NEW YORK -- Gil Hodges' election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame may have been overdue in the eyes of many, but it was nonetheless treasured by his family, his friends, and multiple generations of baseball fans. Hodges’ career spanned decades, from his teenage years through an American war effort and, ultimately, his 1969 World Series championship with the Mets.
Below is a look, in chronological order, at the 10 most significant highlights of Hodges’ professional life:
1. A star is born
Oct. 3, 1943
Hodges debuted for the Dodgers at age 19, having never played in the Minor Leagues. The first game itself was forgettable; Hodges went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a pair of errors at third base, though he did walk once and steal a bag. It also marked Hodges’ only appearance in the Majors for nearly four years, coming on the final day of the season. Nonetheless, the day was notable as one that sparked a Hall of Fame career.
2. War hero
Shortly after his big league debut, Hodges joined the United States war effort in the Pacific arena, remaining in the Marine Corps as an anti-aircraft gunner for more than two years. Hodges participated in the Battle of Okinawa and earned a Bronze Star for heroism under fire. He returned home early in 1946 and played one season in the Dodgers’ Minor League system before the team called him back up in 1947.
3. Signature game
Aug. 31, 1950
By 1950, Hodges was well established as a rising star, in the second of what would become seven consecutive All-Star appearances. But he had never authored a performance like this -- few have, in the history of baseball. Hodges homered off Warren Spahn in the second inning, off Normie Ray in the third, off Bob Hall in the sixth, and off Johnny Antonelli in the eighth. He finished 5-for-6 with nine RBIs in a 19-3 drubbing of the Boston Braves, having submitted the fourth four-homer game in modern baseball history.
4. Drawing even
Oct. 1, 1955
Playing for a powerhouse in Brooklyn, Hodges won four NL pennants over his first seven seasons as a regular, but the Dodgers lost each of the ensuing World Series. They fell behind in the 1955 Fall Classic, 2-0 to the Yankees, before winning Game 3. The Dodgers then trailed Game 4 by a run when Hodges came to the plate in the fourth and launched a go-ahead, two-run homer off Don Larsen -- not yet famous for his perfect game the following October -- to give them a lead they would never relinquish. For good measure, Hodges added an RBI single later in the game to ensure a knotted series.
5. At long last, a title
Oct. 4, 1955
Three days after his Game 4 performance, Hodges offered another of his signature World Series contributions, singling home the Dodgers’ first run off Tommy Byrne in the fourth inning of Game 7, and their second run off Bob Grim in the sixth. Johnny Podres threw a shutout for the Dodgers as Hodges became the only player in history to drive home multiple runs and account for all of his team’s runs in a World Series Game 7 win. In so doing, he earned his first ring.
6. October repeated
Oct. 5, 1959
Less than two years after the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Hodges appeared in his seventh and final World Series as a player. At age 35, he also delivered one of his finest Fall Classic performances, batting .391 with a 1.025 OPS over six games. That included Game 4, in which Hodges hit a leadoff, go-ahead home run off Gerry Staley in the eighth to give Los Angeles a 3-1 series lead. Three days later, the Dodgers finished off the second title of Hodges’ career.
7. Back to New York
Oct. 10, 1961
By the early 1960s, Hodges’ production and playing time had declined, prompting the Dodgers to leave him unprotected in the 1961 expansion draft between the Mets and the Houston Colt .45s. With their seventh pick (and the 14th overall selection), the Mets snapped up Hodges, hardly caring that the living legend would be 38 on Opening Day. He homered in the first game in franchise history and again later in April, submitting a respectable 1962 season despite battling injuries for much of it. Hodges played just 54 games that year and 11 the next, before retiring as a player.
8. An Amazin’ pennant
Oct. 6, 1969
Following five unsuccessful years as the manager of the Washington Senators, Hodges returned to his longtime home in New York -- this time to manage the Mets. Given the keys to an improving roster, Hodges led the club to its best record in franchise history in 1968, then guided the Miracle Mets to their shocking 100-win season the following summer.
That October, the League Championship Series debuted, pitting the Mets against the NL West-winning Braves in a best-of-five series. Behind strong efforts from Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones, the Mets buzzed through Atlanta in only three games, winning the first pennant in franchise history. For Hodges, it marked the eighth World Series appearance of his professional career.
9. Shoe polish and trophy polish
Oct. 16, 1969
If one moment defines Hodges’ time as a manager, it happened in World Series Game 5 against the heavily favored Orioles. In the sixth inning, umpire Lou DiMuro ruled that an errant Dave McNally pitch did not hit Jones’ foot, as Jones and others believed. As some squabbling took place, Hodges -- renowned for his honesty and professionalism -- emerged from the home dugout holding the baseball, which had come to rest there. Hodges showed DiMuro a mark of shoe polish on the ball, successfully arguing that it had hit Jones’ cleat. Only decades later did Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman admit that Hodges had instructed him to scuff up the ball in the dugout to provide the incriminating evidence.
After DiMuro awarded Jones first base on Hodges’ appeal, Donn Clendenon followed with a two-run homer to draw the Mets within a run of the lead. The Mets then tied the game in the seventh and went ahead for good in the eighth, securing Hodges’ legend as the first man to bring a championship to Queens.
10. At long last, a call to the Hall
Dec. 5, 2021
Two and a half years after engineering the Mets’ first title, Hodges died from a heart attack, prematurely ending what might have been a legendary managerial career. As it was, Hodges won three titles and eight pennants as a player and manager, to go along with eight All-Star selections, three Gold Glove Awards and eight Top 20 MVP finishes. It was an impressive resume, but not impressive enough for hundreds of Hall of Fame voters, who passed on Hodges on 34 separate occasions -- the first 15 by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the latter 19 by an array of veterans’ committees. Finally, in 2021, the Hall’s Golden Days Era committee elected Hodges in his 52nd year of eligibility, providing some closure for his family, friends and backers.