|THE STRONG, SILENT TYPE.|
|IN THE '50s, HODGES WAS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- ''The core of the Brooklyn Dodgers,'' according to Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges was the most beloved and respected player of Flatbush. He was the glue that bonded teams that won seven NL championships and two World Series titles. Although not in the Hall of Fame, no book about the significance of The Boys of Summer can be complete without a large chapter about Hodges, who played 18 seasons, 16 with the Dodgers.
THE BACK PAGE
- The numbers were adding up to a terrific career. Hodges would hit 25 homers and drive in 80 runs in '59. That gave him 310 during the decade, second only to teammate Duke Snider. His 1,001 RBI also was second in the decade to Snider.
- Those two made for a pretty potent 1-2 punch, huh?
- Hank Aaron would break Hodges' NL record of 14 career slams in '74.
- Love the L.A. Coliseum in the background, and the photo captures his quiet intensity.
- The eight-time All-Star retired with 370 homers, which briefly ranked 10th overall. Drove in 1,274 runs.
- He wasn't a one-dimensional player at first base. He won three Gold Gloves, two for L.A., leading the NL in double plays four times, and putouts, assists and fielding percentage three times.
- Received the Bronze Star for his service in the Marines in World War II, which cost him three seasons.
- Against the Boston Braves on Aug. 31, 1950, Hodges slammed four home runs off four different pitchers and finished with nine RBI in the 19-3 victory. He victimized starter Warren Spahn in the second inning, Normie Roy in the third, Bob Hall in the sixth and Johnny Antonelli in the eighth.
- In '51, became the first Brooklyn Dodger to hit 40 homers, surpassing Babe Herman's 35 in '30; Roy Campanella hit a franchise-record 41 in '53; Hodges vaulted back on top with 42 in '54; Snider finally topped them all with 43 in '56.
- Hodges was never booed at Ebbets Field even when he suffered through one of the most notorious slumps of all time. In '52, he went hitless in Brooklyn's last four regular-season games before the World Series matchup with the nemesis Yankees, against whom he went 0-for-21 in the seven-game loss.
- The slump continued into the early part of '53, but instead of booing and flooding all-night sports radio stations with verbal bile, fans sent good-luck letters and gifts. Even divine intervention was called on when a Catholic priest addressed his congregation this way: "It's far too hot for a homily. Keep the commandments and say a prayer for Gil Hodges.''
- In '55, Brooklyn fans had forgotten all about those struggles. In Game 7 against the Yankees, he was responsible for driving in the two runs that backed Johnny Podres' shutout as Dem Bums finally became world champions.
- Finished in the top-20 in the MVP voting eight times.
- Capped what would turn out to be his last good season in '59 by hitting .391 in the six-game World Series victory against the White Sox for L.A.'s first title.
- Knee problems contributed to him hitting only eight homers in '60 but became the right-handed home run king, breaking Ralph Kiner's mark of 351.
- Chosen by the Mets in the expansion draft, hitting the franchise's first homer in '62.
- Traded to the Senators in '63 but ended up retiring. He would become their manager that season and would lead the franchise for five years but never to a winning record.
- Got another chance to manage, coming back to the Mets in '68, and seized it. After a 73-89 season, he guided New York to a 100-62 record, the NL East, National League and World Series titles. He was 339-309 in four seasons with the Mets
- Tragically, there would be no fifth year. Before the strike-delayed '72 season, on April 2, Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack after completing a round of golf with his Mets coaches in West Palm Beach, Fla.
- Most point to Hodges' .273 average, never leading the majors in a major offensive category and absence of an MVP award as reasons why he hasn't been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I don't know. All those homers and RBI in the '50s and his 128 OPS+ point to a difference-making run-producer who could more than hold his own in the field. Combined with his ability to manage and classy demeanor, he's a compelling case.