When the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Era Committee meets in 2021, they will consider ten former Major Leaguers, including former New York Mets manager Gil Hodges, for election to the Hall. This committee only meets once every five years, so those listed on its ballot have a very fleeting window for HOF election that surfaces, at most, twice per decade.
Hodges, who was a star first baseman with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers during his playing career, has long been a presence on Hall of Fame ballots. He was first eligible for HOF election in 1969, which was his second year of managing the Mets.
Of course, that season for Hodges as manager is well-documented, as the Mets stunned the Baltimore Orioles and won the first World Series title in franchise history.
However, Hodges did not fare well with the BBWAA Hall of Fame voters in ‘69, receiving only 24.1 percent of the vote. He stayed on the ballot for the full 15 years -- the Hall of Fame shortened the eligibility period for recently retired players from 15 to 10 years in 2014 -- and came the closest to election in his last year on the ballot, receiving 63.4 percent of the vote in 1983. Hodges was still far short of the required 75 percent, though.
He has been considered for HOF election by various Veterans Committees several times since ‘83. In 2011, Hodges fell three votes shy of election, and received “three or fewer” votes when the Golden Days Era Committee met again in 2014. Despite never getting the necessary 75 percent of votes from BBWAA writers or various Veterans Committees, Hodges has received more Hall of Fame votes than any other non-inducted player.
He is also the only player since 1948, other than several players still on the BBWAA ballot, to receive over 50 percent of possible Hall of Fame votes in a single voting season and not eventually be elected to the Hall by a Veterans Committee. This has occurred 11 times for Hodges.
When you consider Hodges in the context of the Dodgers, a franchise that has produced 14 Hall of Famers across Brooklyn and Los Angeles, he emerges as arguably their best position player not enshrined and one of the best to ever don Dodger blue. Among all Dodgers hitters, Hodges ranks second all-time in RBIs (1254), second in home runs (361), third in walks (925), third in total bases (3,357), fifth in runs scored (1,088), sixth in offensive bWAR (40.4), and seventh in position player bWAR (43.3).
If you take just the 1950s, which the Golden Days Era Committee covers, Hodges’ case strengthens. From 1950 to 1959, Hodges’ 310 homers and 1,001 RBIs were second in the Majors only to his teammate (and Hall of Famer) Duke Snider, who had 326 and 1,031, respectively. In that span, Hodges averaged 31 homers and 100 RBIs per season, and hit .281 with an .884 OPS.
He also finished in the top 20 in NL MVP voting in seven of those ten seasons and was selected to seven All-Star Games. When he retired from playing in 1963, Hodges had the second-most homers for a right-handed hitter in National League history (future HOFer Willie Mays had the top spot).
Hodges also drove in both of the Dodgers’ runs in the decisive Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, propelling them to the first World Series title in franchise history. He is, to date, the only player to have a multi-RBI Game 7 in a World Series that accounted for all of his team’s runs.
Though known for his potent bat, Hodges’ defense at first was just as special. He won three Gold Gloves from 1957 through 1959, and was widely considered the best defensive first baseman of his generation. He led NL first basemen in double plays turned four times in his career and total zone runs (a stat that measures the total number of runs above or below average that a player is worth, based on the number of plays made) three times, finishing in the top ten in that category four other times.
If Hodges was such a slick fielder, you ask, why didn’t he win more Gold Gloves. Well, the award wasn’t invented until 1957, when most of Hodges’ career was behind him, and only one MLB player per position won the award in the Gold Glove’s inaugural year. If Hodges is elected to the Hall in 2021, he would join an exclusive group -- only two first baseman to win a Gold Glove are currently in the Hall of Fame: Eddie Murray (1982-1984) and Jeff Bagwell (1994).
Even if you’re not convinced that his playing career alone warrants HOF enshrinement, and even if Hodges’ four years managing the Mets isn’t enough to sway you, consider that perhaps both combined more than qualify him for the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best offensive and defensive players of the '50s, and like many others of his era, missed two full years due to military service. After his standout playing career, he went on to manage the Mets to an improbable World Series title.
Perhaps Hodges doesn’t neatly fit into either the “Hall of Fame player” or “Hall of Fame manager” categories. But perhaps he doesn’t have to. There is no rule explicitly stating that former players/managers up for Veterans Committee consideration have to be exclusively considered for HOF election as one or the other.
Hodges’ unique story and status as one of the preeminent players and managers in baseball through the 1950s and '60s clearly establishes him as a seminal figure in MLB history. It would be a grave oversight to deny him HOF election once again.