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Gil’s been snubbed again — this time by his own friends!
The Baseball Hall of Fame’s new “Golden Era Committee” — which almost seemed as if it had been created to give Gil Hodges one more shot at Cooperstown — declined on Sunday to enshrine the Dodger great, choosing less-than-legendary Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo instead.
Nine members of the committee, which included known Hodges fans as Tommy Lasorda, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline and Ralph Kiner, voted for the induction of Hodges, three short of the 12 he needed.
Hodges’s career stats — a lifetime .273 batting average, plus 370 homers, 1,274 RBIs, and 1,921 hits — are just short of Hall of Fame standards, but the Indiana native was one of the dominent players of his era.
He broke in with the Boys of Summer in 1947 — the same year that Jackie Robinson broke the game’s noxious color barrier. Hodges emerged as a major force, knocking in 100 RBIs every season between 1949 and 1955. By the end of that decade, Hodges had knocked in more runs than any other National Leaguer.
The eight-time All Star helped lead Brooklyn to six pennants and one World Series title, and won another championship in Los Angeles before retiring in 1963 with more home runs, at the time, than any right handed hitter in league history.
But his greatest achievement was off the field: He led the fledgling Mets to their “miracle” World Series title in 1969, an accomplishment that still ranks up there with the moon landing, the invention of the polio vaccine and the splitting of the atom as the greatest fruits of human endeavor.
But it hasn’t been enough to earn Hodges a permanent place in baseball’s Pantheon in upstate New York. His widow, Joan Hodges, who still lives on a stretch of Bedford Avenue called “Gil Hodges Way,” said that she and longtime fans will never give up hope that the burghers of baseball will some day relent.
“I will never stop [hoping], not as long as I live,” she told this paper in 2008, the last time her husband was denied entry into the Hall. “If there was anyone who represented the national pasttime in every way possible, it was Gil.”
He did more than represent a kid’s game. He was also a man in every sense of the word.
Born in Indiana, Hodges was a former Marine who earned a commendation for courage under fire and a Bronze Star after fighting in Tinian and Okinawa during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1972, two days shy of his 48th birthday.
Hodges became eligible for the Hall of Fame five years after he retired.
Under the museum’s complex new rules — which replaced the simpler Veterans Committee system — the elite panel votes on a ballot of eligible players, managers, umpires and executives from the “Golden Age” of baseball, 1947–1972, every three years.
Santo’s stats were no more impressive than those compiled by Hodges: a .277 lifetime batting average with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs over a 15-year career from 1960–1974 with the Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Lasorda said Hodges could still make the grade in 2014, the next time the Hall of Fame will consider players of his generation.
“He was a great, great player,” Lasorda said at the news conference announcing the results. “We just hope that next [time we] can get him in.”
The loss leaves Hodges with only a street, a bridge and a school named after him.Reach reporter Daniel Bush at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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