The Immortal Gil Hodges

July 21, 2021
  

 

I think of Hall of Fame candidates as being in five categories:

1)      He’s the kind of guy that the Hall of Fame is made for (Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Babe Ruth, etc.)

2)      He is above the standard of the average Hall of Famer,

3)      He meets the standards of the Hall of Fame player, the average Hall of Famer,

4)      He is below the usual and desirable standard of a Hall of Fame player.  Players of this caliber are sometimes elected and some are included, but most players of the same performance level are not elected and are never seriously considered. 

5)      A player of this caliber does not belong in the Hall of Fame.  Certain players of this caliber may have been selected in the past, but those were mistakes, and cannot be used as a standard for future selections without qualifying many hundreds of players. 

 

It is very obvious to be me where Gil Hodges fits in this scheme.  He’s a 4.  He’s a middle 4.  He is nowhere near being a "3"; he is nowhere near being a "5".  He pretty much defines the concept of a "4". 

A "4" is  a player about whom we say that players of this caliber HAVE been selected in the past, so let’s name some of those.  Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Waite Hoyt, Earl Averill, Bobby Doerr, Bill Terry, Lou Boudreau, Joe Sewell, Pie Traynor, Johnny Evers, Red Schoendienst, and Joe Tinker.  There are probably others that you could put in the group, but that’s pretty much a full list, and then there is a list of "5s", players who were selected but frankly should not have been. 

But there are literally a hundred players of a similar level of contribution who have NOT been selected, many of them never even considered.   Naming just some of the ones you might remember:  Ron Cey, Ken Boyer, Julio Franco, Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey, Bobby Murcer, Robin Ventura, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Jim Kaat, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Yost, Bill Freehan, Chet Lemon, Vern Stephens, Don Mattingly, Roy White, Don Baylor, Jim Fregosi, Ellis Burks, Ken Griffey Sr., Paul O’Neill, Rick Monday, Gary Matthews, Rocky Colavito and Jorge Posada.   I know that it will annoy some of you for me to say this, but Gil Hodges was NOT a better player than that group.  Six of those players won MVP Awards.  Hodges never finished higher than 7th in the MVP voting.   Almost all of those guys did better than that in their best seasons, although Hodges had more "best seasons" than some of those.    

Understanding, of course, that statistical benchmarks should not be used as a final determinant of Hall of Fame status, they are still used to bring clarity to the discussion.  I credit Gil Hodes with 263 career Win Shares.  All of the players above are in the range of 260 to 279, I think, and the "Four" range goes on above and below that.   I would, as a general rule but not absolutely. . .as a general rule I would support the candidacy of a player with 300 or more Win Shares, and would not support the candidacy of a player below 300 Win Shares.   In the range of 280 to 299 Win Shares—that is, with one good season ABOVE the level of Gil Hodges—we have Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Omar Vizquel, Boog Powell, Chili Davis, Amos Otis, Kenny Lofton, Adrian Gonzalez, Brian Giles, Toby Harrah, Miguel Tejada, Chase Utley, Tommie John, Dale Murphy, Mark Grace, Brett Butler, Cesar Cedeno, Steve Finley and Brian Downing.   I wouldn’t support most of THOSE guys for the Hall of Fame, either.  My point is, there’s a LOT of guys who actually had better careers than Gil Hodges who are not in the Hall of Fame.   Just lining up the first basemen, Gil Hodges would not be one of the 15 top FIRST BASEMEN on a Hall of Fame candidates list.  Just among first basemen or sometimes first basemen, by Win Shares, there is Albert Pujols (492), Miguel Cabrera (415), Rafael Palmeiro (393), Darrell Evans (363), Rusty Staub (358), Mark McGwire (343), Dick Allen (342), Fred McGriff (342), Will Clark (331), Jason Giambi (325),  Joey Votto (320), Todd Helton (318), Jack Clark (316), David Ortiz (316), Norm Cash (315), Lance Berkman (313), Keith Hernandez (311), Al Oliver (305), Carlos Delgado (303), John Olerud (302), Mickey Vernon (296), Mark Grace (294), Ed Konetchy (287), Adrian Gonzalez (286), Boog Powell (282), Steve Garvey (282), Joe Judge (270), Ron Fairly (269), Bobby Bonilla (267), Mark Teixeira (266), and Don Mattingly (263, the same as Hodges.)  Not to mention Pete Rose, 547.   Throw out the not-yet-eligible guys and the steroid suspects, and you’ve STILL got more than 20 FIRST BASEMEN who rank ahead of Hodges, in career Win Shares. 

