“I can’t understand why Gil Hodges isn’t in the Hall of Fame.”
Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully doesn’t stand on a soapbox when discussing the merits of longtime Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman who later won a World Series as manager of the 1969 New York “Miracle” Mets. He doesn’t cite Hodges’ 370 career home runs, which by 1962 ranked second all-time for right-handed hitters behind Jimmie Foxx. The case of Hodges and the Hall of Fame is an example of “out of sight, out of mind.” Hodges passed away on April 2, 1972, two days shy of his 48th birthday. His death due to a massive heart attack occurred at the end of a round of golf with his Mets coaching staff in spring training.
For election to the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive at least 75 percent of the ballots cast that particular year. The panel during Hodges’ candidacy from 1969-83. A player could remain on the ballot for 15 years. Anyone receiving less than five percent was removed from the following year’s ballot. The voting in Hodges’ era was exclusively conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
From 1970-83, every player who finished ahead of Hodges in the balloting eventually was elected to the Hall of Fame. Those elected to the Hall from 1970-83 were: Lou Boudreau, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Early Wynn, Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Ralph Kiner, Robin Roberts, Bob Lemon, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Juan Marichal. Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter, who finished behind Hodges in the 1970 and 1971 HOF elections when Hodges was still alive, were lated added to Cooperstown by the Veteran’s Committee.
At the time of his of his death, Hodges had appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot four times – 1969 (14th place, 24.1 percent); 1970 (third, 48.3); 1971 (fourth, 50.0), and 1972 (fifth, 40.7). He gained 17 percent in 1973, but finished fourth behind Spahn (83.2), Ford (67.1) and Kiner (61.8).
Although Hodges was always among the leaders in votes received, his percentage never came close to the required 75 percent. He twice hit 60.1 percent when finishing third in 1976 and third in 1981. His biggest percentage during his final year of eligibility (63.4) in 1983 produced only a seventh-place finish behind Brooks Robinson (92.0), Marichal (83.7), Harmon Killebrew (71.9), Luis Aparacio (67.4), Hoyt Wilhelm (65.0) and Don Drysdale (64.7).
Hodges and Snider were teammates on Dodger pennant-winning seasons in 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1959. Hodges’ final year as a player was 1963; Snider’s was 1964. Players must be retired at least five years before appearing on a HOF ballot, so Hodges was one year ahead of Snider. From 1970-76, Hodges finished ahead of Snider in the balloting. The 1973 results for Hodges (57.4 percent) and Snider (21.2) changed dramatically by 1978, the first year Snider (67.0) finished ahead of Hodges (59.6). Snider’s 86.5 percent was enough for election in 1980, while Hodges (59.7) finished fourth behind Kaline (88.3), Snider, and Drysdale (53.9).
If there is a hurdle for the Hodges’ cause, it might be voters might believe there is “enough” representation from the fabled Boys of Summer era from Ebbets Field – Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, owner Walter O’Malley, broadcasters Red Barber and Vin Scully. And the passage of time means dwindling numbers of those voters who actually saw Hodges as a player or a manager. But Hodges remains a worthy candidate, and his uniform No. 14 was retired by the Mets in 1973.