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Forgotten


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.

He's forgotten.

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.

Comments

Chris said…
I agree with you 100%. Don't care what the Brian Kennys and Jay Jaffes of the world say, it's the Hall of Fame not the Hall of Stats. And Hodges had 'em both. I obviously never saw Hodges play (or manage the Miracle Mets) but my father in law did, and he asked me at least three times "How the heck is Phil Rizzuto in the Hall of Fame and Gil Hodges isn't?" My answers were: I don't know, I don't know, and..Ted Williams. Apparently Ted was head of the veteran's committee and Roy Campanella's vote would have put Hodges in the Hall - but he wouldn't let Campy vote absentee. SMDH.
Adam said…
Gil Hodges should be a Hall of Famer, no doubt. He was a great player and a good manager as well (going by the basic info should just tell anyone that).

As for the new inductees, Lee Smith I always though deserved it. He was one of the premier closers of the 80s and for the longest time had the career record for saves. He still sits third all-time I believe. Baines, on the other hand, never felt like a Hall of Fame player to me and never really stood out in any way. The one thing I'm miffed at is Lou Piniella missed induction by one vote.
Mark Hoyle said…
Never understood why he wasn’t in. Asa kid I always thought he was
Billy Kingsley said…
I feel that part of the problem for older era players is that the media voting on them may not know anything about them. Retired or deceased players rarely make headlines so the writers who are voting may be in an "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" situation.
Brett Alan said…
Only about a quarter of the committee which votes for the old-timers is media members, and they're mostly guys who have been around forever such as Phil Pepe. The rest of the voters are executives and Hall of Fame players.

I don't think Baines deserved to make it. I'm not even sure about Hodges, but he's certainly got a better case than Baines. I want to see Luis Tiant and Lou Whitaker get in.
steelehere said…
I'm honestly tired of the small Hall nonsense dominated by modern statistics (WAR) that didn't exist in the past. Yes, the writers should continue to be much more discerning with their votes so that the most qualified candidates get in sooner but the same shouldn't be true for the veterans committee. It's why the Hall made changes to the veterans committee not that long ago to break the veterans ballot up into four different eras.

That said, I think Gil Hodges gets voted in on the 2020 ballot. I'm also looking forward to the 2019 ballot when the likes of Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Luis Tiant, Ted Simmons and Dave Parker will get another look.
Old Cards said…
Didn't see Gil Hodges play, but based on his stats, recorded accomplishments and contributions to the Dodger's success, he should be in the Hall. What's up with his 1960 Topps card? Surely they had a better picture. Was he trade bait at that time?
Kevin said…
I think Harold Baines got the most screwed by player strikes...with the extra games in 1981 and 1994, he may have over 3000 hits...but yes, cant say i was ever excited to get a harold baines card when opening a pack which in my mind is where hall of fame arguments begin and end
Commishbob said…
If Gil Hodges never played a single game he belongs in the Hall for winning the '69 Series with that Mets club. I watched that team up close. I don't think I've ever seen a better job of squeezing every ounce of talent out of a roster than Hodges' work that season.

Some day he'll get his due. Too bad he is not around to enjoy it.
bbcardz said…
You make an outstanding case for Gil Hodges to be in the Hall of Fame. And I agree 110%.
The Hodges slight is a continuing blemish on this whole process.

And Baines! What has he ever done other than hang around long enough to collect stats? He and Don Sutton (sorry, Dodgers' fans!) are the poster children for Election-by-Longevity. (Craig Biggio is another!) Neither was among the best at their position for anything at any time, as I recall. At least Lee Smith was among the bet relievers for a time.
Fuji said…
Great post. Hopefully you'll keep his name alive, so it won't get buried over time. I didn't realize his career numbers were so impressive. If I were putting together a Mount Rushmore of Veterans committee guys who deserve to be in the baseball hall of fame, he'd be up there with Simmons, Oliva, and Dick Allen.
CrazieJoe said…
Gil absolutely deserves to be in, and when someone like Raines gets in, it forces the question of hey not so and so.