Baseball Reference WAR lines up these players in a similar order. . . .Hodges 43.9, Delgado 44.4, Rusty Staub 45.8, Konetchy 46.4, Mark Grace, 46.4, Joe Judge 47.8, Giambi 50.5, Teixeira 50.6, Norm Cash 52.0, Lance Berkman, 52.0, Fred McGriff, 52.6, Jack Clark, 53.1, David Ortiz, 55.3, Will Clark, 56.5, John Olerud, 58.2, Dick Allen, 58.7, Darrell Evans 58.8, Keith Hernandez, 60.3, Joey Votto, 61.5, Todd Helton, 61.8, Mark McGwire, 62.2, Miguel Cabrera, 68.4, Rafael Palmeiro, 71.9, Albert Pujols, 99.6.   Hodges passes a few guys on the WAR list and is passed by others (Fred Tenney, Paul Goldschmidt, Gene Tenace), but you have essentially the same problem.  He is WAY down the list.  

Myself, I have two levels of support.  I only advocate for a very limited number of players at any time, the very BEST of those not included; at the moment this would be Dwight Evans, Bobby Abreu and Minnie Minoso, perhaps one or two more.  But I acknowledge the validity of other candidates.  Keith Hernandez was a Hall of Fame caliber player.  I’m not advocating for him, but I acknowledge that he belongs. 

I am, of course, aware that Gil Hodges managed the Miracle Mets, and we’ll get to that in a second.   The issue of limited opportunity vs. extended opportunity is a difficult one to think clearly about.   Rusty Staub has almost 100 more Win Shares than Gil Hodges, but then, he played in like a thousand more games.  (Hodges and Staub actually played against one another in one game—May 2, 1963.   Between them, they were in the majors from 1943 to 1985.)    Anyway, some people have tried to make a limited-opportunity argument for Gil Hodges because, like Rusty Staub, he was in the majors at age 19, but then was out of the majors for several years.   The argument is that World War II delayed the start of his career; otherwise his numbers would be bigger.

That’s pretty much a bullshit argument in the case of Hodges, and I would suspect that most of you already understand that, so I won’t belabor the point.   It’s a legitimate argument for some guys; Hodges was a major league regular at age 24.   If we’re going to give him anything for limited opportunity, it’s 20 Win Shares or so. 

Opportunity can be limited by injury, illness, wartime interruptions, divorce, racial discrimination, personal bias, player strikes, pandemics or exceptional circumstances.   Willie McCovey lost a thousand or so at bats because the Giants had another Hall of Fame first baseman one year ahead of him, already in possession of the job.  The point of a limited-opportunity argument is not that a player MIGHT HAVE or WOULD HAVE done something, given better opportunity.   Hank Sauer would have been a Hall of Famer if he had come to the majors eight years earlier; you don’t put someone in the Hall of Fame based on what he might have done in an alternative universe.   We don’t put Lyman Bostock in the Hall of Fame (although the Frankie Frisch crew did do a similar thing, when they stuck in Ross Youngs.)  We don’t put Tony Conigliaro or Herb Score in the Hall of Fame because of the player that he could have been, even though it is pretty clear that he could have. 

The point of a limited-opportunity argument is that, when two players have similar accomplishments, we of course give more consideration to the player whose opportunities were limited by things beyond his control.   Tony Oliva had 245 career Win Shares, the same number as Jay Bell, Jimmy Dykes, Jason Kendall, Magglio Ordonez and Wally Schang.   We can notch Oliva above the others because, of course, he had limited opportunities due to injuries and a late start.   Gil Hodges has 263 Win Shares and 43.9 WAR; Don Mattingly had 263 Win Shares and 42.4.   But we reasonably rank Mattingly well ahead of Hodges, as a player, because Mattingly has a legitimate limited-opportunity argument.  Mattingly played 300 fewer games than Hodges, and for the last 500 games of those, he wasn’t really Don Mattingly.   Of course we make an allowance for that in how we evaluate his career. 

There are limited opportunity arguments, and there are extended opportunity arguments.   What a player does in the World Series is an extended opportunity, because not everybody gets to play in a World Series, and some players get that opportunity much more often than others.   Stan Hack, who has a good Hall of Fame case, got to play through World War II.  That’s an extended opportunity argument, compared to others of his generation.   Hal Newhouser dominated the American League for two years when Bob Feller wasn’t around.  That’s an extended opportunity.  Rusty Staub and Al Kaline got to play regularly at age 19; that’s an extended opportunity. 

