Gil Hodges: Hall of Fame Mets Player & Manager (The Mets Years)

Gilbert Raymond Hodges was born April 4th, 1924, in Princeton, Indiana. Hodges played 18 seasons in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1947-1957) Los Angeles Dodgers (1958-1961) & New York Mets (1962-1963).

Mets Playing Career (1962-1963): In 1962 he returned to New York after being chosen in the expansion draft, as an original 1962 New York Met. He wanted to retire due to a serious knee problem but was persuaded to finish his playing career in New York.

First HR In Mets History: Hodges batted sixth & played first base in the first game in New York Mets history on April 11th, 1962, in St. Louis. After flying out in the second inning, he made Mets history hitting the first Mets franchise HR. It came leading off the 4th inning, off the Cards pitcher Larry Jackson.

On April 22nd & 23rd, Hodges would have a pair of two hit games in Pittsburgh finishing the month of April batting .316 playing eight games.

Walk Off HR: On May 12th, in the second game of a historic Mets double header with the Milwaukee Braves Hodges came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning of a 7-7 tied game. He thrilled the crowd of 19,748 with a walk off HR off Hank Fischer to beat the Braves 8-7. 

In the first game of that twin bill, the Mets Hobie Landrith had hit a two-run walk off HR, which was the first in Mets history. On the day Hodges collected four hits combined in the two games.

On May 16th with the Mets down 5-4 in a game with the Chicago Cubs, Hodges hit an 8th inning inside the park HR off pitcher Dick Ellsworth tying up the game. The Mets won it on Felix Mantilla's walk off hit in the 9th.

Three HRs in Doubleheader with Dodgers: On May 30th, in a double header against his old Dodger teammates at the Polo Grounds, Hodges hit a HR off Sandy Koufax in the first game Mets loss. He returned to play the next game as well. Hodges hit two more HRs, both off pitcher Johnny Podres giving the Polo Grounds Met fans another big thrill, although the Mets did lose both ends of the twin bill.

He hit just one more HR that year, coming in July. Knee injuries limited Hodges season to only 54 games that year, with the exception of three games at the end of September, his season was over by early July. He finished the year batting .252 with 32 hits 9 HRs one double 17 RBIs & a .331 on base %.

1963 -Final Season as a Player: Hodges attempted to play again for one final season, but age & injuries had gotten the best of him. He played in just 11 games. 

Last Game: On May 5th he played his last game. He took first base batting sixth at the Polo Grounds in a game against the San Francisco Giants. In the 4th inning he collected an RBI single off pitcher Billy Pierce. It was the final hit #1921 & RBI #1274 of his career.

Traded: A deal was worked out, where was traded to the Washington Senators with the intention that he would become that teams manager, replacing Mickey Vernon. In return the Mets received outfielder Jimmy Piersall.

In his 18 year playing career Hodges made eight All Star appearances, won three Gold Gloves posting a .993 fielding %. He won seven NL pennants with the Dodgers, winning two Worlds Championships, one in Brooklyn & one in Los Angeles.

Career Batting Stats: He hit 370 career HRs (80th most all time) He was tenth on the all-time list when he retired & second among right hand hitters. His 1274 RBIs are 127th all time.

1950's: Hodges hit 310 HRs & drove in 1173 runs in the 1950's second only to teammate Duke Snider for most in the decade. 

Hodges hit 14 career grand slams (tied for 11th all time) & was the NL All Time leader in that category at the time of his retirement. He averaged a HR every 19 at bats (110th best all time).

Hodges batted .273 with 1921 hits 1105 runs scored, 295 doubles 48 triples 63 stolen bases & 713 extra base hits (188th all time). 

He struck out 1137 times in 2071 games with 943 walks (151st all time) & 109 intentional walks (124th all time). He also posted a .359 on base & a .846 OPS with a .487 slugging average (157th all time)

Career Fielding Stats: On the field, He ranked second in NL history when his career ended, with 1281 assists at first base (now 26th) and 1614 double plays turned (14th all time) . He posted a .993 fielding % with 15722 put outs (42nd all time) in 1908 games as a first baseman (28th all time) making 126 errors (81st all time).