It is a subjective matter, and the politics comparison is fitting.

At the end of it though, I think the vast majority can be in the same page, sure for someone like Baines, there will be a minority pushing him as a HOFer, but most can agree his was very good, but not quite hall worthy. Gil sits the other way, most say hall worthy, some very good which is why a bit baffling he isn't in yet.
Anonymous said…
Who's the left handed guy amidst the cards of Hodges?
AdamE said…
The committees were designed so that changes guys that were left out had a change to get in as peoples perception about rating players changes over the years.

This is why Lee smith got in; it was almost like the committees were designed for him. In the past Saves were just a stat. It helped tell the story of how a game went. One team was winning by only a little bit, someone comes in and "saves" the game from the brink of a loss. However over time it has became a highly desired stat and it's own position.

This way of thinking has changed over time and is why Smith is considered more "Hall Worthy" than when he originally didn't get in. Everyone knows he is 3rd all time in saves. (1st and 2nd are both in the Hall already) That's a great line on his resume. The line that many don't know or don't realize is he was the career leader in saves for 13 years. That means he was the best closer of all time when he retired and also nobody could surpass his achievement for another decade. To me that's Hall of Fame worthy and why I think the committee got it right.

Baines he was pretty good his whole career. I don't know how he got in. Maybe thinking is moving to a big hall. We will see in the next couple years.
night owl said…
Wayne Belardi. I uploaded the wrong card.
Great post and I am often baffled at Hodges exclusion from the Hall of Fame.
Anonymous said…
Without looking it up. Maybe if Gil got in the Dodgers of the 50s would have 1 more player in the hall than the Yankees of the 50s. If that's the case baseball wouldn't allow that. Never can a team from a era be allowed to have more players than the Yankees or so it seems.
Hackenbush said…
You make as good an argument as I've heard. As you've said, you're not fond of the Cubs, but I had a similar experience with my guy, Ron Santo. As glad as I am that he was finally voted in, it still kills me that they waited until he died to do it.
Nick Vossbrink said…
Like I said on Twitter, the only explanation I have for Hodges not being in is that people think he's already there. I know I'm surprised every time someone corrects me when I call him a HoFer. (note, Lee Smith was also in this category for me)
As a longtime White Sox fan (since 1977, which completely coincincidentally was the same year Baines was the #1 overall pick), I'm happy for him.

Yet I don't think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I'm generally a Big Hall guy. He just doesn't have the numbers and didn't have a big enough impact on the game.

But above all that, I feel bad for Harold.

Baines has always been low-key, just doing his job without calling attention to himself. On the field, in the locker room talking to reporters -- even at the annual SoxFest talking to a roomful of fans during a seminar -- he's always quiet and reserved. He wasn't "marketable." A lot of today's younger fans might have called him boring. But that's a big part of what made him such a fan favorite on the South Side of Chicago. He just did his job, and he did it well for a long time.

Sadly, now he will always be thought of as one of the least-deserving HOFers, among the likes of Rube Marquard and Tommy McCarthy.

A guy who never sought or found controversy is now in the middle of one of the biggest Hall of Fame controversies in recent years, through no fault of his own.

And if his election does make future committee voters take a closer look at players like Tommy John, Luis Tiant, Bobby Grich, Ted Simmons and Gil Hodges, then it's not a bad thing.
Brett Alan said…
Just to pick a nit, the guy in first isn't in the Hall yet...because he hasn't been voted on yet. The chances of him getting in in the next round of voting are pretty much 100%, of course.
Wait, Bobby Grich? Bobby Grich?
I thought you said you were a "big enough impact on the game" guy?
Baltmoss68 said…
Hodges should have been in long ago. I think Smith deserves it. I like Baines but he seems hall of very good. I’m a Dale Murphy fan but not even totally sure he belongs based on numbers. and what about Vada Pinson??!?🙃

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