NEW YORK — Prior to their Saturday afternoon game against the D-backs at Citi Field, the Mets honored the late Gil Hodges and his family in a ceremony (and press conference). The ceremony comes after Hodges, the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets and an eight-time All-Star first baseman for the Dodgers, was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee in December.
One of the best sluggers in Dodgers history, Hodges hit 361 career home runs and recorded 100-plus RBIs in seven straight seasons (1949-55). Hodges was a key figure in the Dodgers teams that went to the World Series seven times during the late 1940s and ’50s, finally winning it all in ’55 and ’59.
Hodges’ incredible resume includes major success as a manager, too. At the time of his death in 1972, Hodges was managing the Mets and to this day remains arguably the best skipper in team history.
When he joined the team in 1968, Hodges instilled a winning attitude in a franchise that had struggled since its inception in ’62. Prior to Hodges’ arrival, the Mets were known as the laughingstock of baseball. In the first six years of its existence, the New York club had lost 100-plus games five times.
Current Mets manager Buck Showalter is well aware of Hodges’ legacy in New York.
“The more you look into him, the more impressive he is,” Showalter said on Saturday. “He has always been one of those guys I had a lot of respect for; when you hear people talk about him, a lot of people that were around him — you think about class and dignity, the presentation of professionalism.
“[Hodges] made everybody around him feel like you should do things to a certain standard. He didn’t have to show everybody. You walk into a room — he could command a room. You knew who the leader was. He [did] it without saying a word. Very quietly, he is one of the great pillars of Mets history.”
In attendance during Saturday morning’s press conference were Hodges’ son, Gil Jr.; his daughters Irene and Cynthia; Josh Rawitch, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum; and Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who is a special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Everyone brought up their favorite memories about Hodges. Torre said after Hodges suffered a mild heart attack in 1968, he visited Hodges in the hospital and lobbied to be traded to the Mets. Torre was a member of the Braves at the time, and was traded to the Cardinals the following season.
“[Hodges] may have loved me, but I didn’t [get traded to the Mets],” Torre said. “They brought in Donn Clendenon and they won the World Series. But I did make a contribution [to the Mets]. When they clinched [the division title], I hit into the double play to end that game.”
Irene’s favorite memory was watching her father manage the Mets and capture the World Series title in 1969 against the Orioles.
“When they won the ‘69 Series, I could see his smile, which was huge,” Irene said. “He was so thrilled. He was thrilled for his team first because he loved them. He believed in them before they believed in themselves.”