Then we come to the managed-the-1969-Mets argument, which is, of course, the key to this discussion.  People want to set aside the analytical evaluation of Gil Hodges as a player by giving him a vast amount of credit for managing the 1969 Mets.

Well. . .OK; it is a legitimate line of analysis.  The question of how we balance managerial accomplishments with playing accomplishments is a very, very difficult one, and I don’t have any really good explanation for how that should be done. 

But I have two problems with that argument.  One is, why doesn’t anybody make that argument for Jim Fregosi, or Alvin Dark, or Ozzie Guillen, or Mike Scioscia or Dusty Baker?   In 1993 the Philadelphia Phillies were coming off a long string of bad seasons. Starting in 1987, they were 80-82, 65-96, 67-95, 77-85, 78-84 and 70-92.   They had finished last in their division in the previous season (1992), and had finished last several other times in that stretch.  Fregosi led them to a 97-65 record, and into the World Series.   In fact, 1993 was the only season between 1987 and 2000, in which the Phillies played even .500 ball, and then they won 97 games plus the playoffs.  Surrounding Fregosi’s miracle is, in fact, a record of sustained failure very much in the same vein as the first 14 years of the New York Mets. 

Gil Hodges played 2,071 games, had 263 Win Shares and 43.9 WAR.

Jim Fregosi played 1,902 games, had 260 Win Shares and 48.8 WAR. 

Dusty Baker and Alvin Dark, as players, had value comparable to Fregosi and Hodges.  My point is, if people made this argument on behalf of other managers who had comparable or better managerial records, then I would listen to the argument more sympathetically when it is offered on behalf of Gil Hodges.  If there was an analytical structure which proposed a way to integrate managerial accomplishments with playing records, that would be interesting.  But as long as the argument is offered only on behalf of Hodges and the 1969 Mets, then it seems more like the advocates are trying to use the magic of the 1969 Mets to make Hodges an exception to the normal process of review.   And I will tell you why this argument is only offered in support of Hodges, as opposed to others.

Because it is New York.   He’s the only guy who did it in New York, that’s why.  It’s not a good reason.

And here is the other problem with that argument.   Suppose that, in addition to Hodges 273 Win Shares as a player, we give him credit for his nine years as a manger—let’s say, 12 Win Shares a season for the other years, and 30 Win Shares for 1969.   Then he is up around 380, 390 Win Shares, and then he looks like a legitimate Hall of Famer. 

But what that also is is, it’s extended opportunity.   It’s greatly extended opportunity.  Yes, if we give him another 9 years to work on his resume, then his credentials improve.  That doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer; that makes him Rusty Staub. 

OK, maybe I have overstated the argument against Gil Hodges sometimes.   If he is elected, it is not a horrible thing.  He was a good guy, a good player and a good manager, and there are guys in the Hall of Fame whose credentials are no better.  And yes, maybe the "combined accomplishments" argument HAS been used before, in a disorganized fashion, to elect Red Schoendienst and. . .not sure if there is anybody else.   Don’t talk to me about Joe Torre; Joe Torre had 315 Win Shares, an MVP Award and 2,326 wins as a manager, six pennants and four World Series rings.  That’s a different level.

Anyway, electing Gil Hodges, in the absence of a sound analytical explanation of why he belongs, seems wrong to me.  Not an outrage, not a disgrace, not an erosion of standards (and by the way, the selection of Harold Baines wasn’t any of those things, either.)  The selection of Harold Baines was a relative poor selection, a Group-Four selection, and the selection of Gil Hodges would be, as well.   Thank you for reading.  

 
 

COMMENTS (45 Comments, most recent shown first)

dboy13177
My question -- and I brought this up on another site -- is if we should give additional credit for success as a manager, then should be take away for being a horrible manager? Do we deduct against Maury Wills for his stint in Seattle, or Sandberg for his time in Philly?
5:34 PM Jul 31st
 
KaiserD2
My thanks to wdr1946 for his kind words about my book. I've been out of the country most of the last two weeks and hadn't seen this discussion. Let me elaborate for a moment about its methodology and where Hodges fits in.

After deciding to use Wins Above Average instead of the more popular WAR as a basic measurement, I modified the baseballreference.com figures in two ways. First, I dropped position adjustments, for reasons I explained at length in the book. Secondly, I substituted Michael Humphreys' DRA fielding stats for the ones baseball-reference used.

