Tri-State native Gil Hodges receives highest honor in baseball with Hall of Fame induction

‘35 years in the making,’ Hodges’ family told 14 Sports ahead of Sunday’s ceremony
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Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 12:20 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 3:57 AM CDT
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WFIE) - Princeton-born and former Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges became immortalized in baseball history this weekend as a new member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was a moment that Hodges’ family had been waiting for a long time, and now 50 years after his passing, the longtime Dodgers first baseman was among the seven inductees enshrined into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.

“35 times, we waited for this call, so when it finally did come, it took a few minutes just to step back and realize what just took place‚” Hodges’ son, Gil Jr. told 14 Sports. “Dad’s getting recognized by his peers, so it’s a great honor.”

Hodges was the kind of player that everyone wanted on their side, beloved by fans in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and New York.

“It’s just so surreal that it’s even hard to comprehend right now,” Gil Jr. said. “Probably in a week it will all sink in.”

This past December, 14 Sports reported that Hodges was finally voted into the Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee, which recognizes candidates who made their contributions to the game between 1950 and 1969.

Hodges, who starred as a four-sport athlete at Petersburg High School, played 18 years in the major leagues, winning two World Series titles with the Dodgers (1955 in Brooklyn and 1959 in Los Angeles). As a manager, he also led the “Miracle Mets” team to the 1969 championship.

The eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner amassed 370 home runs in his career, which ranked third-most by a right-handed hitter when he retired in 1963.

“His statistics were outstanding,” Gil Jr. said. “For all of baseball, when he retired, he was in the top five in home runs. It’s just the recognition of all his hard work, off the field and on the field, and the person that he was.”

Hodges broke into the big leagues in 1943 with Brooklyn, but then served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, even receiving the Bronze Star Medal for heroism under fire in the Battle of Okinawa. After more than two years overseas, he was discharged in 1946 and returned to the Dodgers organization.

During the 1947 season, Hodges became an immediate fixture in the starting lineup, which remained the case for the duration of his Dodgers’ career.

In the same year, he sat front and center to one of the biggest moments in sports history, witnessing the integration of Jackie Robinson into the big leagues, effectively breaking the color barrier in baseball. They played together as teammates on the Dodgers for the entirety of Robinson’s 10-year career. Hodges’ son told 14 Sports that Robinson was an extremely special person in his father’s life.

“Their close relationship and the bond that they had – the respect they had for each other not only as players but as individuals – helped both of them tremendously,” Gil Jr. said. “A special time not only for baseball, but for America.”

And 60 years after Robinson became the first Black player to be inducted into Cooperstown, Hodges now joins his old teammate as a fellow Hall of Famer.

Later in his career when Hodges and his wife started their family, Gill Jr. often had a front-row seat from the dugout.

“Being the only boy in the family and the oldest, I got to travel with Dad a lot, especially in the summers when there was no school,” Gil Jr. said. “So, I would put on a uniform, take batting practice, sit on the bench during the game. Really just a storied childhood.”

And as to why maybe it took so long for Hodges to get into Cooperstown?

“It’s a lot different when a person’s not here,” Gil Jr. said. “People can talk and people can say things, but if the person’s not here to be seen and be reminded of who he was, it’s a little different and sometimes it takes a little longer, but they got it right.”

Hodges died in 1972, but his children and several other family members were in attendance for Sunday’s ceremony. One of his daughters, Irene Hodges, gave the induction speech.

In early June, the Dodgers celebrated Hodges and his accomplishments by retiring his No. 14 jersey before a game against the Mets, which did the same in 1973.

He’s the second player from Southern Indiana to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Oakland City native and former Cincinnati Reds center fielder Edd Roush.

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