I have posted this topic in other forums, but I think it's a good one. I believe that Gil Hodges' HOF candidacy brings up certain issues unique to his candidacy.
I am a resident of Indian River County, FL, and I attend Dodger spring training games. Even now, there are some oldtimers who still speak about Gil Hodges, and how he should be in the HOF. I also attend Met spring training games, and there, some oldtimers remember the Miracle Mets (I do, too!) and talk of how Hodges, the manager, should be in the HOF.
Hodges isn't in the HOF, of course. Not as a player, not as a manager. I believe that Hodges is the most highly regarded baseball MAN that is NOT in the HOF.
I'm leery of proposing the idea, but if Hodges is short as a player, and if he's short as a manager, is it POSSIBLE that Hodges' playing and managing careers could be evaluated together as one, and he be inducted into the HOF on the strength of both combined?
There isn't really much precedent for this. I thought of Eckersley, and his relieving and starting combined, but Eck really got in on his relief, alone. Same with the Babe; he'd be the greatest ever if he never pitched an inning.
Hodges is different, though; he had greatness as a player and greatness as a manager, but both were cut short, one on the front end, and one by an early death.
Hodges, the player, is similar to Tony Perez in BA and in career HRs, but Hodges achieved his career totals in much shorter time. There is an 11 season swath where Hodges built his credentials.
Hodges had a cup of coffee in 1943 at age 19; a tip that he was a potential star back then. He served in WWII after that; and when he came back to the Dodgers, he encountered two roadblocks. He was blocked off from his position of catcher by Bruce Edwards (who hit .295 in 1947 and was a surprisingly good prospect who was pushed aside by a better prospect, Roy Campanella) and from first base by Jackie Robinson (who played first all of 1947). Hodges split time between 1B and C in 1948 before establishing himself at 1B the next year. He held the position through the end of 1959. His stats in 1958 and 1959 are skewed because he played in the weirdly shaped L. A. Coliseum, which had short foul poles and a deep, deep, deep CF with deep power alleys. The park cut down on power alley HRs, and also cut down on BA.
Hodges was one of the top four stars of the most successful Dodger teams in history. The Dodgers won six pennants and two world championships with Hodges at first, and he was a critical player; the Dodgers probably would not have won some of those pennants without Hodges. His performance was considered central to the Dodgers' success. Hodges rates behind Snider and Robinson, and, in most years, ahead of Campy, but CLEARLY ahead of Furillo, Drysdale, and some others. Subjectively, I consider Hodges to be more important to the Dodgers than Tony Perez was to the Reds. He was an 8 time all-star, and was the best 1B of the 1950s. He retired second in career HRs for NL right handed batters.
As a manager, Gil Hodges took a terrible Senator team that was populated with the expansion draft bottom of the barrel personnel and improved it every year. Hodges was 76-85 his last year with the Senators. Those of you who know nothing but free agency have no idea how tough it was to build a talent base back in the reserve clause era when your expansion team started with the crummiest players around. As Met manager, he improved them a whole lot in 1968 (12 games), then came the Miracle. The Miracle happened, in no small part, because of Hodges' genius in platooning:
In RF, Hodges platooned Ron Swoboda and Art Shamsky
At 3B, Hodges platooned Wayne Garrett and Ed Charles
At 2B, Hodges platooned Ken Boswell and Al Weis.
At 1B, Hodges platooned Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendennon
In two of these cases (Boswell and Garrett), Hodges made these guys first time platoon regulars. Hodges recognized their ability to get on base. In RF, Hodges recognized Shamsky as a pre-Phelps Ken Phelps; a platoon superstar, and played him at the expense of Ron Swoboda, who was a fan favorite, but who was clearly not living up to the hype.
Hodges also discovered his top fireman; Tug McGraw, taking him out of the rotation and making him a star reliever. He used a 4 man rotation, but the back end was a bit weak. Hodges used Don Cardwell, Jim McAndrew, and a young and erratic Nolan Ryan as his 4th starter. (Hodges hoped Ryan would step forward and take the job, but that didn't happen in 1969.)
The 1970-71 Mets each went 83-79 finishing 3rd each time. The Mets were 6 games out in 1970, but 14 out in 1971. Hodges died suddenly in 1972 spring training.
Had he lived, Hodges would, I am sure, have been a HOF manager. Had he come up 2-3 seasons earlier, Hodges would have had 400 HRs, and probably would have made the HOF with that. He didn't. No manager has made the HOF managing as few seasons as Hodges, and most players who do what Hodges do are NOT in the HOF.
So what about the combined value of his playing and managing? At the risk of setting a bad precedent, would it be appropriate to induct Hodges as both a player AND a manager? By that, I mean inducting him for the value of his entire career in baseball.
If it could be sui generis, if Hodges's case could not be a precedent, I would support his induction based on the combined value of his playing and his managing career. Hodges was famous, and he was special. And he was a great human being as well; Don Cardwell has said that Gil was the greatest man he ever knew in baseball, and the Mets were not a team riddled with dissension. Hodges was a great baseball man, with a great career in baseball, and I support honoring him that way.
"I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right play as another. The National League will go down the line with Robinson whatever the consequences. You will find if you go through with your intention that you have been guilty of complete madness."
NL President Ford Frick, 1947