Former Mets catcher Ron Hodges dies at 74

November 25th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Former catcher Ron Hodges, a veteran of 12 Major League seasons, has died following a brief illness, the Mets announced on Friday. He was 74.

Hodges, a native of Rocky Mount, Va., was drafted by the Mets in the Secondary Phase of the 1972 MLB January Draft out of Appalachian State University.

Hodges was a key figure in New York’s pennant-winning club the next year. When he joined the team in late spring from Double-A Memphis, New York was hit hard by a major injury behind the plate. Starter Jerry Grote was on the injured list because of a broken arm, and it didn’t help that backup Duffy Dyer wasn’t hitting a lick.

Hodges ended up with significant playing time and was one of the reasons the Mets went from last place on Aug. 30 to the National League East crown on the final day of the regular season against the Cubs. Hodges appeared in 45 games in 1973, hitting .260 with one homer and 18 RBIs. He was even better during the final month, going 6-for-13 (.462) with four RBIs.

“Being in New York was a special thing with all the fans, and [because I] played at Shea Stadium,” Hodges told this past February. “Going through that September drive, the stadium was packed with fans every night, saying, ‘Let’s go Mets.’ We were winning.”

Hodges’ signature game occurred against the Pirates on Sept. 20. With the score tied at 3, Hodges entered the game in the top of the 10th inning. Three innings later, it looked like the Pirates were going to take the lead when -- with a runner on first, two outs and Mets left-hander Ray Sadecki on the mound -- outfielder Dave Augustine hit a fly ball to deep left field.

It appeared as if Augustine had hit his first Major League home run, but the ball hit the top of the fence and landed in Cleon Jones’ glove. Jones then hit the cutoff man -- shortstop Wayne Garrett -- who threw the ball to Hodges to nail Richie Zisk at the plate.

“Garrett threw a perfect one-hopper to me at the plate," Hodges recalled. "All I had to do was catch the ball and let the runner slide into me."

In the bottom of the inning, Hodges ended the game when he singled to left field off right-hander Dave Giusti to drive in John Milner and bring the Mets within a half-game of the first-place Pirates. Mets manager Yogi Berra -- and the rest of the team -- mobbed Hodges at first base.

Hodges also had the distinction of being the Mets' Opening Day catcher in 1983, which also marked the return of Tom Seaver after a five-year stint with the Reds. Throwing to Hodges, Seaver logged six scoreless innings with three hits, one walk and five strikeouts against the Phillies.

Hodges played 12 years with the Mets as a backup catcher before retiring after the 1984 season. He ended his career with a .240 batting average and a .342 on-base percentage before becoming a realtor for 30 years.

“I would say [my playing career] was successful if for no other reason than I stayed in the big leagues for almost 12 years for one team,” Hodges said. “I kept my mouth shut.”