For Gil Hodges, it’s closure time once again
Call it closure.
Closure one – 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 – will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this July in Cooperstown, New York.
And now, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned his uniform number 14 will never again be worn by any member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
When initially contacted about his uniform being permanently retired, Lon Rosen, Dodgers’ executive vice-president and chief marketing officer told the Eagle via an email: “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’”.
When contacted last week, and asked about Hodges’ number being retired, Rosen responded with a one-word e-mail: “Yes.”
The number 14 issue came to the forefront when Enrique Hernandez, a utility player for the Dodgers – who was a free agent – was wearing 14.
Hernandez is currently an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox – and he wears uniform number 5.
Hernandez previously played for the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.
In fact, during the 2020 season with the Dodgers he collected 32 hits in 139 at-bats for the World Champions, for an average of .230.
Last season, with the Red Sox he played in 134 games, had 127 hits in 508 at-bats and hit .250. At last look, his batting average was .095 at the start of this season with Boston.
A far cry from the Hall of Famer who proudly wore that jersey.
Not only was Gil Hodges 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.
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.
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.
This July – in Cooperstown – No. 14 will be on display permanently – and never again worn by a member of the Dodgers.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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