Gil Hodges gets his due in Cooperstown
Dodgers and Mets icon finally inducted into Hall of Fame
There was relief, weeping and finally some closure for the Hodges family.
Gil Hodges, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ ever-reliable first baseman and manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, N.Y., some 205 miles from where the sporting icon began his legend at Ebbets Field.
“He would be so proud. Today I am especially happy for my mother,” Irene Hodges said during a very touching speech ahead of her father’s official enshrinement.
Denied entry despite driving in more runs than any big league first baseman in the 1950s, helping the Dodgers win their only World Series title in Brooklyn in 1955 and guiding the Amazin’ Mets to their first-ever championship, Gil Hodges got the call last December by the Golden Days Era Committee.
“When the call came from the Hall of Fame … I began sobbing probably as much as I did when I lost my father,” noted Irene Hodges.
“I was so beyond happy for him, and even thrilled that my mom at 95 would be able hear this news. My mom is watching today from our home in Brooklyn.”
The Hodges family was a fixture here in Sheepshead Bay and surrounding areas following the patriarch’s passing at the age of 47 due to a heart attack in 1972, when he was preparing to manage the Mets that season.
Though his years of eligibility for getting voted into the Hall by baseball writers came and went, Hodges was always the subject of the Cooperstown debate.
Not only did he drive in just over 1,000 runs in the ’50s, but he also spearheaded the Dodgers to seven pennants during his playing career, culminating in the celebrated ’55 championship over the hated Yankees and the 1959 world title in Los Angeles vs. the Chicago White Sox.
“He knew he was a good ballplayer. He was consistent. He was strong,” Irene Hodges told MLB.com.
“But he felt there were so many other ballplayers that he had such respect for. They were the top of baseball. He never felt (he was a Hall of Famer) about himself.”
But now he is, and it was long overdue.
Hodges transitioned to the managerial side in 1963 with the Washington Senators, but made his biggest impact from the dugout with the ’69 Mets, who went from National League laughingstocks to one of the most memorable championship teams in our city’s history.
New York knocked off Baltimore in five games that October to grab the Fall Classic in Flushing, N.Y., further cementing Hodges’ legacy across the five boroughs, even if Brooklyn will always be considered his baseball home.
“My dad had the most amazing smile from ear to ear,” Irene Hodges said. “That day will stand out forever. He was still in uniform. He had his hat on. He was just standing there smiling saying, ‘Can you believe this?’ I could see it like it was yesterday.”
Hodges’ widow, Joan, who is 95, wasn’t able to attend the ceremony in Cooperstown, though her daughter indicated that she did take in the sights via television from her Brooklyn home.
Joan Hodges was able to receive the initial news late last year when the long-awaited Hall call finally came in.
“I hadn’t even told my mother about the voting because I didn’t want her to be disappointed,” Irene revealed in December. “And I didn’t want her to think about it… I said ‘Mommy they want to tell you that Daddy is voted into the Hall of Fame.’ And she put her hand on her chest and said ‘Really? He really did it? Oh Gil, I’m so happy.’”
Gil Hodges Jr., who spearheaded his father’s candidacy for many years, also took the Hall matter to heart, even if Gil Sr., refused to.
“Being the only boy I got to travel a lot with him and the Hall of Fame was never a subject again,” Gil Jr. said. “We’re speaking about someone that was 47 years old (when he died). So no one thinks at 47 that not only your career is coming to an end, but your existence.”
“But he was the type of person who, if he were alive through all of this process through the 30-some odd times… he would have taken each one in in stride. It would have never been anything that he would get upset about.”
Nothing to get upset about any longer.
Brooklyn’s own Gil Hodges is a Hall of Famer at last.
Even if he was one all along.
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