Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 13 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 13: Gil Hodges (71 first-place votes, 10,160 points)
I wrote a newsletter last month about Gil Hodges, wondering why he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame.
Hodges broke in as a catcher, but with the Dodgers wanting to get his bat in the lineup and realizing he would never be better behind the plate than Roy Campanella, they converted him to first base.
He was the most loved member of the Boys of Summer Dodgers, or as teammate Clem Labine put it, “Not getting booed at Ebbets Field was an amazing thing. Those fans knew their baseball, and Gil was the only player I can remember whom the fans never, I mean never, booed.”
In 1952, Hodges went 0 for 21 in the World Series, but even then, the fans remained solidly on his side. Hodges wrote about it in his book “The Game of Baseball,” saying, “The thing that most people hear about that one is that a priest stood in a Brooklyn pulpit that Sunday [during the World Series] and said, ‘It's too hot for a sermon. Just go home and say a prayer for Gil Hodges.’ Well, I know that I'll never forget that, but also I won't forget the hundreds of people who sent me letters, telegrams and postcards during that World Series. There wasn't a single nasty message. Everybody tried to say something nice. It had a tremendous effect on my morale, if not my batting average. Remember that in 1952, the Dodgers had never won a World Series. A couple of base hits by me in the right spot might have changed all that.”
Hodges died on April 2, 1972. He was managing the Mets at the time, and had just completed a round of golf with his coaches. He was walking to his motel room and collapsed of a massive heart attack. Coach Joe Pignatano rushed to his side. Hodges was bleeding heavily from the back of his head, which he had hit on the pavement when he fell. “I put my hand under Gil's head, but before you knew it, the blood stopped. I knew he was dead. He died in my arms.”
Hodges was only 47 years old.
I wrote most of what you need to know about Hodges in that first newsletter. Hopefully, in the next couple of years I can write a newsletter about Hodges finally making the Hall of Fame. In the meantime, visit GilHodges.com for more about Hodges, including quotes by him and about him.
Note: I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
No. 12 is another guy who should be in the Hall of Fame. Who is it? Find out Thursday.