Hodges' family, friends thrilled by Hall's call

December 7th, 2021

NEW YORK -- A day after was elected posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee, his family -- including son, Gil Jr., and daughters, Irene and Cindy -- and members of the 1969 Mets -- Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky -- held a Zoom conference call on Monday.

Everyone on the Zoom call was certainly unanimous that Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, 52 years after his debut on the ballot, and his body of work speaks for itself. In the late 1940s and '50s, the Brooklyn Dodgers were known as the Boys of Summer, and Hodges was one of the reasons for the team’s success in that era. Hodges was a quiet leader who let his bat and glove do the talking. He had eight All-Star appearances to back that up.

Hodges drove in 100 runs or more in a season seven times, and he often was among the league leaders in home runs, hitting 30-plus six times. On defense, Hodges was second to none in his era, winning Gold Gloves at first base during the first three years they were awarded near the end of his career (1957‐59).

Let’s not forget that Hodges created a miracle by managing the underdog Mets to their first World Series title over the Orioles in 1969. Cleon Jones, who was the starting left fielder for those Miracle Mets, said Hodges’ election to Cooperstown was overdue.

“He was one hell of a first baseman -- the prototype for a first baseman,” Jones said via telephone. “For that alone, he should have been in [the Hall]. I know for a fact that he would have been a Hall of Fame manager had he lived. I’m tickled to death for his family. He is certainly deserving of it.”

Kranepool and Shamsky both said they wouldn’t have won the World Series without Hodges. Known as a struggling franchise before he arrived in 1968, Hodges told his players they would not be the same old Mets that were losing 100 games almost every year.

“It was no nonsense from that point on,” Shamsky said. “He knew what he wanted to do as a manager. We finished ninth, one half-game out of last place in [‘68]. But you could see us develop as a team. Through his guidance, you knew we were going to start playing better baseball.”

Said Kranepool, “He made men out of boys. He taught us how to win. It was great for the organization. All the players came together, and we were a close-knit group. Winning is always fun, and he made us a winner. The World Series in 1969 will forever go on in the heart of New Yorkers. They don’t let you forget it.”

Thinking about Joan
Hodges’ children were thrilled to share the celebration with their mother, Joan, who is now 95 years old. According to Irene, Joan became emotional when she heard the news about her late husband, who died from a heart attack in 1972. Joan was unaware that the voting was going to be announced Sunday. It didn’t help that Irene kept it from her.

But on Sunday evening, they received the call from Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall of Fame’s chairman of the board, who informed Irene that her father was going to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Before Clark could finish the sentence, Irene was in tears.

“I spoke to Jane, crying,” Irene said, retelling her conversation with Forbes Clark: “‘I just want to ask you, my Mom is 95 and she is right here with me. Can you please tell her yourself, so she can hear it from you?’ Jane said, ‘Of course.’ I gave my mother the phone. When I handed her the phone, she said, ‘Who is it?’ I said, ‘Mommy, they want to tell you Daddy is voted into the Hall of Fame.’ She put her hands on her chest and said, ‘Really? He really did it. Oh, Gil, I’m so happy.’ She spoke to [Forbes Clark] on the phone and handed me the phone.’ She was thrilled.”

According to Irene, her father often underestimated himself. He told his oldest daughter that he would not be voted into the Hall of Fame. If Gil Sr. were still alive, Irene believes he would have been shocked. But Gil Jr. believes he would have taken the Hall of Fame announcement in stride.

“Everything would be OK and get back to work the next day,” Gil Jr. said. “The character that developed from him was part of the reason he was inducted.”