In some respects, it feels like everything that could be said about Gil Hodges’ Hall of Fame candidacy has already been said. After all, Hodges, who died of a heart attack at 47 in 1972, might be the most-voted on candidate in Hall of Fame history.
First debuting on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Cooperstown ballot in 1969, the iconic Dodgers first baseman went the then-full 15 years on that ballot, peaking in 1983 at 63.4 percent of the vote, well short of the needed 75 percent. Since then, Hodges has been up for consideration at least another 19 times by veterans groups responsible for Cooperstown voting.
Most recently, Hodges appeared on the then-Golden Era Committee ballot for its 2015 election, with the Hall acknowledging only that Hodges received fewer than four votes.
Now, though, Hodges could be coming up for consideration again fairly soon, with his playing career, primarily with the Dodgers, and his subsequent managerial career, most notably with the New York Mets, drawing fresh attention.
When Hodges will be eligible again. Under Hall of Fame rules revised in 2016, Hodges can be considered by a Golden Days Era Committee that meets once every five years and looks at players, managers, executives and umpires. This group will likely meet for the first time later this year at the annual winter meetings.
Why Hodges might be enshrined: Hodges has a few things freshly going for his case and various other factors that have been true for the half-century he’s been eligible.
For one thing, the current era structure for veterans voting limits the number of people Hodges can be considered against, with candidates having to have had their best years from 1950-69 to even be eligible. The era is fairly picked-over, too, with 12.85 percent of all plate appearances in those years having been taken by a player who’s now enshrined, according to Hall of Fame enthusiast Adam Darowski. Former St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman Ken Boyer is the only remaining candidate with at least 60 WAR in these years. Hodges' career WAR was 43.9.
Hodges has also been receiving renewed attention, with Kevin Kernan of the New York Post quoting Dodgers legends Vin Scully and Carl Erskine in a recent plug for Hodges. That article brought up facts long known about Hodges, such as his standing as one of the greatest defensive first basemen of his era. Hodges’ 370 homers were also briefly the most by any right-handed batter in National League history, according to his SABR biography.
That said, a few things could hurt his chances this time.
Why Hodges might not get in: Simply put, because the Golden Days Era Committee is only meeting once every five years, there could be a fight for other players from the era, some of whom are still living.
And while the era is short on outstanding sabermetric candidates who aren’t already enshrined, it has plenty of big names to choose from.
Former stars Hodges might come up against include:
- Two other Dodger greats, Maury Wills and Don Newcombe
- Dick Allen
- Ken Boyer
- Curt Flood
- Jim Kaat
- Minnie Minoso
- Tony Oliva
- Billy Pierce
- Vada Pinson
That doesn’t even get into the managers, umpires, or executives Hodges' candidacy might face, with the ballot likely to once again be limited to 10 people, and any candidate needing 75 percent of the vote for enshrinement. In terms of names, at least, it’s a strong potential ballot.
It’s nice to see attention going to Hodges who had a fine career and died too young. But for now, this might be as good as it will get for his candidacy.
Graham Womack has written about baseball for a variety of publications, including Sporting News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Sports on Earth. He lives in Northern California with his wife Kate and their animals.