I also had my own idea of what makes a Hall of Famer, which actually came from one of Bill's questions in the Keltner Test: If this guy were the best player on your team, would you be able to win the pennant? I discovered empirically that you need 4 WAA in a season to meet that standard. Very few teams have won pennants without at least one player that good.

So then the question was, how many seasons at that level do you need to get into the Hall? I decided the answer was five--and I found that, mirabile dictu, the Hall voters generally agreed with me. That is, the vast majority of players with five seasons of 4 WAA or more are in the Hall; but a much smaller percentage of guys with only 4 are in the Hall.

One thing my method does is, it doesn't care about longevity--it doesn't give anyone credit for showing up and performing at a slightly above average level for a good many years. That gives it very different results than Bill's career win shares totals above.

Bill wrote as follows: "Naming just some of the ones you might remember: Ron Cey, Ken Boyer, Julio Franco, Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey, Bobby Murcer, Robin Ventura, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Jim Kaat, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Yost, Bill Freehan, Chet Lemon, Vern Stephens, Don Mattingly, Roy White, Don Baylor, Jim Fregosi, Ellis Burks, Ken Griffey Sr., Paul O’Neill, Rick Monday, Gary Matthews, Rocky Colavito and Jorge Posada. I know that it will annoy some of you for me to say this, but Gil Hodges was NOT a better player than that group."

Now it is Hodges' exceptional fielding stats that gave him five seasons over 5 WAA. Michael Humphreys in Wizardry did say that (when he wrote the book, anyway) there wasn't enough play-by-play data to be as confident about Hodges' numbers as for some others. (He used such data when available to get a better idea of where first base putouts came from.) He expressed some reservations about the 1954-55 figures, but Hodges would have cleared the 4 WAA barrier in 1954, at least, even if we took away 10 of those runs saved. I used his data and perhaps should have noted his reservations about it in that case.

However, what I want to say is, by my measurement, Hodges is better, usually much better, than almost everyone in Bill's group. I think that Roy White, Ken Boyer and Don Mattingly are the only people in that list who have 4 seasons with 4 WAA or more. Eddie Yost (whom Humphreys found to be one of the worst fielders of all time) and Steve Garvey never had one season that good. A lot of those guys had only one or two such seasons. I'll answer any specific questions on request.

Last but hardly least, Humphreys found Keith Hernandez to be the best fielding first baseman of all time, and my data showed him as a very over-qualified Hall of Famer with 7 seasons over 4 WAA. He was easily the best player on the 1986 Mets. He must have really gotten a lot of writers angry--I am amazed that he never came close to getting into the Hall.

David Kaiser
4:05 PM Jul 29th
 
mikeclaw
With all due respect to Ozzie Guillen, he wasn't close to the Hall of Fame as a player. The question with Hodges, and Fregosi and Dark and Baker, tends to be "Since he was close as a player, do his accomplishments as a manager push him over the line?" Ozzie Guillen was not close as a player, so the question is, "Was he a great enough manager to make the Hall of Fame?"
2:54 PM Jul 24th
 
CharlesSaeger
Well, same as Jack Morris. That doesn't make it a good pick.
9:32 PM Jul 23rd
 
wdr1946
Charles Saeger: I agree that Kaiser's figures sound high, but he was convinced by them that Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame. Another point in his favor is that when he was on the Hall ballot, he always received a high vote- three times over 60%. He received 63% of the vote the last time he was eligible, in 1983. (The figures are on his entry on Baseball Reference.) In other words, a majority of voters thought that Hodges should be in the Hall, but not the 75% which is the arbitrary percentage needed. This is much more than many players voted in by the Veteran's Committee ever polled. For instance, Harold Baines, who was somehow voted in by the Veteran's Committee a few years ago, never received more than 6% of the vote by the BBWAA when he was on the ballot.
9:29 PM Jul 23rd
 
