As we all know, Gil Hodges will be on the Veterans’ Committee Hall of Fame ballot for 2012. So expect to hear plenty of discussion over the next few months about whether or not he should be enshrined.
I personally was not around when Gil played or managed, but I consider myself lucky to have heard the great stories of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1969 Miracle Mets. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Joan Hodges recently, who said she hopes this is the year for Gil—even though she believes he should have been inducted a long time ago.
In addition, to speaking with Mrs. Hodges, I caught up with a few members of the 1969 Mets and asked their thoughts on if they think Gil will be elected this time around. The players only had great things to say about their former manager.
“I hope it’s the year,” said ’69 Mets shortstop Buddy Harrelson. “He was a very special man, not just as a ballplayer in Brooklyn but a very special man in the community.”
While his on-field achievements speak for themselves, Gil left just as significant an impact as a manager.
“I think Gil certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said original Met Ed Kranepool. “We would have won more pennants under Gil Hodges.”
Hodges died from a heart attack in spring training 1972—right at the peak of his managerial career when the Mets were a feared team in the National League. Still, the players agree that Hodges got them to play much better than they should have.
Hopefully, the word continues to spread about what Hodges meant to the game of baseball.
“I know a lot of people have been working hard to help in that regard,” said ’69 Mets platoon right fielder Art Shamsky. “I think he’s certainly deserving of it, not only as a player and manager, but he was such a great person and ambassador for the game.”
Shamsky noted that Hodges was the main reason the Mets went from being the laughing stock of professional baseball to World Champions just eight years after coming into existence.
Being on the Veterans’ Committee ballot may work in Hodges’ favor for next year’s voting.
“These are people that might have recognized Gil or played against him, know what he’s done, and can vote the way it’s supposed to be voted,” said Kranepool. “There are guys in the Hall of Fame that don’t have his credentials.”
Harrelson likened Hodges to his own father in that both were rugged on the outside but were great men on the inside who deeply cared for their families.
“I loved him as a person and as a manager,” said Harrelson, who also looks forward to someday heading to Cooperstown for Gil’s induction ceremony.
Whether that’s this year or in the near future, I’ll likely be joining Buddy in paying homage to a great baseball player, a great manager and an even better man.