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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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No Better Eight Words

I no longer have to tell you why Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, and you no longer have to tell me why Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, and we no longer have to tell anybody why Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame.

That’s because Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame.

Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame. There are no better eight words a New York Mets fan could utter, no better eight words a Los Angeles or Brooklyn Dodgers fan could utter, no better eight words a Washington Senators fan could utter. Nobody who loves what baseball feels like when baseball is at its best could utter eight better words than Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame.

Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame. My, that feels good to write, to say, to think, to know. For Joan Hodges, widowed nearly fifty years, living for this moment. For Gil Hodges, Jr., who has carried the responsibility of speaking for his father through so many disappointing selection processes. For everybody in the Hodges family. For everybody who feels like a not-so-distant relation to the Hodges family because of who Gil Hodges was, what Gil Hodges did and how Gil Hodges carried himself.

For the Mets who played under and with Gil and have sworn by his example and influence. For the Senators of the ’60s who got the first taste of Gil as a manager. For those Dodgers who’ve remained to tell their true-life tales of a peer they revered. For those wrote about him while he created a Hall of Fame candidacy via his actions and deeds. For those who continued to amplify and elaborate his bona fides after he was gone. For those with whom he served overseas. For those who understood first-hand his generational legacy, whether they learned it in Petersburg, Indiana, or within (or proximate to) any of the five boroughs of New York City.

Baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges.

This is a great moment in the life of the National Pastime. This is what happens when the words keep flowing and the passion bubbles over and we don’t stop talking about why a man who transcended a specific honor deserved the honor nonetheless. We kept it up because it meant the world to so many in this world that he got it. And, at last, he did.

Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame.

As are, not incidentally, Buck O’Neil, Bud Fowler, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva. Six new plaques representing six people and six sets of stories whose impact on baseball was immeasurable in their day and for the years, decades and centuries that followed. O’Neil many of us met through Ken Burns. Once we met him, we would never forget him. We can never forget Fowler, who, like O’Neil, withstood the curse of institutional racism to play the game he loved. Miñoso came along much later than Fowler (1858-1913) and a little later than O’Neil (1911-2006), but not so late so that segregation didn’t unfairly separate his talents from what were considered the major leagues. Miñoso was a major player for the New York Cubans before having the opportunity to join the Cleveland Indians. His career coincided with that of Hodges and overlapped with those of Oliva — a preeminent hitter — an Kaat — a pitcher who succeeded at his craft for a quarter-century.

Every one among those six makes the Hall of Fame look good for hanging markers in their honor. The Hall would look even better with a few more from those its committees considered this year, but, as the 1969 Mets led to the promised land by Gil Hodges taught me when I was young, one miracle at a time.

It shouldn’t have taken what felt like a miracle for Gil to get in. He earned election through a big league playing career that extended from 1943 (before it detoured into World War II) to 1963 and was burnished by a managerial career that lasted from the moment he retired as a player until a heart attack felled him in 1972. He was the indispensable power-hitting cog of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ pennant factory, a plant whose production reached its peak on October 4, 1955. Hodges drove in the winning runs and cradled the last out on the afternoon the Dodgers became world champs. Hodges was already Brooklyn’s favorite son, never mind that he was born and raised several states to the west. It was no accident he was in the first Opening Day lineup the Mets ever fielded. George Weiss and Casey Stengel knew that no matter who else they put on display at the Polo Grounds, fans from this National League town would come out to cheer for Gil.

Few hit more home runs or drove in more runs or better handled chances at first base when he played. Nobody inspired more loyalty when he managed. Think that’s hyperbole? His players are still loyal to him. Ballot after ballot, his name would appear for consideration, and ballot after ballot, the Swobodas and Shamskys and Seavers vouched for him. Vin Scully, who called Gil’s games in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, took the time as he approached his 94th birthday to author an essay asserting that Gil needed to be selected this time. Mind you, Gil was selected in all but name almost thirty years ago. He got the support of the necessary number of votes in the 1993 Veterans Committee balloting, but one of those votes belonged to Roy Campanella, who phoned it in from a hospital bed. Ted Williams, the manager who had to follow in Hodges’s immensely popular footsteps in Washington, chaired that committee and, for reasons best known to him in those pre-virtual communications days, wouldn’t accept Campy’s call, or at least his vote.

That’s the sort of detail that had vexed us every winter Gil Hodges was eligible for selection. That and all those hundred-ribbie seasons that went disregarded; the 370 home runs that stood, when he belted his last, as the most by any righthanded National League slugger, yet had never impressed enough writers from 1969 to 1983; the three Gold Gloves that would have been more except they didn’t invent the award until Gil’s tenure as a player was more than half over; and the unforeseen, overwhelming success of the 1969 Mets, who didn’t show up in Gil’s statlines but reflected his contributions to the baseball landscape as well as any home run record reflects anybody’s achievements. All that plus the torrent of admiration for the man and the absolute lack of criticism beyond analytical esoterica. His Wins Above Replacement could be debated if that was your bag. His character was unimpeachable.

As noted, we don’t have to do this part any longer. We don’t have to state Gil’s qualifications for Cooperstown. They are about to be etched on a plaque for everybody to see. We can travel upstate if we choose and read it for ourselves. We can simply know it’s there and feel good that the right thing sometimes eventually happens.

Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame. I know you know that, but I really do enjoy typing it.

The literary subgenre devoted to articulating Gil’s credentials for Cooperstown now goes out of business, but if it had to take more than a half-century to finally elect this worthiest of candidates, I’m glad that the wait lasted just long enough to include this marvelous piece of research, reporting and writing rendered by Friend of FAFIF James Schapiro. Treat yourself to what amounts to the closing argument on behalf of Gil Hodges for the Hall of Fame.

11 comments to No Better Eight Words

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    EXCELSIOR! Justice has been served! F&FIF has been instrumental in keeping his memory and the injustice of his not being in the Hall alive.Kudos to you both.
    This is incredibly bright sunshine in dark times that have had a little bit of sunshine since a few signings a few days ago.What joy for Mrs.Joan Hodges and the Hodges family.Gil was not around to see how “cool” his adopted borough has become yet the Hodges family are one of the factors that made it such a cool place to begin with.
    Fie on Ted Williams! Roy Campanella’s vote counted.
    Congratulations to F&FIF and the Hodges Family.See you all opening day and up in Cooperstown. Oh,Happy Day!

  • open the gates

    Gil forged The Miracle. That should have been enough to get him to Cooperstown even if he had never played a single game. His stellar playing career makes his long absence from The Hall that much more incomprehensible. Kudos to the veterans for finally doing the right thing. Better late than never.

  • Dave Arbiter

    You summed it up perfectly, and it’s about time. I was born the same year the Mets were born, and my first game was in ‘68, Gil’s first year managing. He was a hero of mine from the beginning, and mostly because he was a hero of my Dad‘s way back. Dad would cut school in the early 50’s to take the subway down from Yonkers to see the Dodgers play.
    Three out of our four retired numbers are in the Hall now.

  • Dave

    I’m so happy that I’m willing to forgo the appropriate “it’s about time” sentiment and overlook Ted Williams’ unnecessary bureaucracy. Cooperstown has been elevated by the addition of Gil Hodges. I am especially happy for Mrs. Hodges, Gil Jr, and the 69 Mets players who loved and respected him so much. Sad that not all are here to celebrate it.

    Cooperstown was the first step. Next…the Pope needs to canonize him. Sainthood requires a documented miracle. Ticked that box a long time ago.

  • argman

    Thanks for the great write-up Greg, I knew I had to come to FAFIF once I heard the news. If there is a hardball heaven, Jackie, Pee Wee, Campy, Duke and Tom Terrific are welcoming Gil to the club.

  • Seth

    It has absolutely no effect on my love and memory of Gil Hodges. But what made my day was hearing how happy his family is.

  • Joey G

    Amazing that crusty Teddy Ballgame would not accept Campy’s remote voting, particularly given the circumstances. If Gil got in back in’93, I am sure that “The Franchise” would have given an incredibly inspiring and emotional induction speech, which regretfully we will never get to hear. Perhaps Karma for The Splendid Splinter comes in the form of having to spend eternity in various sections of your grocer’s cryogenic freezer….

  • eric1973

    Those are the 8 greatest words I have ever heard. I missed Gil managing by 1 year, and have lived with this HOF thing all my life, as have we all.

    Each year, we visit his gravesite in Brooklyn, as he is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, where some of my family is buried.

    I also drive by the house on Bedford Avenue, where (he and) Joan lived forever. She may still live there.

    I am also so very happy for his family and for all those who played for him.

  • Eric

    Congratulations to Mets and Dodgers fans, the New York Mets and Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Hodges family, and most of all to USMC Sergeant Hodges.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I will happily renew my HOF membership. Congratulations to the Hodges family and all who championed our champion!

  • Blair Schirmer

    Congratulations and best wishes to Joan and Gil, Jr. What a wonderful moment.

    Regarding his career as a player, Gil won his first GG at 33, in 1957, the year the Gold Glove was first awarded. I wonder how many he would have won had the award been in effect throughout his career—I also wonder how many players won their first GG at 33? Can’t be many, and there might not be two.

    Given his eight All-Star games, I wonder if a similar number of Gold Gloves might have affected the voting for Gil? A terrific power hitter who deserves service credit who also had six, eight, ten GGs to his name? Might have made this moment happen much, much sooner.

    Fwiw, a post I wrote a week back disappeared. I mentioned that this offseason’s additions don’t really make the Mets as good as they were as of the start of the 2020 season. Stroman projects to produce, roughly, what Scherzer will in 2022. Not as good per inning, but likely to throw 20-25 innings more than Scherzer, and given the butt end of the Mets rotation, typically, those 20-25 innings should prove very costly.

    As for the other players added, Escobar and Villar are a close wash; Canha’s more likely a fourth OFer than a solid starter, whose contribution is likely to be on par with what Conforto gave the 2021 Mets. The team is currently headed towards giving its ‘fourth’ OFer more starts than its ostensible starters. Overall that leaves Marte, pretty much, as the team’s only real improvement going into next season, but with Marte they have yet to fully replace Baez, Loup, and others.

    None of that means there isn’t more to come, but this is a Mets team that is once again likely to give far too many starts to pitchers with below league average ERAs—something all too typical of Alderson Mets teams. 110+ starts to Carrasco, Walker, Megill, Peterson, Yamamoto, et al, is a near-certain recipe for another failed season. Let’s hope the front office doesn’t stop here.