Gil Hodges Elected to The Hall Of Fame
Hodges Entry To The Hall Of Fame Finally Happens By Rich Coutinho, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
His number 14 is on the retired number wall at Citifield and his memory is etched in the hearts of every Met fan. And now the entire baseball community will revere him in the Baseball Hall Of Fame as Gil Hodges FINALLY got the long overdue invite this weekend of being in the same Hall as greats like Tom Seaver and Willie Mays.
As a player, Hodges swung his big bat at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn most of his career until the Dodgers fled to the west coast after the 1957 season. He slugged 370 career home runs and was generally considered the best defensive first basemen of his era. He arrived on the scene in Brooklyn around the same time as Jackie Robinson and much like Pee Wee Reese made Jackie feel at home as the color barrier was being erased by Branch Rickey and the Dodgers.
In 1962 he was an Original Met and he hit the first home run in Met franchise history before retiring as a player but he would go on to hit many more home runs managing the 1969 team to a World Championship that is still recognized as the greatest miracle in sports history. He forged a relationship with Tom Seaver as he joined the team as manager in 1968 which was Tom Terrific’s second season as a Met.
I remember chatting with Seaver so many times about Gil Hodges and countless times Seaver referred to Hodges as the greatest influence on his career. If truth be told when Hodges took over the reigns as manager the Mets had been a butt of jokes all around baseball but he put a swift end to that. In many ways, Hodges became the first manager in baseball that used analytics as his platoon system would keep the Mets fresh through the summer while the Cubs seem to hit a wall in mid-August giving the Mets the chance to get to The World Series.
They beat the Cubs in win first NL East title in baseball history winning 100 games. And this was a team that up to that point had never won more than 73 games in any season. Both Hodges and Seaver were ex-Marines and they bonded understanding that discipline and professionalism are the keys that can open the door to success.
At that time I was an 8 year old kid living in the Bronx as a Met fan and Gil showed me that I should not let any Yankee fan diminish my love and admiration for the Mets. In fact, they would become the team Yankee fans would envy and that certainly came true. That 1969 summer is something that has stayed with me for my entire life. When somebody says that I can’t accomplish something I look back on that summer and just laugh because believing you can do something is the first step towards doing something.
3 years after that 1969 summer I was with the family watching TV when we heard the news-Gil Hodges had died of a heart attack and as an 11 year old I was crushed. I felt my life had come to a screeching halt. My parents tried to console me but as the days passed I felt more and more depressed and my parents decided it would be best if we attended the Met opener (which was delayed due to a labor work stoppage) where they would honor Gil Hodges. And my Dad also said it would be great to see the newest Met-Rusty Staub–who was acquired moments before the death of Hodges was announced.
We got through the ceremony with tears in my eyes and my parents both said something I would never forget telling me it was a time to watch a game that Gil Hodges from afar taught me to love. On the way home my parents reinforced with me that it is ok to be sad when losing someone but it is also imperative to cherish the memories and never forget. And I must say every time I have lost someone close to me including my 2 parents, I think back to that day at Shea Stadium and it helps me get through a day of despair.
And when I cover Met games today it is very appropriate that I drive my car on Seaver Way and enter the press box through the Hodges entrance–2 men that helped shape my love for a game that makes me happy every single day. And now Gil has joined Tom Seaver in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Somewhere up in heaven they are smiling and you know my parents up there are happy as well.
Thank you Gil–I am so elated you finally got elected and for me I have a great feeling inside. The same feeling I got when you reversed an umpire’s decision with a shoe polish stained bat in Game 5 of The World Series which completed that miracle season. And I promise you all that wherever I am–NY or Florida or on the road for the Mets–I will be in Cooperstown the day he gets enshrined because Gil Hodges always embodied what is both great about baseball and what is great about life. You work hard and try your best to succeed no matter what others say but NEVER do it at the expense of others.