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Gilbert Ray "Gil" Hodges

Birthplace: Princeton, Gibson, Indiana, United States
Death: Died in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida, United States
Cause of death: Heart attack
Place of Burial: New York, Kings, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Piram Hodges and Irene Horstmeyer
Husband of <private> Hodges (Lombardi)
Father of <private> Hodges

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Gil Hodges

Gilbert Ray Hodges, ne Hodge (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. He held the National League (NL) record for career home runs by a right-handed hitter from 1960 to 1963, with his final total of 370 briefly ranking 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 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 of a sudden heart attack at age 47.

Early years

Hodges was born in Princeton, Indiana, the son of coal miner Charles and his wife, the former Irene Horstmeyer; he had an older brother, Robert, and a younger sister, Marjorie. The family moved to nearby Petersburg when Hodges 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 spent two years (1941-42 and 1942-43) at St Joseph's, competing in baseball, basketball and briefly in football. 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.

Following the war, he also spent time completing course work at Oakland City University, near his hometown. He played basketball for the Mighty Oaks, joining the 1947-48 team after four games (1-3 record); they finished at 9-10.

Baseball career

Brooklyn Dodgers

After his 1946 military discharge, he returned to the Dodger organization as a catcher with the Newport News Dodgers of the Piedmont League, batting .278 in 129 games as they won the league championship; his teammates included first baseman and future film and television star Chuck Connors. Called up to Brooklyn the following year, he saw action as a catcher in 1947, joining the team's 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. 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 rookie in 1948, 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 (1,336), 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 drove in the sole run in Brooklyn's only victory, a 1-0 triumph in Game 2. In Game 5 he hit a three-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 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 had 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 recaptured 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 three-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 surpassed him in 1953; Snider moved ahead of Hodges 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: After going hitless in his last four regular-season games of 1952, during the 1952 World Series against the Yankees, Hodges went hitless in all seven games. He finished the Series 0-for-21 at the plate, and Brooklyn lost the series 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." 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, as ruled by 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. Baseball commissioner Ford Frick, an ex-newspaperman himself, refused to defend Passarella.

He ended 1953 with a .302 batting average, finishing fifth in the NL in RBI (122) and sixth in home runs (31). Against the Yankees in the 1953 Series, Hodges hit .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 Hodges set the team home run record, hitting a career-high .304 and again leading the NL in putouts (1,381) 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 decline to a .289 average, 27 HRs and 102 RBI. 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 two-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 three-run homer to put Brooklyn ahead 5-2, as 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 finished seventh in the NL with a .299 batting average and fifth with 98 RBI, and leading the league with 1,317 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 the last run in Brooklyn history. He was named to his last All-Star team, and placed seventh in the MVP balloting.

Los Angeles Dodgers

After the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles, on April 23, 1958 Hodges 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. Hodges' totals were 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.

In 1959, 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 team other than the Yankees), 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 1,254, passing Zack Wheat; Snider moved ahead of him the following year. Hodges received the first three Gold Glove Awards presented, from 1957 to 1959.

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 so that he could replace 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. Hodges skillfully platooned his players and utilized everyone in the dugout, keeping everyone fresh.

In the third inning of the second game of a July 30 doubleheader against the Houston Astros, after scoring 11 runs in the ninth inning of the first game, the Astros were in the midst of a ten-run third inning, hitting a number of line drives to left field. 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 dugout. It was a resounding message to the whole team. 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 and impact

On the afternoon of April 2, 1972, Hodges was in West Palm Beach, Florida completing a round of golf with Mets coaches Joe Pignatano, Rube Walker and Eddie Yost when he collapsed en route to his motel room at the Ramada Inn. Hodges had suffered a sudden heart attack and was rushed to the Good Samaritan Hospital where he died within 20 minutes of arrival. Pignatano later recalled Hodges falling backwards and hitting his head on the sidewalk with a "sickening knock", bleeding profusely and turning blue. Pignatano said "I put my hand under Gil's head, but before you knew it, the blood stopped. I knew he was dead. He died in my arms." A lifelong chain smoker, Hodges had suffered a minor heart attack during a September 1968 game.

The baseball community was shocked and devastated at the sudden loss of one of baseball's most beloved players. A symbol of Brooklyn, many former teammates were grieved at the loss of Hodges. Jackie Robinson – himself ill with heart disease and diabetes – told the Associated Press, "He was the core of the Brooklyn Dodgers. With this, and what's happend to Campy (Roy Campanella) and lot of other guys we played with, it scares you. I've been somewhat shocked by it all. I have tremendous feelings for Gil's family and kids." Robinson himself died of a heart attack approximately six months later on October 24, 1972 at age 53.

