You’re going to hear it a lot this weekend. Or you’ve already heard it a lot this weekend.
Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame.
That’s the opinion of those who knew the man or fondly remember the 1969 Mets.
Hodges was the manager of that miraculous team. Before that, he was a slugging first baseman for the Dodgers and an eight-time All-Star.
But was he a Hall of Famer?
For 15 years from 1969 to 1983, the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America said no. Or, more accurately, not enough of them said yes.
Fifteen times, Hodges fell short of the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown. In his first year on the ballot – coincidentally, 1969 – Hodges got 24.1 percent.
His support doubled the next year to 48.3 percent. He got exactly 50 percent in 1971, got over 60 percent for the first time with 60.1 in 1976, and got 63.4 percent in 1983, his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot.
Hodges, who died in 1972 at the age of 47, was also considered for the Hall after 1983 by the Veterans Committee and the committee that replaced it, the 16-person Golden Era Committee. In 2011, when 12 of 16 votes were needed in the Golden Era Committee, Hodges got nine. In 2014, under the same setup, he got three. The trend is not encouraging. The next bite at the (Home Run) apple will come in 2020.
Obviously, Hodges gets points for piloting the 1969 Mets to glory, especially in these parts. But a manager wins the World Series every year and no one considers that an automatic ticket to Cooperstown.
Overall, Hodges’ managerial record with the Senators (1963-67) and Mets (1968-71) was 321-444 (.420 winning percentage).
As a player, Hodges was a key piece for the Brooklyn and then Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in one game as a 19-year-old in 1943 before missing two seasons because of military service – something he should absolutely get credit for emotionally when considering his Hall of Fame candidacy. But how to quantify that is difficult. Hodges missed his age 20-21 seasons.
Upon his return to the Dodgers in 1947, Hodges’ career really got going. In 2,071 games with the Dodgers (and brief stints with the Mets in 1962 and ’63), he hit .273 with 370 home runs and 1,274 RBIs. He was an All-Star from 1949-55 and again in 1957.
His home run total is 80th all-time, ahead of Hall of Famers such as Ralph Kiner (369), Joe DiMaggio (361), Johnny Mize (359) and Yogi Berra (358).
Hodges finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice. He was eighth in 1950 (.283, 32 HRs, 113 RBIs) and 10th in an even better season in 1954 (.304, 42 HRs, 130 RBIs).
In seven World Series appearances, Hodges hit .267 with five home runs and 21 RBIs. The Dodgers won two of those seven World Series.
He was an excellent defensive first baseman. The Gold Glove award was born in 1957 and Hodges won the first three in the NL. Retroactively, he should get credit for the possibility that he would have been in double-digits in Gold Gloves had they existed earlier.
All of this was known by voters from the BBWAA and the veterans committees. So what new-fangled information can shed light on Hodges’ Hall of Fame worthiness?
If you like WAR (Wins Above Replacement, baseballreference.com version), Hodges’ career total was 44.8. That puts him in a tie for 400th overall with Rocky Colavito, Bill Freehan, Matt Holliday and Chuck Knoblauch. No Hall of Famers there.
If you like “most similar players” (Similarity scores, baseballreference.com, a personal favorite toy), the most similar player to Hodges is former White Sox and Tigers first baseman Norm Cash, whose career totals are almost a dead-ringer for Hodges’ — .271, 377 HRs, 1,104 RBIs and WAR of 52.0.
The rest of the top five similar players to Hodges: George Foster, Tino Martinez, Jack Clark and Mark Teixeira. No Hall of Famers (Teixeira is not eligible yet).
So you can continue to believe Hodges belongs in the Hall, if you like. Perhaps one day he will make it. But the best argument seems to be the one Mets fans and ’69 Mets like Ron Swoboda are making this weekend.
The one from the heart.
“We don’t win in 1969 if Gil is not the manager,” Swoboda said. “When you consider what he did as a player with the Dodgers to what he did with us, it is unreal he is already not there. I know we will be getting a lot of attention this weekend and we hope to make people realize that none of this would be possible without Gil Hodges.”
Gil Hodges was on the Hall of Fame ballot from 1969-83, but never reached the 75 percent vote total needed. Position players who were elected in each of Hodges' 15 years on the BBWAA ballot:
1969 Stan Musial, Roy Campanella
1970 Ted Williams
1972 Yogi Berra
1974 Mickey Mantle
1975 Ralph Kiner
1977 Ernie Banks
1978 Eddie Matthews
1979 Willie Mays
1980 Al Kaline, Duke Snider
1982 Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson
1983 Brooks Robinson