CharlesSaeger
@wdr1946: The idea that Hodges or any other first baseman saved 100 runs in a 5-year period is laughable. The standard deviation of runs saved for first baseman (looking at team totals) in Defensive Runs Saved (what Baseball-Reference prefers) from 2004 to 2009 is 9.85; the same for Ultimate Zone Rating (available on FanGraphs, and the modern measure I like best though I refuse to use only one) is 7.25. Defensive Regression Analysis, which Kaiser is using, has a really high standard deviation of runs saved at all positions (I don't recall what it is offhand, as my source for it, the Baseball Gauge, is now toast, but it was higher for teams than any other method, which is going to be around 35-40 runs). Furthermore, the traditional defensive stats don't measure first basemen well, specifically putouts. You can massage them to make them better (DRA does that), but even after that, they don't have the level of certainty that lets anyone say that a first baseman saved 100 runs in 5 years. As it happens, I have the 1953 and 1955 Dodgers figured, and I have the 1953 Dodger first basemen at +12 and the 1955 Dodgers at +6. This might be a little low, as my standard deviation for first basemen on all teams I've figured so far (about a third of the teams from 1926-2019) is 6.0, but is far closer to reality than +26 and +14.
10:20 AM Jul 23rd
 
bhalbleib
Applying the 8 arguments that John-Q below identifies to Hodges to Dave Concepcion (who he notes in his refutation of the first argument) you find a lot of similarities:

1) He was a good player on a great team. Like Concepcion, Hodges was the 5th best player on a legendary team (somewhere suggested he was the 4th best player in the comments below, but they forgot the SS on his team in their list, a player with a lot more WAR and Win Shares and with 3 legitimate seasons missing in the beginning of his career his 24 -26 year old seasons after putting up 8.6 bWAR in his 22 and 23 year old seasons)
2) He was the best player at his position in a certain decade. I don't think that there is any question that Concepcion was the best SS (in the NL at least) in the 1970s, and probably overall was the best NL SS between Banks and Smith.
3) and 4) don't really apply to Davey.
5) Davey was a 9 time All Star
6) doesn't apply really, but Davey did hit 76 HRs in the 70s, tops among NL short stops. I didn't do the math, but I suspect he easily led NL Short stops in RBIs in the 70s as well.
7) Davey was a 5 time gold glove winner, at a much more important position.
8) Davey also was a 2 time WS champion and was in the WS 2 other times.
2:07 PM Jul 22nd
 
MWeddell
Gil Hodges died young. Ozzie Guillen's mouth got him into trouble repeatedly. That's another difference in terms of how their managerial accomplishments are perceived.
1:40 PM Jul 22nd
 
bhalbleib
If we were going to give someone a big boost to their HOF candidacy based on one season of managing a WS winning team, I would probably put Ozzie Guillen first in line. Let's see franchise hadn't won a WS for 80+ years, hadn't been in one for 40+ years and had been 0-5 in post season series since 1917. Then they win 99 games and go 11-1 in the 2005 post-season.

But, of course, he managed the 2nd team in the 2nd city and, thus, didn't ever get a whole lot of press.
1:35 PM Jul 22nd
 
MWeddell
wovenstrap,

I completely agree it is slippery. I admitted up front that Jaytaft might use a different yardstick than I did. Even my table sort of shows that Gil Hodges was the best first baseman in baseball for a nine-year period.

I was more trying to throw some data up there to see what it says rather than to assert "I'm right and someone else is wrong."

How do we determine who is the best player (or the best player at a position)? It's more than a one year look because there are plenty of times when no one considers the MVP to be the best player. I thought a rolling 5-year period probably matched what we use to consider "best player," but your mileage may vary. Maybe a three-year period would be better.
12:32 PM Jul 22nd
 
LesLein
Hodges drove Chuck Connors into acting.
11:32 AM Jul 22nd
 
hotstatrat
I'd be all right with Hodges, Alou, Fregosi, Baker, and Dark making the Hall of Fame if warranted by combining their playing accomplishments and managing accomplishments.

The only problem is translating managing accomplishments into something we can measure on the same scale as playing accomplishments.

I'd love it if some bright person with the time available would tackle that.

I wouldn't deduct too much for that sort of extended opportunity, nor for World Series accomplishments. I think player rankings too often ignore post season play because it makes comparisons too difficult. Yet, those games are MORE IMPORTANT than regular season games, so it is unfair not to give them appropriate weight.
11:08 AM Jul 22nd
 
mikeclaw
The thing with him managing the Mets … it's more than just New York. Because of the circumstances, so soon after expansion and so soon after such awful seasons in the early 1960s, that Mets championship has taken on almost mythological status, similar to Namath and the Jets. Hodges didn't just manage a World Series champ in New York, he managed The Miracle Mets. For fans our age (whatever "our age" means to you), are The Miracle Mets the most famous/legendary championship team of our lifetimes? Not talking about "dynasties" like the Jeter/Rivera Yankees or the Mustache Gang A's or The Big Red Machine. Is there a more famous or beloved one-year championship team in the last 60 years than the Miracle Mets?