Finally In the Hall of Fame: Year after year the veterans committee had denied Hodges induction into Cooperstown. His player stats were better than so many players elected in. He was one of the best players in the game, during the decades that he played. After that he went on to a successful managerial career as well. Finally in 2021 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Managing Career: Hodges took over as manager of the Washington Senators in May of 1963. Mickey Vernon had begun the year as manager & then future Mets coach Eddie Yost took the helm for one game, until Hodges arrived. The team would finish 10th in the American League going 56-106 on the season.

The team improved each season going from tenth place in 1963 to an eventual sixth place finish in 1967 but never had a winning record. Hodges got the most of what he could with the talent he had.

In 1965 pitcher Ryne Duren hit rock bottom, he walked onto a bridge with intentions to commit suicide. His manager Hodges talked him away from the edge of the bridge to safety, saving his life.

Mets Managing Career 1968-1972: On November 27, 1967, Hodges came back to New York in a yet another wacky trade with Washington, this one in exchange for pitcher Bill Denehy & $100,000. 

In 1968 he came on to manage the Mets spending most of the season just observing what he had inherited & what he had to work with. He noticed the players strong pints & observed their individual talents in what they could contribute to the team.

Heart Attack: On September 24th Hodges suffered a mild heart attack while the team was playing a series in Atlanta. A combination of stress & cigarette smoking were key contributors.

 At the end of the 1968 season, it was questionable if he could return in 1969. He brought the Mets to a 73-89 record in 1968, which was their best mark in their seven-year existence. 

Hodges was known for his strict style of managing and not accepting anything but 100% from his players. He always believed in his team and stood behind them. He was known as a superior leader.

1969 Championship Season: In Spring Training 1969 at St. Petersburg Florida, he shocked the press when he predicted the team would win 85 games. 

His team's strongest assets were its outstanding young pitching. He entrusted his former Brooklyn teammate, Rube Walker as the teams pitching coach. Walker was a former catcher one of the earliest non pitchers to mentor a staff. Together they helped develop the five-man pitching rotation. Led by the game's best pitcher, Tom Seaver the 1969 Cy Young Award winner, who would win 25 strikeout 208 batters & post a 2.21 ERA.

Hodges had one of the league's best lefthanders in Jerry Koosman, runner up to Johnny Bench inthe 1968 Rookie of the Year voting. Koosman would go 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA. 

 Also were a young fireball throwing Nolan Ryan & a solid hard throwing rookie Gary Gentry all in the starting rotation. The Mets had a strong bullpen with Ron Taylor & Tug McGraw both as quality closers. Veterans Don Cardwell, Cal Koonce & Al Jackson also made u the staff with youngsters Jim McAndrew & Jack DiLauro.

The Mets were not a big offensive club with many sluggers. He had aquired Tommy Agee when he arrived in New York, Agee had impressed him in his days with the White Sox in the AL. Although Agee struggled in 1968 Hodges stuck with him, as he became a key player in the 1969 Championship season. Cleon Jones was the teams best hitter & would bat a career high .340 that year, third in the NL.

Hodges used a strict platoon system for many of his position players, regardless of the circumstances. At second he used Ken Boswell with Al Weis, at third it was veteran Ed Charles & youngster Wayne Garrett. In right field it was Ron Swoboda & Art Shamsky. Hodges used players like Rod Gaspar, Bobby Pfeil to excel in key spots. 

Behind his superb defensive catcher Jerry Grote, he used JC Martin & Duffy Dyer. In June he got the slugger he needed in Donn Clendenon who was to be the team's big RBI man, but also platooned with Ed Kranepool.

He got the most of his players by using their best abilities to contribute to the team as a whole. It was through his confidence that made the Mets team believe in what they were doing.

He refused to act surprised by the 1969 Mets as they kept winning and moving forward, telling the press the team was doing what they were capable of doing playing up to their potential. There was no miracles in his eyes.

If a pitcher threw at his players, he didn’t feel it was a pitcher's job to throw back at an opposing player. He felt “you lay a bunt toward the first base line and when the pitcher comes for it you run right over him.

He demanded a solid defense & had the best fielding short stop in the league as well as one of the best defensive catchers in the game as well. 

He was a strict disciplinarian who ran a tight ship & demanded respect. 

