Hodges' overdue election to the Hall of Fame should be cherished - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Hodges’ overdue election to the Hall of Fame should be cherished

Gil Hodges
Photo credit: Joe Giardelli-USA TODAY NETWORK

Sunday provided a happy and temporary respite from Major League Baseball’s lockout. The Early Baseball and Golden Days Hall of Fame Era committees voted six new members into Cooperstown.

Black baseball pioneer Bud Fowler, who grew up in Cooperstown, New York in the 1860s and 1870s, and Buck O’Neill, who arguably did more than anyone to bring attention to the Negro Leagues, were elected by the Early Baseball Committee.

Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva were chosen by the Golden Days Committee, which considered candidates whose primes were from 1950-1969.

Each committee voted on 10 finalists. Besides the four elected, two deserving men, Dick Allen and Ken Boyer, will have to wait, .

Allen, who fell one vote short of the 12 needed on the committee of 16, and Boyer must wait five more years until Golden Days meets again.

It’s particularly sad for Allen’s family, whose hopes were raised this year. The slugger, who had excellent power numbers while playing his home games almost exclusively in pitchers’ parks during his career, died last year.

Boyer, a slick fielding third baseman, didn’t come close to election.

Miñoso, who died in 2015 and was thought to be 89, was a native of Cuba who starred in the Negro Leagues before he became the first Black player for a Chicago team in 1951. He began his career with Cleveland in 1949 and was a nine-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner for outfield play.

Kaat won 283 games and 16 Gold Gloves in a 25-year career, primarily with the Minnesota Twins, that ended in 1983 when he was 44 and has long deserved recognition.

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Oliva, who was a teammate of Kaat’s with the Twins, won three batting titles and led the American League in hits five times between 1964 and 1971 before knee injuries curtailed his career.

For years, Hodges, the excellent first baseman for the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers’ “Boys of Summer” teams in the 1950s, has been a sentimental choice of fans and writers. Until his election, no one had gotten more votes yet not earned election.

After 15 years in the Baseball Writers’ election, where he peaked at 63.4 percent in 1983 (75 percent is needed or enshrinement), Hodges came before multiple Veterans and Era committees, but never gained traction.

With so many worthy candidates, Hodges seemed like an unlikely winner this time, and his election was a stunner. It’s hard to explain Hodges’ significance to someone who didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, as I did.

Not only did Hodges play for the Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles Dodgers, but he lived in Brooklyn. He married a woman from there and made it his home.

Nearly 50 years after his death in 1972, his widow, Joan, the aunt of the outstanding baseball writer Tom Verducci, still lives in the same home, which was just a few blocks from my high school and not far from where I grew up.

Everyone knew where Hodges lived. He returned to Brooklyn in 1968 when he managed the New York Mets. When he led the Mets to the unlikeliest World Series win of all time against the Orioles in 1969, he became even more beloved.

Hodges lived on a main street and his house in a solidly middle-class neighborhood was the largest on the block, but still modest for a man of his accomplishments.

My cousin’s husband, Kevin, grew up near Hodges’ home and attended P.S. 193, which was named in Hodges’ honor.

When I write about Hall of Fame candidates, I’m often using WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to justify my thinking, but not in this case.

Hodges had a 43.9 WAR, low for a modern-day Hall of Famer, but during a time when there are so many polarizing candidates on the ballot, it’s a pleasure to have an outstanding player who was universally admired in the game elected.

While it was only his playing career that was to be considered by the committee, his marvelous managing job with the Mets in 1969 probably entered a few minds.

In the Mets’ first six years of existence, they lost more than 100 games five times. Hodges played for the 1962 Mets, who set a record with 120 losses, and began the 1963 season with them before accepting a job as Washington Senators manager.

In Hodges’ first season, the Mets were 73-89 and fans predicted a .500 season in 1969, but he knew they could do better, and they won the National League East, and eventually stunned the Orioles in five games.

During another tough time for baseball, Hodges’ election reminded this boy from Brooklyn that there is still some romance left in the game.

Injury update: Outfielder Reed Trimble, who was the Orioles’ second-round selection in last June’s draft, underwent surgery last week for a left shoulder repair. He’ll be sidelined between six and nine months. Trimble batted .200 with eight RBIs in 20 games for Florida Complex League Orange team and Low-A Delmarva in 2021

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Oriole questions in the coming days. Please leave them in the comments below or email them to: [email protected]

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Birdman

    December 7, 2021 at 8:07 am

    All of the inductees are deserving choices … especially good to see Oliva and Kaat (both 83 years old) selected while they are still alive to enjoy the honor.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 7, 2021 at 8:52 am

    I’m not arguing against …. bit I’m just not so sure I buy Kaat. His is definately a story of longevity. I’m not so sure about the greatness.

    287 wins IS a big number …but so are 237 losses.

    Maybe being good for a veerrrry long time is enough, but never winning a CY young and onlyu 3 all star appearances in 25 years? I dunno. That committee has some tough choices for sure.

