Two more players were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. As someone who grew up watching baseball in the 1980s when Harold Baines and Lee Smith did most of their hitting and pitching, neither impressed me as Hall of Fame quality.
That doesn't mean I'm not happy they've been voted into the Hall. I don't think it's "embarrassing" or "a joke" that each were selected. The Hall is already full of players who if they were voted in today would stupefy the social media babblers.
Both Baines and Smith obviously enjoyed long and successful careers (both do seem like they're being rewarded for longevity). And I've evolved in my thinking about the Hall
At first, I thought the restrictions on Hall voting were good; it should be difficult to be inducted. Then I thought the restrictions on Hall voting were bad: it's just a ploy to get people talking about the Hall and deserving players are facing a logjam. But now that the Hall is basically a free-for-all -- Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are not in the Hall of Fame and Harold Baines is -- and the definition of what makes a "Hall of Famer" is as vague and subjective as it has ever been, I'm just happy that good players from the past are being recognized. I'd prefer focusing on that. Maybe Ron Cey will squeeze in someday.
What does annoy me, however, is the many times I heard and read that Baines' and Smith's selections were "long overdue." OK, if Baines and Smith were long overdue to get into the Hall of Fame, what's that make Gil Hodges, someone who died before either of those two put on a major league uniform?
Gil Hodges is still not in the Hall of Fame.
Gil Hodges, who drove in at least 100 runs in a season seven straight years (Baines had three his entire career), hit more than 20 home runs in a season 11 straight years, averaged 29 HRs and 100 RBIs and a .487 slugging for his career, is still not in the Hall of Fame.
Gil Hodges, who was manager of one of the most shocking World Series championship wins in history, is still not in the Hall of Fame.
Gil Hodges, a legendary World Series player -- check out his 1953 and 1959 Series numbers -- and two-time World Series champion, is not in the Hall of Fame.
Gil Hodges, a Boy of Summer, mentioned in the same breath as Robinson, Snider, Reese and Campanella is still not in the Hall of Fame.
Second guy from the left is still not in the Hall of Fame (Furillo isn't either, but one guy at a time).
I've been annoyed for quite awhile that Hodges has been overlooked for so long, but I've been low-key about it just because I've always assumed that every deserving player will get their due. My long-held belief was then shaken by the steroid years and it is shaken further by the recent vote.
When Baines and Smith were announced, folks immediately rejoiced or recoiled. And all of the names that immediately came out of their mouths made me sad. "Well, this opens the door for Dale Murphy." "Larry Walker still isn't in." "Fred McGriff's time is coming." "Edgar Martinez is a shoo-in now." Even players from my era, who I am happy to hear have some new hope, like Ted Simmons, were mentioned.
Yet, nobody mentioned Gil Hodges.
How can a guy who dominated an entire decade like that be forgotten?
I have more than 60 cards of Gil Hodges. I've been lucky in that I have quite a few of his 1950s cards. Perhaps that's why he's so lightly regarded. Many of his cards aren't that difficult to find.
Still, I've paid a pretty penny for some of them, and still they're gorgeous.
What I found when looking through my Hodges cards is how great they seem to think he is.
He's an All-Time Dodger.
He's one of baseball's greatest sluggers.
He's one of the Greats.
He was part of a Super Team.
And he's a Legend of New York.
Hell, Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame for this card alone.
Hodges' cards -- the sheer variety -- speak to the respect that historians of the game held and hold for him.
Hodges is in a variety of TCMA Greatest Teams sets through the 1970s and 1980s.
This is the first Gil Hodges card I ever owned. It's from TCMA's 1975 Dodgers' All-Time Team. Gil Hodges is the first baseman on that team. THE GREATEST FIRST BASEMAN OF ALL-TIME FOR A TEAM THAT'S BEEN AROUND SINCE 1890.
Not in the Hall of Fame.
Hodges' exploits are so well-known and numerous that he's appeared on various moment-in-time cards, like this World Series card.
And this NuScoops card. Four Home Runs in a Nite Game, you guys. Let's get this guy a plaque.
Hodges has shown up on cards that feature just his first name.
He's shown up on cards with the team initials painted on his cap.
He's appeared on combo cards.
He's appeared with the peristyle architecture of the Los Angeles Coliseum behind him. How many Hall of Famers can say that?
He's appeared on mini cards and shown up hatless and inside a giant wood-framed television set.
He's also on the only porcelain card in my collection. PORCELAIN! Get this guy in the Hall!
Plus, there are the manager cards (I'm still kicking myself for trading away his 1969 Topps card). Hodges was the rare major leaguer who won a championship as a player and a manager. He's one of just 20 people to do that and one of the most talented, too.
I'm not fond of Hall of Fame debates. To me, they're too much like political arguments or discussions about the weather. It's a lot of talk about nothing and no one is getting anywhere. Save it for talk radio. I don't listen to that either.
But I do believe people should get their due and the longer it goes and the more that people talk about some dude from the 1980s waiting a long time, I can't help but worry that everyone has forgotten about somebody who was probably better than most of the players in the '80s.
The Hall of Fame does have a Golden Days Committee that considers players from 1950-1969. They will meet in 2020 to determine if anyone from that period is deserving to reach the Hall (Maury Wills would be in this group, too). If Hodges doesn't make it then, he won't get another chance until 2025 because the committee meets just every five years.
I don't even want to think about who will fly into the Hall during those future years when Hodges is STILL waiting.
Congrats to Harold Baines and Lee Smith. I'm not much for Chicago sports but I'm sure it was a big day there yesterday. Yet, waiting 15 years or whatever it was -- both Baines and Smith finished their careers in the late '90s/early '00s -- is not a long time or "long overdue."
Hodges ended his career 55 years ago. His managing career ended and he died 46 years ago.
He is still waiting.
THAT is long overdue.