Sunday, November 09, 2014

Gil Hodges overdue for Hall of Fame induction

By Mike Vaccaro
November 8, 2014

Gil Hodges in 1951

On the one hand, there is hope attached to seeing the name again, Gil Hodges’ name included among the nine others who were nominated for the latest incarnation of the Veterans Committee to weigh their credentials for the Hall of Fame.
They labeled these nominees “Golden Era” candidates, and there are a lot of viable possibilities: Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, Richie Allen and Luis Tiant and Ken Boyer. Minnie Minoso. It’s a fine list.
Still, there ought to be a special force for Hodges. You know his litany of heartbreak by now. The writers, who get first crack at these things, left him short of the necessary 75 percent of the vote all 15 of his years as a candidate (more on why that’s less of a slight than it seems to come).
Then, in the old incarnation of the Veterans Committee, Hodges seemed on the verge of getting the nod several times through the years, one time coming so close an intermediary actually sent word to his widow, Joan, it was about to happen — a cruel twist, as it turned out, because it never did.
The writers get crushed every year when the Hall ballots come clear, and sometimes we deserve that and sometimes we don’t.
A word about Hodges’ exclusion there: The rules of voting determined he only could be considered as a player.
The fact he also pulled off one of the great managerial coups of all time with the ’69 Mets always was excluded, like a TV courtroom show where the jury is asked to “disregard” evidence or testimony they’ve just heard.
The worst of it was the Vets Committee. There have been various and sundry committees formed over the years to judge names that have slipped through the cracks of time, and once in a while they get one right: Ron Santo, for instance, and Phil Rizzuto. More often, they have yielded candidates who weren’t voted in the first time for good reason.
Bill Mazeroski springs to mind, and with all due respect, the fact Pee Wee Reese made the Hall in lieu of Hodges is, at best, highly debatable.
Of course, none of these things was quite as awful as the time the Hall created a committee to select old Negro Leagues players and officials who merited induction, chose 17 of them — seventeen — and somehow failed to include Buck O’Neil, who deserved entry on his merits as a player and absolutely warranted entry because without him, nobody ever would have thought to create that committee in the first place.
So these things can be imperfect. As for the coming vote, to gain entry a candidate will need 12 of 16 voters to select them, and it’s difficult, at best, for anyone to merit that kind of mini-consensus. But here’s hoping in Hodges’ case, they can overcome this.
The one thing that bodes well, potentially, is the 16 men who will vote will have no limitations on how to consider the candidacies.
Taken as either a player or manager, Hodges may still fall outside the line of consideration: his lifetime numbers were too modest by most standards (even though when he retired in 1963, he was the National League’s all-time leader in career home runs for right-handed hitters with 370) and he simply didn’t manage long enough because of his early passing at age 48 in 1972.
But together?
Together you are talking about a man with all those home runs and seven 100-RBI seasons (for the Boys of Summer, no less) and a career OPS-plus of 120 and a lifetime WAR of 44.3 (even though the only war he probably cared about, by the by, was the one he served as a U.S. Marine on Okinawa)…and you are also talking about the man who managed the ’69 Mets!
Come on, committee. Get this right. Please. Finally.

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