Gil Hodges: Hall of Famer or near miss? The debate rages

Gil Hodges: Hall of Famer or near miss? The debate rages
AP / E. Ford

Is Gil Hodges Hall-worthy, or isn’t he?

Last week’s rejection of the legendary Dodger player and Mets manager by the National Baseball Hall of Fame renews a decades-long argument that Hodges deserves the game’s top honor.

On the plus side: Hodges was an eight-time All Star, knocked in more runs during the 1950s than any other National Leaguer, won two World Series championships as a player, and, of course, managed the Amazin’ Mets to their still-unbelievable 1969 title.

On the negative side: Hodges wasn’t the premier first basemen of his generation, or even the most talented member of the Boys of Summer. His career statistics — a .273 lifetime batting average, 370 home runs, and 1,274 runs batted in — are comparable to good-but-not-great players such as Yankees first basemen Tino Martinez who batted .271 over his career with 339 home runs and 1,271 RBIs (and when was the last time you heard a Yankee fan argue credibly that Tino Martinez should be enshrined?).

Citing Hodges’s less-than-legendary stats, baseball historian Thomas Gilbert said the legendary Bum is just a “notch below” the game’s all-time greats.

“Hodges was a great hitter, but he just isn’t worthy of the Hall of Fame,” said Gilbert, who’s penned 13 books on the national pastime.

Gilbert said most Hall of Famers — like, say, New York Giants center fielder Willie Mays — were the best at their position during their prime, as well as the most dominant hitters on their team and perennial candidates for the Most Valuable Player award.

But in his peak years, Hodges was outshined at first base by St. Louis Cardinals slugger Stan Musial; considered the fourth-best hitter on the Dodgers, after Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson; and never came closing to winning an MVP trophy.

Neverthless pro-Hodges experts were quick to defend the former Marine, who was beloved by teammates and fans for his quiet demeanor, work ethic and leadership skills, but who has consistently fallen short of the necessary votes needed for enshrinement in Cooperstown since he first became eligible in 1969.

“It’s not fair for him to be penalized because he wasn’t the best player on his team — that argument is ridiculous,” said Dan Schlossberg, an authority at the Society for American Baseball Research. “Hodges’s accomplishments both as a hitter and fielder merit his being in the Hall of Fame.”

And you know which side the borough’s ultimate Dodger fan, Borough President Markowitz, is on.

“I’m flabbergasted [that] the Hall of Fame has chosen to overlook the spectacular career and contributions of Gil Hodges,” the Beep said in a statement. “Hodges is baseball royalty in Brooklyn, and … deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for contributing so much to the game of baseball.”

Worst of all, vanquished Dodger fans used to always say, “Wait ’til next year” after their team fell to the Yankees in the World Series. In this case, Hodges must wait three years for his name to return to the “Golden Era Committee” ballot.

Wait ’til 2014!

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.