A half-century after his sudden death, Miracle Mets manager Gil Hodges finally will receive the sport’s greatest honor next summer when he is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hodges, a star for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers before he became an original Met in 1962 and the manager of their World Series champion team in 1969, was one of six people voted into the Hall of Fame by era-specific committees on Sunday. They will be inducted as members of the Class of 2022 on July 24 in Cooperstown.
Joining Hodges from the Golden Days Era ballot, which highlights those whose primary contributions came between 1950-69, were Minnie Minoso, a White Sox star and Latin American trailblazer; Jim Kaat, a pitcher who spent most of his 25 seasons with Minnesota, and the Twins’ Tony Oliva, who won three batting titles in 15 seasons.
Additionally, the Early Baseball Era committee, for those from before 1950, approved of two candidates: Buck O’Neil, a Negro Leagues player who went on to become a manager, coach and scout and helped create the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and Bud Fowler, who played in the late 1800s and often is considered the first Black professional baseball player.
For Hodges’ many supporters, Sunday’s triumph was a long time coming. This was his 35th time on a Hall of Fame ballot; if he fell short again, his next chance would not have come until the Golden Days Era is under consideration again for the Class of 2027.
"I’m thrilled for my mother [Joan]," Gil Hodges Jr. said in a statement issued by the Mets. "She’s 95 now and the next vote would not have been for five years. I’m glad she can enjoy this day and she’s part of it."
Gil’s daughter Irene Hodges said: "I was here with my mom when the Hall of Fame called. She just pounded her heart and said, ‘I’m so happy for Gil.’ My dad was a great manager and a great player, but above all else, he was a great dad."
Hodges was 19 when he debuted in the majors on Oct. 3, 1943, Brooklyn’s last game of the year. Then he joined the military and fought in World War II, delaying his major-league life until 1947.
Playing alongside such Dodgers greats as Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Sandy Koufax, Hodges was an eight-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. In addition to driving in at least 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons, he was a deft first baseman, earning the first three Gold Gloves at his position upon their introduction in 1957.
"He was not the captain, but a quiet, strong leader," Carl Erskine, Hodges’ Dodgers teammate of 12 seasons, said via the Mets. "He kept the infield together. He had a sixth sense when it came to baseball."
Hodges went west with the Dodgers after the 1957 season but returned to New York — via the October 1961 expansion draft — to round out his 18-season career. He played in 65 games for the Mets in 1962-63.
The perennially awful Mets brought him back as manager before the 1968 season. Their 73-89 record that year was by far the best in the franchise’s seven seasons. The next year, they made the incredible leap to 100 wins and a World Series championship, defeating the Orioles four games to one.
"I never met a more outstanding gentleman than Gil Hodges," Ed Kranepool, a member of the ’69 Mets, said in the team’s statement. "He treated us all the same way and with respect. I’m thrilled beyond words."
Hodges led the club before dying of a heart attack on April 2, 1972, two days before his 48th birthday. The Mets retired his No. 14 on June 9, 1973.
Hodges’ honor means four of the Mets’ first eight managers are Hall of Famers. Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Joe Torre are the others.
Hodges, Minoso, Kaat, Oliva, O’Neil and Fowler gained induction through the voting apparatus revolving around the Hall of Fame’s various veterans committees, which usually serve as a second chance for those who fell short on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America balloting.
The various veterans committees are composed of Hall of Famers, baseball executives and longtime media members/historians. Candidates need votes from 75% of their committee — 12 of 16 members — to gain induction. Minoso had 14 votes, O’Neil 13 and the others, including Hodges, the minimum 12.
Results of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting, which is for more recently retired players, will be announced Jan. 25. That ballot includes, among others, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for the last time, plus Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz for the first time.
CLAIM TO FAME
Gil Hodges’ Cooperstown numbers:
World Series title as Mets manager (1969)