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Hall of Fame Military Spotlight Series: Gil Hodges

Gilbert “Gil” Ray Hodges is honored this week for his 1-year anniversary of finally being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee. After a prolonged wait, Hodges was honored on July 24, 2022, for his baseball prowess. The Foundation also recognizes him for the sacrifices that he endured during World War II as a United States Marine.

Hodges was a four-sport athlete in high school and turned down an offer from the Detroit Tigers to instead play baseball and basketball at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. At the age of 19, he dropped out during his sophomore year and accepted a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his major league debut on the last day of the season. He is known for never having played in the minor leagues before his major league start.

Only eleven days after his Major League Baseball debut, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was stationed at Pearl Harbor and Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. At Kauai, he played baseball with the 16th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.

Sergeant Hodges saw action at Tinian and in April of 1945 when he landed with the assault echelon at Okinawa. Hodges was responsible for “safeguarding and stenographic preparation of highly classified documents through extensive periods of enemy aerial alerts and extensive bombing attacks.” He received the Bronze Star Medal for heroism under fire. He remained at Okinawa until October 1945 and admitted to taking up smoking in order to pass the time in the foxholes.

Hodges returned to the major leagues in 1946, rejoining the Brooklyn Dodgers. He switched to being a catcher and played for the Newport News Dodgers of the Class B Piedmont League. That stint was short lived as he returned to the Dodgers as their back-up catcher in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The following year he switched to first base because of the emergence of Roy Campanella as their catcher. On June 25, 1949, Hodges hit for the cycle on his way to becoming a fan favorite for being the heart and soul of the team and was also known for being the only Brooklyn player that the fans never booed.

After being chosen in the expansion draft in 1961, Hodges became an original 1962 Met. He was traded from the Mets in 1963 to the Washington Senators so he could replace Mickey Vernon as their manager and retired as a player. He managed the Senators through 1967, and although they improved, they never achieved a winning record. His return to the Mets as manager in 1968 was essential to the “Miracle Mets” season of 1969. He led the Mets in a four to one game series win over the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Over his baseball career Hodges accumulated many awards and records including being an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, and appeared in seven World Series. He had 370 career home runs and 1,274 runs batted in.

Tragically, he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1972, two days short of his 48th birthday, while still with the Mets. He left behind a legacy of a man of integrity and selfless service to his country. To learn more about Gil Hodges and his baseball and military caree check out the Foundation’s American Podcast interview with his son, Gil Hodges, Jr. at:



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