The countdown is on again, and for the Hodges family of Brooklyn, so is the wait. There will be another meeting early next month that will determine whether Gilbert Ray Hodges — who was born in Princeton, Ind., before becoming a star in Brooklyn and an icon in Queens — will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It is time. It is past time. It is actually way past time.
“To me, it doesn’t change much, honestly, if he gets in or he doesn’t get in, because everyone who knew my father knew what he accomplished and they know he belongs there,” Hodges’ daughter, Irene, told me Saturday morning. “But he is obviously so deserving of a place there. It would mean so much to so many.”
It would also right a wrong that has existed for far too long. Hodges’ absence from Cooperstown is a black mark against the roster of greats the Hall is commissioned to honor.
Look, you can certainly argue that his playing career, as great as it was, was a borderline case for enshrinement. You can argue that despite managing the 1969 Mets — arguably the most famous baseball team ever, inarguably the authors of the greatest baseball story ever told — his time as a manager was too brief to be considered Hall-worthy.
But when you take the two of those things together?
If that isn’t worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown … honestly, what is?
Hodges received more Hall of Fame votes than any other player to not earn induction via the standard pathway, the BBWAA, when he was on that ballot from 1969-83, 3,010 of them. In 15 years he never finished lower than seventh, but never received more than 63.4 percent, which he received his last time. Several times, he received more votes than anyone else on various permutations of the Veterans Committee, but not the necessary 75 percent.
“Some of those years,” Irene says, “have been especially brutal.”
The last time, the Mets were so sure Hodges would make it that they sent limousines to the Hodges home to make sure they could throw a proper celebration at Citi Field. Then the returns came back, the limos were turned around, and once more someone had to explain to Joan Hodges that her husband had fallen short again.
Joan Hodges is 96 years old now.
“Please,” she said Saturday, “tell everyone how honored we are by all the good wishes and prayers we’ve heard.”
Here is the thing, too: There may never be a more appropriate avenue for Hodges than now. The voting body that will consider him in early December comprises the “Golden Days Era,” specifically the years 1950 through 1969.
Think about that. Those parameters are virtually custom-made for Hodges. In the decade of the 1950s, Hodges hit 310 home runs — second-most in all of baseball to his Dodgers teammate, Duke Snider (326). He had 1,001 RBIs from 1950-59 — again, second in the entire sport to Snider (1,031). He won the first three Gold Gloves for first basemen, in 1957, ’58 and ’59. He won two championships with the Dodgers, one in Brooklyn (’55), one in Los Angeles. (’59).
Hodges, by any measure, was one of the preeminent players of the 1950s. His average year was .281/.369/.884, and he had an OPS+ of 128, 31 homers and 100 RBI per year.
And the year on the right side of the hyphen? That’s 1969. And it is universally acknowledged the Miracle Mets would not have happened with any other man at the helm.
“I know this: The man should be in the Hall of Fame,” said Ron Swoboda in a 28-minute promotional film done by the Dodgers and Catholic Athletes for Christ called “Soul of a Champion,” produced in advance of the committee vote.
“From his time as a player and what he meant to the Dodgers and how they succeeded as a team, and what he did as a manager … if you can’t combine those things and put him where he belongs in the Hall of Fame? Shame on you.”
It’s on the Committee now, again, and the wait is on for the family, again — as well as for anyone who understands that a Hall of Fame without Gil Hodges is not properly complete.
“So many, many people tell us how much our father belongs in the Hall,” Irene said. “We just hope the voters can agree.”
The Giants could go a long way toward changing the angry narratives around them, even temporarily, if they could play 60 minutes of complete football over in MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Julius Randle will visit Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School in The Bronx, accompanied by the Pearl, to announce his “#30 for 3!” campaign. Randle will donate $500 for every 3-pointer he sinks this season to the school’s Literacy Intervention Remedial Program.
“I love Earl and what he’s doing,” Randle said. “We have to do everything we can to make certain our young people get all the help they need and it starts with reading.”
All 110 students will be in attendance.
A happy and heartfelt 81st birthday to Bill Basel, the first coach I ever took to task in the pages of Tarmac, mostly for not giving a lot of minutes to an overweight, undersized, guard/center hybrid named Vaccaro. All these years later I can admit: He was right.
Citi Field’s parking lots were jammed with folks lugging golf clubs when I was there Friday. I assume they were all there to play on the temporary course set up there. And also to interview for (and politely decline) the Mets’ President of Baseball Operations job.
Whack Back at Vac
Michael Keneski: Regarding Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, it took only two-plus seasons now to have a legit debate that the Knicks and not the Pelicans ended up with the better top-three pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Vac: Zion needs to be able to stay on the floor to make it a fair debate, because you could argue few players have made the multiple jumps of improvement over the course of two years as Barrett has.
Dennis Smith: Eliminate both New York NFL teams from prime time TV.
Vac: How about two such games in four days this past week? That officially and literally counts as cruel and unusual punishment.
@drschnip: Great move by the Jets trading for Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Given our offensive line, we need a medical doctor in close proximity to our quarterback.
@MikeVacc: If he wasn’t available, I believe Dr. Hawkeye Pierce and Dr. Trapper John McIntyre were the next men up, given their football work in the original “MAS*H” movie.
Bill Maroney: Spot-on column on Giants-Chiefs. Good teams find a way to win in the last 1:07. The Giants show up with no timeouts and take two sacks. Elijhaa Penny has six carries this season and his team has two wins — and he’s mouthing off?
Vac: Kansas City really was begging to be beaten that night. But as the man once said: You can’t always get what you want.