02/25/2003 8:25 AM ET
Hodges' time may be here
Every moment proves to be just a little more agonizing than the last for Joan Hodges.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
She prays, she frets and worries and then prays some more. Maybe this will finally be the year her late husband, former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges, receives the honor so many think he deserves.
When the National Baseball hall of Fame Veteran's Committee releases its list of inductees on Wednesday, Mrs. Hodges is hoping that her 30-year wait will come to an end. She's hoping the slugging first baseman, who would later go on to become one of the most beloved managers in Mets history, will earn what she believes is his rightful place in Cooperstown.
The 84-member board has voted and will make its announcement Wednesday afternoon on whether Hodges or any of the 40 other people it was considering will forever be referred to as Hall of Famers. The board is made up of the 58 living members of the Hall of Fame, the 13 broadcast recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award, and 11 print-media recipients of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
Also included in the voting are former Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman, whose eligibility to vote ends this year, and front-office icon John McHale, who can vote through 2007. Both are remaining members of the old Veterans Committee format. All players receiving at least 75 percent [63 votes this year] will be part of the Class of '03.
Hodges' last year on the BBWAA ballot was 1983, the same year he earned his highest percentage of votes at 63.4 percent. He received his most votes in 1979 . He has been eligible for the Veterans Committee ballot since 1987 but up until this year the names of the players on that ballot have not been released.
"I'm excited, I'm anxious, I'm filled with anxiety," Mrs. Hodges said. "And I'm tired. It's been a long time and I'm hoping and praying to God. I have tremendous belief in the power of prayer and I hope that God's will is that this will be the year.
"I hear all kinds of things about it. People keep telling me there's no way that he's not going to get in but until I hear the fat lady sing. ... We'll have to wait until Wednesday. We'll know then. It's been hard to occupy my time. I live in Brooklyn and every year when it gets close, that's what people ask me about. My mail quadruples at this time of year. I try not to think about it but I just can't help it."
Hodges hit 20 or more homers 11 times, twice hitting more than 40. He drove in 100 runs for seven consecutive seasons, was an eight-time All-Star and finished in the top-10 in the MVP voting three times. In addition, he was considered one of the best fielding first basemen of his generation, earning a trio of Gold Gloves while leading the league in fielding percentage by a first baseman three times.
Sportswriter Jack Lang covered baseball in New York from 1946-87. He saw the length of Hodges' career as a player and manager and is dumbfounded by the fact that the voters haven't opened the Hall's doors to Hodges yet. Lang is on the Veterans Committee this year but has openly campaigned for Hodges every year.
"There's no question in my mind that he deserves to be in," Lang said. "I covered the Dodgers and I know how much he meant to that team. We talk about [Hall of Famer] Tony Perez being an RBI machine but Gil Hodges did more than he did. He drove in 100 runs seven straight years and was as good a fielding first baseman as I've ever seen.
"Certainly the people who are voting now know enough about him. The people on the committee saw him play and many of them were from his era. They are aware of the impact he had on those Dodger teams. If he can't 75 percent of the vote this time I don't think he'll ever get in. The longer he stays on the ballot, the less chance he has. This Veteran's Committee is his best chance because he hasn't had the cheerleaders in the past."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.