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Due to his achievements as a player and manager, as well as his sterling character, Gil Hodges deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as much as any player honored by the institution. A towering figure during the Golden Era of the 1950s, Hodges was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ powerful first baseman who, alongside Jackie Robinson, helped drive his team to six pennants and a thrilling World Series victory in 1955. The first were Brooklynites of the 1950s, who adopted the quiet Hoosier as one of their own. These were people like my mother, a long-ago Brooklyn resident who remembers when Hodges hit four homers in a single game on her birthday. Even when Hodges went hitless against the Yanks in the '52 Series, the Dodger fans cheered him. When the batting slump continued into the next season, his struggles prompted a famous bid for divine intervention.


When Jackie Robinson was called up in 1947, Hodges not only refused to sign a petition by white Dodgers saying that they would not take the field with a black teammate; he also later barnstormed through the South on a team that Robinson managed. In Birmingham, Ala., authorities threatened to arrest any white player who violated a local ordinance against integrated athletics.
In this case, Robinson chose to avoid confrontation by sitting his four white players, including Hodges, in the stands.
When his wife caught up with him in the locker room, the authors say, he told her that bringing the title back to New York was his way of thanking "the people of Brooklyn who gave him standing ovations when he went 0 for 21 in the 1952 World Series." Not that there weren't bumps along the way.
This was 1969, after all, the era of Vietnam and Woodstock and not trusting anyone over 30. Once, when Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda showed up on the team bus wearing a casual shirt and beads, Hodges called him outside.


For today's baseball fans, alas, Hodges is the nice guy who cannot get into the Hall of Fame. For an institution that professes to base admission on criteria that include "integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team," it is a puzzling omission. In his day, Hodges was the friend Jackie Robinson could count on when he needed it, the father figure who taught the Mets the meaning of professionalism when they needed it, and the Marine who landed at Okinawa when his country needed it.



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