From Marine Corps to Cooperstown: Mets Icon Gil Hodges Enshrined in Hall of Fame
Executive Produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.
Cooperstown, NY — It’s been a long journey from Brooklyn to Queens to Cooperstown for Gil Hodges, the legendary Major League manager who led the 1969 “Miracle Mets” to its first championship in franchise history following seven consecutive losing seasons to begin the club’s existence.
On Sunday, Hodges will be posthumously inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in the presence of his 96 year old widow Joan, members of the Mets organization and his former players.
“He was the difference in the Met organization, changing from the laughable Mets, the losing ball club for the first seven years,” said former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool. “He joins the ball club in 1968 and right from day one, we knew we were going to learn how to play the game the right way.”
Kranepool was Hodges’ teammate on the Mets from 1962-63 before he played for the retired Marine when he took over as skipper.
“He was a very strict disciplinarian,” the original Met told NY2C/Carousso Enterprises. “The way he figured it, the ball club that made the fewest mental mistakes is going to win some ballgames.”
“There was a persona that Gil brought with him and that was one of strength of leadership and of success,” said Howie Rose, the radio voice of the Mets on WCBS 880.
“I’m pretty close to ’69 team and all the guys said there wouldn’t have been a world championship without him,” said Jay Horwitz who has spent 42 years in the Mets communications department, including his current role leading alumni relations.
“There’s no way we’d be talking about the 1969 Mets if not for Gil Hodges,” then-Mets left fielder Cleon Jones told Rachel Luscher in Cooperstown.
“53 years later and people still talk about that team,” said Mets 1969 champion outfielder Art Shamsky. “Now with Gil Hodges, our manager, going into the Hall of Fame, it just brings more memories about that year and it’s one of the few teams in the history of the game that people still talk about all these years later.”
Hodges was the manager of the Mets until 1971. He died before the start of the 1972 season. His legendary managerial career succeeded a superb 18-year playing career.
The eight-time all-star won two World Series championships as a first baseman and outfielder, including Brooklyn’s only ring in 1955, driving in both runs in a 2-0 Dodgers victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7. Hodges played on another Dodgers championship team in 1959 after the team moved to Los Angeles.
Hodges’ induction into baseball immortality comes 50 years after he died and 35 rounds of votes for enshrinement.
“It shouldn’t have took (sic) so long, but I’m glad he finally got in,” said Kranepool.
Hodges’ legacy extends beyond the field at Shea Stadium. Families of the ’69 Mets and even members of his hometown Petersburg, IN made the trip to Cooperstown to celebrate the late skipper.
“He was his favorite manager. He gave him the motivation to keep going as a player,” said J’nelle Agee, daughter of the late Mets all-star center fielder Tommie Agee. “My dad got hit in the head when he was in spring training, and then, he lost his confidence and Gil Hodges gave him the confidence to keep being leadoff batter.”
“Our town has followed Gil through his entire career and it’s just so meaningful because so many people behind the scenes have worked for years to advocate for his election to the Hall of Fame,” said former Petersburg Mayor Jon Craig.
“We’ve pushed for this for so long and it’s overdue and we are just so happy to be here to celebrate him and his family,” Agee said.
Watch Rachel Luscher’s reporting on Gil Hodges’ induction into the Hall of Fame above. Carousso Enterprises executive produces NY2C’s On The Call, including its Hall of Fame coverage.