A Voice in Support of the Quiet Man: Why Isn’t Gil Hodges a Hall of Famer?
By Pedro Maicazo aka metsmagic18
Gil Hodges is a revered player and manager who led the New York Mets to a World Series title, and the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers to numerous pennants and titles. He was beloved by fans and teammates, and was known as “The Quiet Man” for his gentle demeanor on and off the field. Despite all this, he is one of the greatest players not to enter the Hall of Fame. This has always troubled me, but now I’m really going to look into the possible reasons why he has been kept out.
Statistician, author, and former Red Sox employee Bill James compiled a list of 16 fair criteria that a player should pass to be allowed in the Hall of Fame. To figure out if Hodges belongs, we will see if he truly belongs with the all-time greats, or if he was just a nice guy who happened to play for some good teams.
Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he
was active, suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
I don’t think there is a better way to see if he was regarded as the best player in baseball than to look at MVP voting, the award that is more or less given to the best player in baseball. Gil finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 4 times, (and once 11th). So no, he was not the best player in baseball while he was active, but quotes from Stan Musial and Pee Wee Reese each spoke on his behalf, calling him the best player at his position of his time. Musial says of Hodges: “Perhaps the best first baseman of his time”. Pee Wee Reese says: “If you had a son, it would be a great thing to have him grow up to be just like Gil Hodges”. Teammate Tommy Lasorda says: “He was a great, great, great player. We have to get him in (to the Hall of Fame)”.
Was he the best player on his team?
No. But he was a close second. Duke Snider was the best Dodger while Gil Hodges played for them, but I think it is fair to put Hodges second. He had 6 30+ home run seasons and 2 40+ home run seasons while driving in 100+ runs 7 years in a row. Campanella had 4 seasons of 30+ home runs, 1 season of 40+ home runs, and 3 seasons of driving in 100+ runs. Could Campanella have had a better career if he had not had a late career start due to the color barrier, and an early end due to a car accident? Yes, but sadly these things did occur, and Hodges stats are simply better. Robinson meant more to the game of baseball than Hodges without a doubt, but is he a better player than Hodges? It is difficult to tell, due to their very different strengths and stats.
Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player
in the league at his position?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. During the 1950s, he led all Major League first basemen in home runs, games, at bats, runs, hits, RBI, total bases, and extra base hits. He was and 8 time all-star, the most of any first basemen while he played, and won the first 3 Gold Gloves ever awarded. Among all players, regardless of position, Hodges was second in home runs and RBI during the 1950s.
Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Gil Hodges had an impact on just about every NL pennant race from 1948 to 1959. He won 2 World Series and 7 NL pennants. He is known for his disastrous performance in the 1952 World Series, where he started 0 for 21, but should be recognized for his important contributions in the Dodgers 1955 World Championship and 1956 NL Pennant win. In the ’55 World Series, Hodges hit a go-ahead home run in game 4 to go along with an RBI single, followed by scoring the winning run in game 5. In the decisive game 7, it was he who drove in both runs for the Dodgers in their 2-0 win. In ’56 he had a go-ahead three run home run in game 1, 4 RBI in game 2, scored the go ahead run in game three, and two RBI doubles in that same game. He would end his career with 21 World Series RBI and 5 home runs.
Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after his prime?
From Hodges 35th birthday onward, he played 100+ games in three consecutive seasons, hitting 25 long balls and driving in 80 runs in one of those seasons. After leaving the Dodgers, he had a respectable 1962 before retiring at age 39 in 1963. He fared much better than his teammate Duke Snider, who would retire at age 37 after a weak 1962, an acceptable 1963 and a miserable 1964.
Is he the best player in baseball history who isn’t in the Hall of Fame?
Yes, he is. He is the player who was the closest to induction without getting in. Other greats not in the Hall are respectable shortstop Alan Trammell, speedy Tim Raines, and deserving pitcher Jack Morris. If I had to, I would honestly put Hodges second to Jeff Bagwell on this list. (I am not including players who have only been up for one year) Bagwell was a much better hitter, and added a Gold Glove to his resume.