That doesn't make Hodges' accomplishment any greater, and it doesn't make him a better Hall of Fame candidate, but I think it explains why some people give a disproportionate amount of significance to that championship, more so than Fregosi's Phillies or the other teams you cite. He managed The Miracle Mets.


11:07 AM Jul 22nd
 
rtayatay
I think most people think of history in terms of decades... not 10 year chunks like 1973-1982, but the 40's, 50's, 60's. Gil's career fits very neatly into the 50's. I don't think we would see him the same if his peak years were 1946-1955. That also applies to playing for the Dodgers... the 50's were the Dodgers vs the Yankees, with a few exceptions. Gil was one of the best (prob 4th best - Snider, Robinson, Campanella) players on probably the 2nd best team from 1950-1959, and when looking at all 10 years, one of the best 1st basemen. I personally don't think that qualifies you for the Hall, but packing it into 1950-1959 makes it easier to remember Hodges and associate him with a special time in baseball and the US.
10:56 AM Jul 22nd
 
mrbryan
Boog Powell, of course should get extra consideration for his decades supplying fine barbecue to fans, as well as being the first Little League World Series veteran to play in the MLB World Series.
10:51 AM Jul 22nd
 
MelParnell
Bill,

How did you miss Roy White? 263 career win shares. Exact match. A perfect 4, and I would argue probably a better choice for the Hall than Hodges.


10:38 AM Jul 22nd
 
wovenstrap
That's so slippery, if you take the 10 years as a whole, Stan Musial obviously wouldn't qualify so it *could* still be a perfectly true statement. It could be a perfectly true statement with him never finishing #1 in any 5-year period.
10:10 AM Jul 22nd
 
MWeddell
Jaytaft wrote below: “Hodges was the best first baseman in the game for more than a decade.” I looked at rolling 5-year periods of baseball-reference WAR for first basemen. Obviously, Jay may be using a different yardstick.
1948-52: Ferris Fain
1949-53: Gil Hodges
1950-54: Gil Hodges
1951-55: Gil Hodges
1952-56: Ted Kluszewski
1953-57: Gil Hodges
1954-58: Stan Musial by a wide margin; yes, he played at least half of his games at 1B
1955-59: Stan Musial
1956-60: Stan Musial
1957-61: Orlando Cepeda

9:29 AM Jul 22nd
 
Fireball Wenz
Should read *far more games*
9:18 AM Jul 22nd
 
Fireball Wenz
There's a little padding of the list of first basemen who are ahead of Hodges in the HOF line. Rusty Staub, Jack Clark, Darrell Evans and Bobby Bonilla all played for more games at one or more other positions. Bonilla only played 125 games in his career at 1B. You could make arguments for moving Berkman off as well - he played more games in the OF than at 1B, but not more at any single OF position. Ortiz can be included if we're ignoring DH as a "position" - only 286 lifetime games at 1B.
9:17 AM Jul 22nd
 
MWeddell
I am surprised by the last paragraph's half-hearted defense of Harold Baines. I see Baines' selection as the worst Hall of Fame player selection during the past 35 years or so.
9:11 AM Jul 22nd
 
OBS2.0
A very nice addition to the HoF archives.

In terms of opportunity, it hasn't been noted that Gil died tragically in his Age 48 ( is that appropriate usage?) cutting off what would have likely been a long managerial career.....perhaps not successful, but he would get hired on '69 alone until he was done. While his time with the expansion Senators and Mets didn't add up to an impressive winning percentage, he did have 321 coaching wins at Age 48.

As soon as someone dies it is always said they are "beloved" of course, but I think it is safe to say Hodges truly was. It is said the Jackie Robinson had a near breakdown at his funeral, and following so closely on the 1969 Miracle Mets, his death had a shock value to both the Brooklyn/LA old schoolers and the new boomer Mets fans (inc. yours truly)

Note: Do you get HoF style points for your death, I wonder? I suspect so.....

