Gil Hodges, Brooklyn favorite, to get another chance at the Hall of Fame
He wears uniform number 14 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A number that should have been retired when the Dodgers left town for the West Coast.
Enrique Hernandez, a utility player for the Dodgers – who is a free agent – wears 14. He previously played for the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.
Last season he collected 32 hits in 139 at-bats for the World Champions, for an average of .230.
Gil Hodges, who was generally considered to be the best defensive first baseman of the 1950s, and a National League All-Star for eight seasons as well as a three-time Gold Glove Award winner should have retired the number.
So why is Hernandez wearing it?
“Our policy is to retire the numbers of players who are in the Hall of Fame, and honor the others in ‘Legends of Dodger Baseball,’” Lon Rosen, Dodgers’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer told the Brooklyn Eagle, via an e-mail.
And that led to another question – why isn’t Gil Hodges in Cooperstown?
Not only was he a great fan favorite in the borough – he was perhaps the only Dodgers regular never booed at Ebbets Field.
But on the field – he and Duke Snider are the only players to have the most home runs or runs batted in together during the decade with Brooklyn.
Hodges was the National League leader in double plays (four times) and in putouts, assists and fielding percentage three times each.
The year Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier – 1947 – was the year Hodges was called up to Brooklyn. He was a catcher, joining Pee Wee Reese and Carl Furillo.
With the emergence of Roy Campanella behind the plate, manager Leo Durocher shifted Hodges to first base.
Hodges batted .273 in his career with a .487 slugging percentage, 1,921 hits, 1,274 runs batted in, 1,105 runs, 370 home runs, 295 doubles and 63 stolen bases in 2,071 games.
His 361 home runs with the Dodgers remain second in team history to Snider’s 389.
So why hasn’t Cooperstown called?
In 2011, Hodges became a Golden Era candidate (1947-1972 era) for consideration to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee – which replaced the Veterans Committee in 2010 – on December 5, 2011.
The knock of Hodges was that he never led the National League in any offensive category and never came close to winning a Most Valuable Player award.
Hodges died in 1972 and his wake was held at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Midwood. At that time, 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 baseman Eddie Mathews (.271), who hit over 500 home runs, leading the NL twice, and Brooks Robinson (.267), who won an MVP award.
Yet, other players, including Mathews, Al Kaline, Billy Williams and Eddie Murray, have been elected to the Hall of Fame despite never having been voted Most Valuable Player.
Tony Perez and Barry Larkin have been elected despite never having led their league in any important offensive category in a season. In fact, Perez, like Hodges, also was never voted MVP, and his overall career statistics mirror Hodges’.
In 1968 Hodges was brought back to New York to manage the woeful Mets – the team posted a 73-89 record – its best mark in their seven years of existence up to that point.
In 1969, he led the “Miracle Mets” to the World Series championship defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, after losing Game 1, they came for four straight victories.
His No. 14 was retired by the New York Mets in 1973.
The next time Hodges will be eligible for a Hall of Fame vote will be December 2021, when candidates from the revamped “Golden Days” era (1950-1969) are considered.
That’s when 14 will be retired — permanently.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle.
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