Removing Cleon Jones from a Game: On July 30th Hodges made one of his biggest points of his career as a manager. The Mets had lost the first game of a double header 16-3 and just got pounded for another ten runs in the second game. During the night cap, Cleon Jones didn’t hustle on a ball that was hit to him on the wet outfield grass. Hodges walked from the dugout toward the pitcher’s mound everyone expecting a pitching change.

But he walked past the pitcher’s mound, through the infield & into left field. There he exchanged words with Cleon Jones. He asked Jones if his knee was still bothering him since he hadn't ran hard after the ball. Jones insisted he was ok, but Hodges told him you better come out of the game. The manager started walking back to the dugout, with Jones walking a few feet behind him, with his head hung low. Jones the team's best hitter, had been removed from the game, stressing a strong point to the team.

In 1969, Hodges led the "Miracle Mets" to a 100-victory season, 27 more wins than they had in 1968 & 15 games better than his prediction of 85 wins. After clinching the team's first N.L. Eastern title he went on to sweep the Atlanta Braves in the first ever NLCS playoff series.

1969 World Series: In the World Series his team beat the mighty Baltimore Orioles who were heavily favored, finishing them off in five games. He stuck with his strict platoon system throughout the World Series and his young starting pitching staff. 

After losing Game #1, Jerry Koosman took a no hitter into the 7th inning of Game #2. Koosman got into a jam giving up the tying run but Hodges stuck with him. Koos got out of the inning & went the distance. In the 8th inning three singles from Jerry Grote, Ed Charles & an RBI hit from Al Weis gave New York the 2-1 win.

In Game #3 at Shea Stadium, Hodges got what he expected out of Tommie Agee. Agee made two of the greatest catches in World Series history saving at least five runs. He also stuck with Nolan Ryan in the 2.1 innings of relief, as he & Gary Gentry combined in the shut out. Agee & Ed Kranepool homered in the game.

In Game #4 Tom Seaver went ten innings allowing just a run, with a little help from Ron Swoboda's outstanding catch in the 9th inning saving two runs. The Mets won it on pinch hitter JC Martin's bunt scoring Rod Gaspar who was brought in to run after Jerry Grote's double in the 10th.
In Game #5 the Mets clinched the title behind another valent pitching effort of Jerry Koosman. 

Hodges also pulled off a great move to kick start his team after they were down 3-0. In the 6th inning Cleon Jones had a pitch bounce near his foot. The ball rolled into the Mets dugout. Hodges soon popped out of the dugout with a ball covered with a smudge of show polish.

He showed it to home plate umpire Lou Dimuro as proof the ball hit Jones' foot. The umpire agreed & Jones was awarded first base, the next batter Don Clendenon, then hit a two run HR putting the Mets on the board, within a run 3-2. In the 8th Cleon Jones doubled & scored on Ron Swoboda's double. Another run scored on an Orioles error. Koosman held the O's down & completed his second World Series game, as the Amazing Mets were. World Champions.

Hodges posted a 7-1 post season record as manager. It was the first time the Mets finished above ninth place, becoming the first expansion team to win a World Series. Hodges was named The Sporting News' Manager of the Year. 

The 1969 Mets would forever be known as the Amazing Mets & when any team goes from underdog to champions, they are compared to the ’69 Amazings.

After the Championship: Hodges 1970 Mets finished 83-79 six games back, in third place. The team was in second place most of the season & were always in contention. As late as September 9th they were in a tie for first place. 

In 1971 the Mets were in first place for much of April & May. By early July they were in second place just 4.5 games back. This year they faded away after the All-Star break, finishing with the same 83-79 record 14 games back of the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, in third place.

Passing: Gil Hodges passed away from a sudden heart attack in 1972. 

Honors: Every player on the 1969 Mets World Championship team credits their success personally & professionally to Gil Hodges. They have the utmost respect for him as a manger & as a human being. Gil Hodges was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982. 

His uniform #14 was officially retired in 1973. He is honored with an entrance way named after him at Citi Field as well.  

In 1978, the Marine Parkway Bridge, connecting the Marine Park area of Brooklyn with the Rockaway’s in Queens, was renamed the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge in his memory. 

Also a park on Carroll Street and a Little League field on MacDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, are named in his honor.

In his birth town of Princeton Indiana, the high school baseball stadium, as well as a bridge spanning the East Fork of the White River in northern Pike County, Indiana on State Road 57, are also named in his honor.

In 2021 he was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown NY.

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