Gil’s been snubbed again — this time by his own friends!
Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s new “Golden Era Committee” — many of whom played with Gil Hodges — refused to send the famed Brooklyn Dodger to Cooperstown on Monday, choosing former Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo for the coveted spot instead.
Nine of the 16 committee members wanted to put Hodges in the hall, three short of the number necessary for enshrinement — another slap in the face to a beloved Brooklyn baseball star who has a street, a bridge and a school named after him in the borough.
The slugger’s wife Joan Hodges was so upset she couldn’t bring herself to discuss the museum’s decision.
“I need more time,” Hodges told this newspaper. “I’m sorry.”
Hodges wife, who still lives on Bedford Avenue on a stretch known as Gil Hodges Way — which is also home to PS 193, the Gil Hodges school — had much more hope the last time her husband was kept out of Cooperstown.
“I will never stop [hoping], not as long as I live,” Joan Hodges told this paper in 2008. “If there was anyone who represented the national past time of the United States, in every way possible, it was Gil.”
The debate over whether or not Hodges deserves the game’s highest honor has raged for decades.
A lifetime .273 hitter, Hodges amassed 1,274 RBIs, 1,921 hits and 370 home runs over his 18-year career.
He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Boys of Summer in 1947 — the same year teammate Jackie Robinson ushered in the “golden era” of baseball by breaking the game’s color barrier. One of the top first basemen of his era, Hodges had over 100 runs batted in every season from 1949 to 1955, and collected more RBIs during the 1950s than any other player in the National League.
The eight-time All Star helped lead Brooklyn to six pennants and one World Series title, and won another championship in Los Angeles before hanging up his baseball glove in 1963 with more home runs than any right handed hitter in league history. He became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1968 — five years after he retired from playing.
Hodges left the field, but he never quit baseball: he went on to manage the Washington Senators and the New York Mets, leading the Amazin’s to a “miracle” World Series title in 1969.
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, just two days shy of his 48th birthday.
Under the museum’s complex new rules — which replaced the simpler Veterans Committee system — the elite panel comprised of Major League greats such as Tommy Lasorda, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline and Ralph Kiner — votes on a ballot of eligible players, managers, umpires and executives from the time period every three years.
Santo, this year’s selection for the hall, compiled a .277 lifetime batting average with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs over a 15-year career from 1960–1974 with the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Hodges finished third, behind Santo and pitching ace Jim Kaat — though his career numbers are nearly identical to Santo’s and other Hall of Fame players like Tony Perez.
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.”
Updated 10 pm, Dec. 5 to clarify information about Hodges’s retirement as a ballplayer.