  3. Baltimore Castaway

    December 7, 2021 at 9:32 am

    It is very gratifying that Gil Hodges finally gained entrance to the Hall of Fame…

    A very talented player, and a Manager with a great ability to get his players to play well and as a team…

    Now…..I would like someone to tell me when Roger Maris gets into the HOF…. The fact that he is not in yet is hard for me to understand and accept.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Mike, Maris will get another shot along with Allen, Boyer, Maury Wills and others in five years.

      He may eventually get into the Hall, but his overall career numbers aren’t as good as the other candidates just elected.

      Maris had perhaps five prime years, and while his record year was marvelous, one year just isn’t enough to put him in Cooperstown.

      I wouldn’t be shocked if he made it in 2026, and while his WAR is relatively low (38.3), he wouldn’t be the worst player in the Hall.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        December 7, 2021 at 10:44 am

        Always said that not having Hodges and Maris in the HOF was an oversight by the selection process. They have fixed one of the issues they need to fix the Maris issue.

        The (vast) majority of HOF Voters weren’t even born in 1961…

        Roger Maris is truly a historic player. Not just for his time played but in the history of the game.. He held the HR Record longer than Babe Ruth did. He was humble, dedicated and was a terrific man for his time and to the Game.

        There are many other things that comprise greatness that are not measured in WAR–which you seem to heavily rely on.. and FIP, etc etc…

        The eyes of a nation were riveted to the games every day that Summer with his battle w Mantle…were the country that focused on the game today..

        • willmiranda

          December 7, 2021 at 11:29 am

          I agree with you, BC. In Maris’ time the dominant right fielders were Kaline and Clemente, who were similar in skills and achievements. I would put Maris just behind them although not on their superlative level. He was on seven consecutive World Series teams and was MVP twice. And his record year was not just a great year and record; it was monumental. As you note he held arguably the most coveted batting record for longer than Ruth; I would add that, in my opinion, it has yet to be broken by someone playing clean. And for character, I would add that he stood up to great pressure, even being cursed and threatened by his own team’s fans. He was a champion who enhanced every team he played on and he played on some excellent ones..

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 7, 2021 at 11:38 am

          BC I was all set to argue that Roger Maris wasn’t HOF material until I noticed he had back to back MVP seasons.

          Outside of a 3 … maybe 4 year window, Maris was pedestrian at best and anything but HOF. But when we add the back to back league MVPs to that home run record of his … well … I agree there is an argument to be made for his inclusion.

          However …the overall body of work? I think he comes up shy.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2021 at 11:26 am

      Mike, you are incorrect about the voters. The Era committee is 16 voters, Mike Schmidt, Rod Carew, Ferguson Jenkins, Ozzie Smith, Bud Selig, Joe Torre, John Schuerholz, all Hall of Famers, baseball executives Al Avila, Bill DeWitt, Ken Kendrick, Kim Ng and Tony Reagins and media members Jack O’Connell, Jaime Jarrin, Steve Hirdt and Adrian Burgos Jr.

      Only DeWitt, Ng, Reagins and Burgos were born after 1961.

      These committees were established because the candidates had already gone through the BBWAA process, and many couldn’t have seen the candidates play. I was born before 1961, and I just missed Hodges and saw most of the others in person. Maris hit a home run in the first game I saw.

      Maris’ enduring qualities are noteworthy, but you’re asking that he get in the Hall on the basis of a single-season record that stood for 37 years.

      His record is highlighted in the Museum in Cooperstown, as it should be, but I’m not sure that one fabulous year makes a career.

  4. Buzz1979

    December 7, 2021 at 10:58 am

    O’Neil must have torn it up in the Negro League. His MLB hitting was like Caleb!

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2021 at 11:29 am

      Buck O’Neil was elected because of all he did to educate fans about the Negro Leagues. No one did more.

      I would suggest a trip to the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in Kansas City for you and everyone else.

  5. Buzz1979

    December 7, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Actually, we are planning on going there next summer!

  6. dlgruber1

    December 7, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    I’m sorry this is off topic but if you haven’t seen the video of AR hitting a drive at the driving range it is must see stuff. He absolutely crushed it right down the middle! The thing is, it looks like he’s only using a 3 wood, or at least a small headed driver. If he doesn’t succeed with the O’s look for him on the PGA tour.

  7. Icterus fan

    December 7, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Off topic too, but relevant given that it’s Pearl Harbor Day.

    I hear often of prominent MLB players who served during WW2/Korea/Vietnam, but is there a list of the players that served?

    Or how many of those players didn’t make it home?

    Just curious.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2021 at 7:41 pm

      Marty, Baseballinwartime.com has the list. Two, Elmer Gedeon and Harry O’Neill perished.

      • Birdman

        December 7, 2021 at 9:41 pm

        And BTW, Gil Hodges was a decorated Marine combat veteran of WW2.

    • Icterus fan

      December 7, 2021 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks Rich. Really appreciate all your knowledge.

  8. DcOsfan

    December 7, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    If Maris deserves the HOF, what about Dale Murphy also with back to back MVPs and a longer period of excellence

  9. Buzz1979

    December 7, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    Buck will manage the Mets. Scherzer said he prefers it, 122 million reasons says he will get it!

  10. Buzz1979

    December 7, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Dick Allen had the perfect name, that is why he is not in. Jim Rice and Harold Baines in, now Oliva? This is as bad as when Ted Simmons kept being left out!

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