Duke Snider said "Gil was a great player, but an even greater man." "I'm sick", said Johnny Podres. "I've never known a finer man." A crushed Carl Erskine said "Gil's death is like a bolt out of the blue." Don Drysdale, who himself died of a sudden heart attack in 1993 at age 56, wrote in his autobiography that Hodges' death "absolutely shattered me. I just flew apart. I didn't leave my apartment in Texas for three days. I didn't want to see anybody. I couldn't get myself to go to the funeral. It was like I'd lost a part of my family."

The wake was held at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in the Midwood section of Brooklyn on April 4, what would have been Hodges' 48th birthday. It was later estimated that approximately 10,000 mourners had attended.

Television broadcaster Howard Cosell was one of the many attendees at the wake. According to Gil Hodges Jr., Cosell brought him into the backseat of car, where Jackie Robinson had been crying hysterically. Cosell then held Hodges Jr. and said, "Next to my son's death, this is the worst day of my life."

Hodges was survived by his wife, the former Joan Lombardi (born 1926 in Brooklyn), whom he had married on December 26, 1948, and their children Gil Jr. (born March 12, 1950), Irene, Cynthia and Barbara. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Yogi Berra succeeded him as manager, having been promoted on the day of the funeral. The American flag flew at half-staff on opening day at Shea Stadium, while the Mets wore black armbands on their left arms during the entire 1972 season in honor of Hodges. The following year, on June 9, 1973, the Mets honored Hodges by retiring his uniform number 14.

Accomplishments[edit source]

Hodges batted .273 in his career with a .487 slugging average, 1,921 hits, 1,274 RBI, 1,105 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. His 1,614 career double plays placed him behind only Charlie Grimm (1733) in NL history, and were a major league record for a right-handed fielding first baseman until Chris Chambliss surpassed him in 1984. His 1,281 career assists ranked second in league history to Fred Tenney's 1,363, and trailed only Ed Konetchy's 1,292 among all right-handed first basemen. Snider broke his NL record of 1,137 career strikeouts in 1964.

Hodges received New York City's highest civilian honor, the Bronze Medallion, in 1969. On April 4, 1978 (what would have been Hodges' 54th birthday), 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 Avenue in Brooklyn is named Gil Hodges Way. A Brooklyn bowling alley, Gil Hodges Lanes, is also named after him. Hodges was also inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982.

In Indiana, the high school baseball stadium in his birthplace of Princeton and a bridge spanning the East Fork of the White River in northern Pike County on State Road 57 bear his name. In 2007, Hodges was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. A Petersburg Little League baseball team also bears his name, Hodges Dodgers.

Hall of Fame consideration

Gil Hodges's number 14 was retired by the New York Mets in 1973.

There has been controversy over the fact that Gil Hodges has not been elected to membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was considered to be one of the finest players of the 1950s, and graduated to managerial success with the Mets. However, 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. 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. Another thing that has probably hurt Hodges' Hall of Fame candidacy was the fact that he went hitless in the 1952 World Series, going 0 for 21 with just one run scored and one batted in. 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 death 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 3,010 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.

Golden Era candidate

In the years since Hodges' retirement, however, the Hall of Fame has refused admittance to many players with similar or even superior records. In November 2011, Hodges became a Golden Era candidate (1947 to 1972 era) for consideration to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the new Golden Era Committee on December 5, 2011. The voting by the Committee took place during the Hall of Fame's 2-day winter meeting in Dallas, Texas. Ron Santo was the only one elected of the ten Golden Era candidates with 15 votes, Jim Kaat had 10 votes, and Hodges and Minnie Miñoso were tied with 9 votes. Hodges' next chance under the 16-member Golden Era Committee's electorates is in late 2014.


A 52 ft.x16ft. mural was dedicated in Hodges' hometown of Petersburg, Indiana in 2009; it was painted by artist Randy Hedden and includes pictures of Hodges as Brooklyn Dodger, manager of the New York Mets, and batting at Ebbets Field. The mural, located at the intersection of state highways 61 and 57, is meant to "raise awareness of Hodges' absence from the Baseball Hall of Fame."

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Gil Hodges's Timeline

April 4, 1924
Princeton, Gibson, Indiana, United States
April 2, 1972
Age 47
West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida, United States
April 5, 1972
Age 47
New York, Kings, New York, United States