For years, baseball writers and historians debated Gil Hodges’ worthiness for the Hall of Fame.
Although he was a cornerstone on the Dodgers’ great “Boys of Summer” teams of the 1950s, winning two World Series titles, he consistently fell short in the eyes of the voters.
The first time Hodges appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, for the 1969 class, he received only 24.1% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. He remained on the writers’ ballot for the maximum 15 years and topped 60% four times, but in his final year, his 63.4% support was still well short of the 75% required for induction.
Hodges then became a candidate on the veterans committee, in various forms, but was passed over multiple times. Finally, he received 12 of 16 votes this year from the Golden Days Era Committee, which considered candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came from 1950-69.
That was just enough for Hodges to earn a ticket to Cooperstown along with three other players from that era – Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Tony Oliva. They will be enshrined on Sunday along with former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and two players voted in by the Early Baseball Era Committee, Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler.
For the legions of Hodges supporters who have championed his cause for decades, the selection is long overdue. One of them, Scott Russell, wrote a 36-page essay titled “It’s Time to Put Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame,” providing a wealth of statistical evidence to back up the claim.
Russell begins by “attacking various theories” that Hodges’ numbers are not Hall of Fame worthy.
Home runs (370): Of the 144 hitters enshrined in the Hall, only 31 (21.5%) have more home runs. At the time Hodges hit his 370th homer, in 1962, he ranked 10th in MLB history and held the record for National League right-handed hitters.
RBI (1,274): Hodges had the second-most RBI in the National League during the 1950s, trailing only Hall of Fame teammate Duke Snider. He drove in at least 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons – Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski are among the many Hall of Famers who did not have seven 100-RBI seasons in their entire career.
Slugging percentage (.487): Hodges rates higher than Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Tony Perez, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken and dozens of other Hall of Famers.
Batting average (.273): Hodges ranks in the lower fourth in this category, but his career average is only one point behind Ernie Banks and better than Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson and former Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese, among others.
Defense: Russell also points out that Hodges was the premier defensive first baseman of his era. He won Gold Gloves in his last three seasons as a regular with the Dodgers (1957-59) – and likely would have won many more if the award had existed.
“Watching from center field, I’d see a grounder hit his way and he was like a vacuum cleaner over there,” Snider once said.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Gil Hodges: Debunking the case against his Baseball Hall of Fame resume