At any rate, I'm quite surprised that his sudden death following so closely on the Miracle Mets didn't get him swept in early in his candidacy. Maybe the ballot was clogged with all those 1950s NY stars.
5:14 AM Jul 22nd
 
wovenstrap
I would support Hodges for the Hall of Fame as an opportunity to put the spotlight on the 1950s Dodgers, a team that never got its fair due of attention.
3:59 AM Jul 22nd
 
wdr1946
David Kaiser wrote an interesting and well-researched book, Baseball Greatness: Top Players and Teams According to Wins Above Average, 1901-2017 (McFarland 2018). Here is what (p.88) he says about Hodges: :Equally as valuable as Duke Snider, it turns out, was first baseman Gil Hodges, whose career was extraordinary in ways that have only recently come to light..He blossomed further as a hitter in 1951, when he was 27, and remained a superstar for the next five years (1951-1955) because he emerged as one of the greatest fielding first basemen of all time, saving his team +13,+18,+26,+29, and +14 runs. With five consecutive superstar seasons, there is no doubt that Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame." He also says in a footnote, "I apologize for having argued the opposite, based on inadequate statistical analysis, on the SABR listserv."
2:41 AM Jul 22nd
 
shthar
As president of the Omar Vizquel Fanclub, Sir...

How dare you!
2:34 AM Jul 22nd
 
mrbryan
You talk about the 50s Dodgers? I talk about the 60s-70s Orioles. Boog Powell had an OPS+ of 134, Hodges had just 120. Hodges played on two World Champions, so did Powell. Hodges never finished higher than 7th in the MVP voting, Powell finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Like Hodges, if you don't count when Powell did poorly in the post-season, he did great in the post-season. I think it's really quite close if you compare Hodges to Powell. Unfortunately, no one ever makes the argument that Powell belongs in the Hall of Fame. No one should make the argument about Hodges, either. If you really want to make Hodges look foolish, compare him to Norm Cash, who had a much higher OBP and OPS+, as well far more WAR and Win Shares. Before considering Hodges, you really need to enshrine Cash, who had way more impact as a hitter than Hodges.
12:26 AM Jul 22nd
 
evanecurb
Hodges belongs in the Hall. I vote “yes.” Dusty Baker has a very interesting case - he was a very good player and he’s a very good manager.

Hodges holds the record among non HoFers for getting the highest percentage of BBWAA votes. So a lot of voters agreed that he belongs.
10:08 PM Jul 21st
 
W.T.Mons10
Quoting from one of Bill's many never-finished series, this one on the best player in the game at each position over the years:
"Basically, from 1938 to 1958, the #1 first baseman in baseball is either Johnny Mize, Stan Musial or Gil Hodges. The count actually is seven years as #1 for Musial, five years for Mize, four for Hodges, and one each for Phil Cavaretta and Augie Galan (during World War II), and one each for Mickey Vernon and Ted Kluszewski."
9:41 PM Jul 21st
 
Jaytaft
Overall, he was very strong in the postseason; aside from that 0-21, he was fantastic.

The 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers and the '69 Mets were important parts of baseball history - we still talk about them all the time. The teams Ventura played for or managed are largely forgotten. Maybe Ventura and Hodges belong in the same category based on nothing but regular season statistics (if we pretend that 1990s stats are as legit as 1950s stats) but The Hall should consider a player's historical significance, which I think is at least as important as the numbers on the back of his baseball card.


9:35 PM Jul 21st
 
mrm10128
If we give Hodges credit for being a member of two World Championship ball clubs, what do we do with his infamous 0-21 performance in the 1952 World Series, which his team lost in seven games?
9:17 PM Jul 21st
 
Jaytaft
Comparing his 1950s stats to the stats of guys who played in the 1990s (when everyone hit 370 homers) ain't fair.

Hodges was the best first baseman in the game for more than a decade. When he retired, he had the most home runs ever by a right-handed batter and the most career grand slams by an NL player; he also ranked second in NL history in assists and double plays. Most importantly (to me), he took his team to the World Series 7 times. In 1955, he drove in both Dodger runs in their 2-0 win in Game 7, delivering Brooklyn its only world championship.

Robin Ventura never won a World Series. (Maybe his .177 career postseason batting average had something to do with that.) He is only remembered for taking Nolan Ryan uppercuts to the face.


8:45 PM Jul 21st
 
DaveNJnews
If you're going to make a World War II sympathy argument for a player of that era, I'd rather make it for Cecil Travis, who hit .359 as a 27-year-old shortstop for Washington in 1941 - his career average was .327 at that point. That year he was third in WAR among AL position players after Williams and DiMaggio.

In 1942, he went to war and came back in 1945 after suffering frostbite in his toes during the Battle of the Bulge. He was never much of a player after that.
8:35 PM Jul 21st
 
Manushfan
Funny how players bounce up and down in reputation after retirement: reading Our Bill about Joe Gordon before he was elected, he was a 3 guy at least. Averill was down then up and guess down some. Etc. Mr Manush would be in that area too. I would be ok with Hodges being put in but doubt it will happen now.
8:28 PM Jul 21st
 
John-Q
Dave,

He’s underrated because of his on base percentage and his defense. I don’t think people realize how great he was.

