hit to the outfield, Hodges removed him from the game. But rather than simply signal from the dugout for Jones to come out, or delegate the job to one of his coaches, Hodges left the dugout and slowly, deliberately, walked all the way out to left field to remove Jones, and walked him back to the bench. For the rest of that season, Jones never failed to hustle. Kiner has since retold that story dozens of times during Mets broadcasts, both as a tribute to Hodges, and as an illustration of his quiet but disciplined character.

Death

After identical third-place seasons of 83-79 in 1970 and 1971, Gil Hodges died suddenly of a heart attack in West Palm Beach, Florida while playing golf with other members of the Mets coaching staff, including Yogi Berra, during an off day from spring training on April 2, 1972. He had suffered a previous heart attack during a September 1968 game. He was survived by his wife, the former Joan Lombardi, whom he had married on December 26, 1948, and his son and three daughters. Berra was named to succeed him as manager. His funeral Mass was said at his home parish of Our Lady Help of Christians in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Hodges is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The Mets wore a black-armband on the left sleeves of their uniform jerseys during the 1972 season in honor of Hodges.

Accomplishments

Hodges batted .273 in his career with a .487 slugging average, 1921 hits, 1274 RBI, 1105 runs, 295 doubles and 63 stolen bases in 2071 games. His 361 home runs with the Dodgers remain second in team history to Snider's 389. His 1614 career double plays placed him behind only Charlie Grimm (1733) in NL history, and were a major league record for a right-handed first baseman until Chris Chambliss surpassed him in 1984. His 1281 career assists ranked second in league history to Fred Tenney's 1363, and trailed only Ed Konetchy's 1292 among all right-handed first basemen. Snider broke his NL record of 1137 career strikeouts in 1964.

Hodges was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982. The Mets also retired his uniform number 14 in 1973.

He received New York City's highest civilian honor, the Bronze Medallion in 1969. In 1978, the Marine Parkway Bridge, connecting the Marine Park area of Brooklyn with the Rockaways in Queens, was renamed the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge in his memory. Other Brooklyn locations named for him are a park on Carroll Street, a Little League field on MacDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, a section of Avenue L and P.S. 193. In addition, part of Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn is named Gil Hodges Way. A Brooklyn bowling alley is also named after him Gil Hodges Lanes. In Indiana, the high school baseball stadium in his birthplace of Princeton, Indiana, and a bridge spanning the East Fork of the White River in northern Pike County, Indiana on State Road 57 bear his name. In 2007, Hodges was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.[2]

Hodges figures prominently in many of the stories in the book Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004), written by Erskine, an old teammate.

Hall of Fame consideration

Metret14.PNG
Gil Hodges's number 14 was retired by the New York Mets in 1972

There has been controversy over the fact that Gil Hodges has not been elected to membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.[citation needed] He was considered to be one of the finest players of the 1950s,[citation needed]and graduated to managerial success with the Mets. But critics of his candidacy point out that despite his offensive prowess, he never led the NL in any offensive category such as home runs, RBI, or slugging average, and never came close to winning an MVP award.[citation needed] The latter fact may have been partially due to his having many of his best seasons (1950–51, 1954, 1957) in years when the Dodgers did not win the pennant.[citation needed] In addition, his career batting average of .273 was likely frowned on by many Hall of Fame voters in his early years of eligibility; at the time of his death, only five players had ever been elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America with batting averages below .300 – all of them catchers or shortstops, and only one (Rabbit Maranville) who had an average lower than Hodges' or who had not won an MVP award. By the time his initial eligibility expired in 1983, the BBWAA had elected only two more players with averages below .274 – third basemen Eddie Mathews (.271), who hit over 500 HRs, leading the NL twice, and Brooks Robinson (.267), who won an MVP award and set numerous defensive records.

Nonetheless, Hodges was the prototype of the modern slugging first baseman, and while the post-1961 expansion era has resulted in numerous players surpassing his home run and RBI totals, he remains the only one of the 21 players who had 300 or more home runs by the time of his retirement who has not yet been elected (all but Chuck Klein and Johnny Mize were elected by the BBWAA). Some observers have also suggested that his premature passing in 1972 removed him from public consciousness, whereas other ballplayers – including numerous Dodger greats – were in the public eye for years afterward, receiving the exposure which assist in their election. He did, however, collect 3010 votes cast by the BBWAA during his initial eligibility period from 1969 to 1983 – a record for an unselected player. (Jim Rice had surpassed that total in 2007, but was eventually voted into the Hall in January 2009.) Hodges has been regularly considered for selection by the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee since 1987, falling one vote short of election in 1993, when no candidates were selected.

In the years since Hodges' retirement, however, the Hall of Fame has refused admittance to many players with similar, or even superior, records.[citation needed] Frank Howard, for example, hit 382 home runs from 1958 to 1973, with a .273 batting average, a .352 on base percentage, and a .499 slugging percentage, compared to Hodges' .273 batting average, .359 on base percentage, and .487 slugging percentage. In addition, the 1960s were a far less offensively-oriented era than the 1950s in which Hodges starred.[citation needed] Howard never received serious Hall of Fame consideration.[citation needed]

A 52 ft.x16ft. mural was recently dedicated in Petersburg, Indiana, Gil's hometown. The mural was painted by artist Randy Hedden and includes three pictures of Gil— as a Brooklyn Dodger, as manager of the Mets, and at-bat in Ebbetts Field. The purpose of the mural is to "raise awareness of Hodges' absence from the Baseball Hall of Fame." It is located at the intersection of Hwys 61 & 57 in Petersburg. [1]

Books

  • Roger Kahn, "The Boys of Summer" (1972)
  • Milton J. Shapiro. The Gil Hodges Story (1960).
  • Gil Hodges and Frank Slocum. The Game Of Baseball (1969).
  • Marino Amaruso. Gil Hodges: The Quiet Man (1991).
  • Tom Oliphant. "Praying for Gil Hodges : A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family's Love of the Brooklyn Dodgers" (2005) ISBN 0-312-31761-1.

See also

References

  1. ^ Oliphant, Thomas (2005). Praying For Gil Hodges. United States: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-31761-1. 
  2. ^ Marine Corps Community Services: Gil Hodges

External links


Simple English

Gil Hodges (April 4, 1924  – April 2, 1972) was a baseball player and manager. He was a player on the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Mets. Then he was a manager for the Mets.

Hodges was the manager of the 1969 mets. He also was a player for the 1955 Dodgers.


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