Are most players with comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Using BR’s “similarity scores”, I was surprised to find that the answer to this question is more or less no. The 4 players who are ranked as “truly similar” to Gil, are George Foster, Jack Clark, Norm Cash, and Rocky Colavito. All of these men were never really considered Hall of Famers. Though their stats are alike, only Cash had the character of Hodges, and never managed teams to World Series titles. Similarly, Foster, Clark, and Cash were all never known as good fielders, combining for 0 Gold Gloves. Clark was never the best player at his position, nor was Colavito. Colavito’s stats are impressive, but drop off after he turns 33. Clark and Cash appeared in one World Series, Colavito appeared in zero. Foster was a contributor to the Big Red Machine, but had a huge ego problem, which would result in his release from the Mets in 1986. The player, who matches up best to Hodges, is in the Hall of Fame. This is Tony Perez. 9 home runs, 400 RBI, .006 batting average, and one all-star selection separate Perez and Hodges. They both appeared in multiple World Series, and won multiple titles. They were each one of the best on their team, but Perez has 0 Gold Gloves. These two men are extremely similar, yet Perez made the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Do the players’ numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
In James official standards, he is just short, just like his current efforts to get into the Hall. His rank on the Gray Ink scale is 128, an average Hall of Famer would have 144. On the Black Ink scale he has a score of 2, a Hall of Famer would have 27. By the Hall of Fame monitor scale he has a score of 83, while a likely Hall of Famer would rank with 100. Last, on the Hall of Fame Standards scale, he has 32 points, while an average Hall of Famer would have 50. We will have to credit Hodges with a “no” for this question.
Is there evidence to suggest he was significantly better or worse than his statistics suggest he was?
He was the best first baseman fielding-wise of his time, missed three years early in his career due to World War II, and is one of the most respected players and leaders of his day.
Is he the best eligible player at his position that isn’t in the Hall of Fame?
Now that Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez are in, he is the best eligible player at his position besides Bagwell. Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez do not have the offensive stats to make the Hall of Fame, and the only other comparison would be Steve Garvey, who is closer to the Hall of Fame standards set by James, but has never received even half of the votes necessary.
How many MVP type seasons did he have? Did he ever win? If not, how many times was he close?
He had MVP quality seasons in 1951 and 1954. In 1954 his 42 home runs and 130 RBI while playing in every game of the season with a .302 average were not enough, as he finished 10th, behind pitchers Robin Roberts and Johnny Antonelli. Teammates Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider, and Al Dark, Stan Musial, and Joe Adcock, who all had worse home run and RBI numbers than Hodges, with Dark hitting lower than Hodges. While Willie Mays won, with less home runs and RBI than Hodges, it was 2nd place finisher Ted Kluszewski who deserved the award. Putting up better numbers than anyone else in the league. In 1951, Hodges was hurt by a low average as he finished 16th in the voting, but deserved to be in the top ten.
How many All-Star games was he selected to? Are most of the other players with this many selections in the Hall of Fame?
Hodges had 8 selections including 7 in a row. 14 players with 8 selections are in the Hall of Fame.
If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
This is the toughest of all. The answer to this is no. The protection he got with Snider hitting above him really helped him, and without Snider, the Dodgers would be contender, but probably not a pennant winner. They would need an additional bat in that lineup, Hodges and Campanella with Robinson and Reese and the top would not be enough.
What impact did he have on baseball history, rule changes, new equipment or legal matters?
He certainly didn’t have an impact on new equipment, legal matters, or rule changes. But history remembers him as a kind hearted hero, slugger, and a great role model for any fan of the game.
Did he make a positive contribution to the game outside of his playing career, through off-the-field events or as a coach, manager, or executive?
He made a huge contribution, managing the 1969 Mets to their first World Championship and changing the perception of the team forever. The Mets, for these contributions retired Hodges’ number, 14. Sadly, while still managing, he passed away, leaving us to wonder if he could have helped the game in another way.
Did he uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs its voters to consider?
100% yes, Hodges absolutely upheld the standards of sportsmanship. He won the Lou Gehrig Award, given to the player displaying the most character and sportsmanship in 1959. He is considered one of the nicest guys in baseball history. Treated his teammates with dignity and respect, which was what he received from them in return. Besides the respect of his teammates, family members, and newspaper writers, the players he managed all refer to him in the highest regard (except for Hawk Harrelson, who I will never understand). Due to this, he was given the nickname “Quiet Man”.
Wrap-up: Is Hodges a Hall of Famer? Yes, he meets 10 of the 16 criteria for a Hall of Famer (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16). The only reason that I don’t say 11, is that if I’m using Bill James stats, it is only fair to put Garvey ahead of Hodges.
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