I think part of it is that he’d go into the HOF as a Cardinal.

I think older fans undervalue his career because they don’t use BWAR or win shares or pay attention to on-base percentage.

Younger Mets fans don’t remember him so there’s no vested interest if he’s going to just go in as a Cardinal.

He’s linked to Don Mattingly because they were contemporaries in NYC. Most of the older fans think that Mattingly was the better player.
7:54 PM Jul 21st
 
John-Q
Marc Sneider, yeah I’ve seen that argument as well. Like giving him extra points for his military service.


7:33 PM Jul 21st
 
DaveNJnews
This is a very strong, well-reasoned article.

I've long wondered why there hasn't been a bigger push among New York fans for Keith Hernandez, especially given that his argument is stronger than Hodges'.
7:32 PM Jul 21st
 
John-Q
Yeah, I shouldn’t have said he was a bench player on that team, that’s my mistake.

He wasn’t really the full time first basemen on that team. He only started 106 games at first base. He split time with Norm Larker.

Yeah he led the team in home runs but he only hit 25. He was 7th overall in BWAR (2.8). Pitching was the great strength on that team.
7:30 PM Jul 21st
 
howard38
"He was a bench player on the 1959 group and part of an ensemble in the 1955 group."

He was the regular first basemen for the Dodgers in 1959 & led the team in HRs. He also started all six WS games batting .391.
6:57 PM Jul 21st
 
bjjp2
Surprised you didn’t mention Tony Perez. How does he compare to Perez?
6:55 PM Jul 21st
 
jfenimore
Hernandez was a superior player to Hodges. Neither gets in.
6:51 PM Jul 21st
 
jbdominicano
The "combined accomplishments" argument could be used for Felipe Alou... He had 42.2 WAR and 1033 wins as a manager; and he managed the Expos in that failed 1994 season...
6:10 PM Jul 21st
 
Marc Schneider
John-Q: I see every one of those arguments on the baseball blogs. But, you forgot that he was a Marine on Iwo Jima. I see that argument a lot, not so much the limited opportunity idea that Bill advanced but just that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because he was on Iwo Jima.







5:54 PM Jul 21st
 
John-Q
I also forgot to add that Hodges played in a great hitter’s park and certainly benefitted in terms of grey ink and his career HR totals not to mention his all star appearances.

Would anybody considered him a HOF had he played in Yankee Stadium al, those years?
5:44 PM Jul 21st
 
John-Q
I always put Hodges in that Boog Powell level/category. He’s a 40 BWAR guy. You usually need a minimum of 55 WAR to get into the HOF or some amazing peak.

I think Hodges proponents push these 8 arguments along with the Mets managerial win.

1-He was on an all time great team full of HOF Players and he was a beloved and key leader on that team.

2-He was the best First basemen of the 1950’s.

3-There was a time during the early 1960’s where he was the all time Right handed National League HR leader.

4-He finished in the top ten in home runs 10 times in his career and top ten in RBI 7 times.

5-He was an 8 time all star

6- I think there was a time in the early 60’s when he was in the top 10 in career HR.

7-He was a gold glove first basemen.

8-He was a 2 time WS champion.

#1 is sort of the Dave Concepcion argument. There’s X amount of HOF players on this championship team so why isn’t this key player Y not also in the HOF?

#2 is sort of a fluky occurrence. For whatever reason the fifties was a weak period for first basemen. By that logic Amos Otis or Cesar Cedeno should be in the HOF because they were the best CF of the 1970’s.

#3 he played during the early evolution of the HR.

#4 he benefitted from playing in an eight team league so grey ink scores were easier to get.

#5 He benefitted from a weak first basemen group in the 1950’s.

#6 He played during the early evolution of the HR

#7 Gold Gloves or great fielding first basemen aren’t valued as highly in the HOF. If that were the case K. Hernandez would have been voted in 30 years ago.

#8 He was a bench player on the 1959 group and part of an ensemble in the 1955 group.


5:41 PM Jul 21st
 
Gfletch
Fun article to read, thanks.

An observation you've made before and touched on here, is what I might call the "can of worms" argument. If there are a large number of players with similar credentials, that's a strong argument against the selection of a candidate.
5:10 PM Jul 21st
 
 
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