Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers; New York Mets; and Washington Senators
Gilbert Ray Hodge...Eight-time All-Star...Three Gold Gloves...1969 Manager of the Year... Three World Series Rings (One as a Coach)...Played in Seven World Series...First New York Met to Hit a Home Run...Born on April 4, 1924, in Princeton, Indiana ...Died April 2, 1972...
Gil Hodges was born Gilbert Ray Hodge on April 4, 1924, in Princeton, Indiana. Hodges was a four-sport athlete in Petersburg, where he ran track and played baseball, basketball, and football, earning himself a combined seven varsity letters. In 1941, Hodges was offered a Class D contract by the Detroit Tigers, but declined in order to enroll at St. Joseph's College on an athletic scholarship.
In 1943, Hodges made his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers for only one game. Soon after, Hodges enlisted into the Marine Corps and spent the next 20 months deployed to the South Pacific, serving at Tinian Island and participated in the assault, occupation and defense of Okinawa. Hodges was honorably discharged as a sergeant in early 1946.
In 1947, Hodges returned to the Dodgers as a catcher, but with the emergence of Roy Campanella, he was moved to first base. During his first full year with the Dodgers in 1948, Hodges played 96 games at first base. In addition, he contributed 11 home runs and 70 RBI to the Dodgers 84-win, third-place season. He would not drive in fewer than 100 runs over the next seven seasons, nor would the Dodgers finish lower than second place over the next eight years.
Hodges' biggest day came on August 31, 1950, when he became the sixth player to hit four home runs in a single game. Hodges played in seven World Series, winning in 1955 with Brooklyn and in 1959 with Los Angeles.
In 1961, the newly formed Mets selected Hodges in the first National League expansion draft. He hit the first home run in Mets history, and though he began 1963 as an active player, he retired after his trade to the Washington Senators to be their manager. At the time of his retirement, Hodges' 370 career home runs were the most by a right-handed hitter in NL history.
Each year after Hodges' arrival, the expansion Senators improved on their record from the previous year, peaking with a 76-85 record in 1967. In 1968, Hodges was traded back to the New York Mets to be their manager.
His first winning season as manager came with the 1969 Mets, a team that went 100-62. They were led by rising star pitchers Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a promising fireballer named Nolan Ryan. The Mets beat the Atlanta Braves in three straight games in the NL Playoffs, and defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in five games in the World Series. Hodges was voted Manager of the Year for his efforts.
His managerial career was prematurely cut short when, while golfing in Florida, he suffered a massive heart attack on 2 April 1972. Hodges was eligible for the Baseball Writers Association of America vote from 1969 until 1983. In each year, he received more votes than at least four and as many as ten men who would ultimately be elected to the Hall. However, Gil Hodges was not selected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A bridge between Brooklyn and Rockaway, a park on Carroll Street, and a little league field on MacDonald Avenue in Brooklyn were all named after him, as was the high school baseball stadium of his birthplace in Princeton, Indiana.