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Gil Hodges’ way is being honored by Hall of Fame induction


The chapter of Roger Kahn’s seminal baseball masterpiece “The Boys of Summer” devoted to Gil Hodges is titled simply, and appropriately: “One Who Stayed in Brooklyn.” Long after the Dodgers had fully abandoned the borough, even long after most aggrieved Dodgers fans had moved on, Hodges and his family stayed.

That stretch of Bedford Avenue, between Avenues L and M, is now referred to as Gil Hodges Way. It is a most appropriate name for both for a street as well as for the reason Hodges’ family and a fair sampling of his former players were gathered in Cooperstown on Sunday, on a sunny, muggy day in which Hodges was at last inducted among baseball’s immortals.

“Gil Hodges” is the name on the plaque that will hang in the museum’s hallowed halls forever.

But it was really Gil Hodges’ Way that was being honored.

“When you think of it,” Irene Hodges, Gil’s daughter, had said Thursday, as she made her way from Brooklyn to Cooperstown, starting the long cruise up Route 17. “His was such a short life in so many ways. He passed away at 47 and he would be almost 100 now and yet people still respect him and love him — even though for 50 of those years he wasn’t around. I think that’s a pretty amazing feat for anyone.”

Hodges
Irene Hodges, daughter of Hall of Fame inductee Gil Hodges, touches the likeness of her father on his plaque held by Josh Rawitch, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
AP

That was his way: his impact on teammates. His influence on the players he managed. His hands-on approach to guiding the Mets to unapproachable glory in 1969.

Fourteen years earlier, on a team loaded with stars, it had been Hodges who made certain Next Year would finally arrive in Brooklyn. It was Hodges who drove in the only two runs in the Dodgers’ 2-0 win in Game 7, one on a single, one on a sac fly. It was Hodges in whose glove the final out settled at 3:43 p.m. on Oct. 1, 1955, securing the throw from Pee Wee Reese.

When Hodges and his family returned to their two-story house, there were hundreds of Dodgers fans who’d gathered to greet them. Because he wasn’t just a freshly-crowned world champion. He was a Brooklynite. He was one of them.

That was Gil Hodges’ way.

“He was a very humble man,” Irene said in her speech Sunday, speaking on behalf of her father, her family, and a legion of Dodgers and Mets fans whose lives he impacted, “but he would be so proud to be here with the best of the best in baseball.”

Early in his managing career, with a horrible team in Washington, there came a moment of truth. He’d heard that four of his players had busted curfew. In a team meeting he told them: “I know this, and you know that I know who you are. You’re fined $100. But I don’t want to embarrass anyone because I know some of you are married. I have an old cigar box on my desk. Put the money in there.”

When Hodges flipped open the box, he found $700. Hodges may have been a young skipper. But even then his players didn’t want to disappoint.

That was Gill Hodges’ way.

MLB
The 2022 Hall of Fame Class
USA TODAY Sports

It was Father Herbert Raymond, a 44-year old parish priest at St. Francis Xavier Church on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, who kept picking up the newspapers in the unseasonably warm spring of 1953, reading box scores, seeing Hodges’ batting average plummet — this seven months after Hodges had gone 0-for-21 in the ’52 World Series

One especially steamy Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, Father Raymond told his congregation: “Go home, keep the Commandments. And say a prayer for Gil Hodges.”

Soon thereafter, Hodges’ bat perked up. Does prayer help? Hodges hit .302 in ’53, with 31 homers and 122 RBIs. It certainly didn’t hurt.

That was Gil Hodges’ way.

The plaque that will hang in the Hall called him a “foundational cornerstone” of the Boys of Summer Dodgers. He was that, exactly, along with Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson, all of whom preceded Hodges to Cooperstown and who must now feel complete again.

“Gil,” Robinson said after Hodges’ passing in 1972, “was the very best of us.”

That, too, was Gil Hodges’ way.



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