Gil Hodges is the only baseball player who was eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee who garnered at least 50% of the BBWAA vote and was not elected. When Hodges finished third in 1981 with 60.1% of the vote, eight of the next nine players who finished below him eventually made it to Cooperstown. So why didn’t Hodges follow up, and does the Hall of Fame have a financial incentive to vote for Hodges with this year’s Golden Days committee decades after the writers couldn’t ?
In 2013, the BBWAA launched a shutout, failing to elect a single candidate. That year’s induction ceremony featured three long-deceased inductees of the new pre-integration era committee. It was one of the least attended ceremonies in recent memory, with the Hall of Fame reporting 2,500 fans at Cooperstown this weekend. In contrast, the 2019 ceremony which featured Mariano Rivera and five other living inductees drew 55,000 fans.
While the above comparison represents the extremes between the Hall of Fame classes, the evidence is compelling; fans don’t come to Cooperstown to see the late inducted. In the case of Hodges, a 10-year-old who was alive when Brooklyn won its only World Series in 1955 would be 76 in 2022. With most die-hard Hodges fans over 70, how many would make it to Cooperstown to attend his enthronement in person or a subsequent visit to see his plaque up close?
History of the vote of the Eras committee for Gil Hodges
Looking at the recent Eras Committee votes, Hodges’ odds unfortunately tend to go down. In 2011, Hodges received nine of the 12 votes required for induction. It was with contemporaries Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Brooks Robinson, Al Rosen and teammate Tommy Lasorda comprising almost half of the vote pool. Even with this solid first-hand testimony, the rest of the committee did not budge from pushing Hodges toward dedication.
For the 2015 vote, Hodges slipped even lower in the ballot, appearing on fewer than three ballots from a panel considerably younger than voters in 2011. The current committee assigned to the 2021 Golden Days ballot does adds no hope to his chances. While the trio of Bud Selig, John Schuerholz and Joe Torre could lean on Hodges as one of their four picks, rumors have indicated that the rest of the committee are backing younger living candidates like Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva.
Even though Hodges’ selection looks slim for 2021, his candidacy is one of the hottest discussions around voting time. In 1993, Hodges received 12 of the 16 necessary votes from the veterans committee, but committee chairman Ted Williams overturned Roy Campanella’s vote because he did not attend the meeting in person. Williams ‘decision has only fueled the fire when it comes to Hodges’ dignity in the Hall of Fame.
Hodges held in high regard by worshipers in New York
In New York City, Hodges is still revered by aging New York Dodgers and Mets fans who attended his 1955 and 1969 World Series championships. In Brooklyn, there is both a school and a bridge that carries the name of Hodges. At Citi Field, the Mets removed Hodges’ No.14 and placed it in their Hall of Fame.
Defensively, Hodges was one of the best first basemen of his time. He won three gold gloves, the first ever to be awarded in 1957. At home plate, Hodges hit more than 30 home runs on six occasions during his career. At the time of his retirement, his 370 career homers were the most important by a right-handed hitter in National League history.
Off the field, Hodges was one of baseball’s most respected figures. Frank Howard, who spent the first four seasons of his career as Hodges ‘teammate with the Los Angeles Dodgers, explained how many baseball players considered Hodges’ character.
“[He was] probably the most fundamentally strong, or also fundamentally a manager and a solid player who’s ever played in the big leagues, âHoward said. “The embodiment of presence, class, charismaâ¦ he walked into a room and the room lit up.”
Is Hodges the type of candidate who will inspire young baseball fans to visit Cooperstown? Probably not, but Hodges represents an accurate picture of Golden Age excellence that young children would find worthy of emulating. His supporters hope those voters look beyond Hodges’ ability to move the turnstiles of Cooperstown and instead focus on how Hodges would add an honest citizen to his ranks.