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Vets may give Hodges his Hall due

Vets may give Hodges his Hall due

Mainline voting for Hall of Fame membership, as any other imperfect process, has its cracks, but few have fallen through them as unreasonably as Gil Hodges, the generator of the powerhouse Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s.

Hodges was unable to earn the backing of a sufficient number of voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America despite a compelling resume. Rather, his 15-year candidacy ended in 1983 as a study in harsh taunting.

Three times, Hodges received more than 60 percent of the votes, yet his destiny was to become one of only four to ever score that high without eventual induction. During those 15 years on the ballot, he also finished ahead of 21 others eventually enshrined.

That candidacy somehow mirrored his run with the Dodgers; Brooklyn kept getting into World Series, and kept losing them to the Bronx, to the Yankees.

Nothing can be done for those Bums, adjudged by history's final verdict. But justice can still shine on the late Hodges, under consideration for the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Any player receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2009. Results from the Veterans Committee vote will be covered on MLB.com on Dec. 8 from baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

The other members of the post-1943 Veterans Committee final ballot are Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre and Maury Wills.

Hodges was stricken by a fatal heart attack two days shy of his 48th birthday on April 2, 1972, a couple of years removed from perhaps his most lasting legacy: Managing the previously inept Mets to the 1969 World Series title.

But as superb a manager as he became, he was an even greater first baseman as the anchor of Dodgers teams which won seven pennants and two World Series titles from 1947 to 1959 between Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Hodges hit 20-plus home runs in 11 straight seasons (1949-59), twice reaching the 40-home run plateau. Though he never led the league in any batting category, he ranked among the top five in home runs four times, RBIs six times and extra-base hits three times.

Hodges' 14 career grand slams stood as the NL record until the mark was broken by Willie McCovey, and he ranked 11th all-time with 370 home runs when he retired. He led teams which he played for in home runs seven times and in RBIs four times. He hit .300 twice and drove in 100 or more runs in seven consecutive seasons from 1949-55.

Yet, he may have been even more well known for his glove than for his bat. He led NL first basemen in double plays four times, and in fielding percentage, assists and putouts three times each. Not shockingly, when baseball began awarding Gold Gloves for fielding excellence in 1957, the first three at his position went into his trophy case.

In seven World Series appearances, Hodges hit five home runs in 39 games, including three that gave Dodgers leads they would not relinquish. He hit .292 in Brooklyn's overdue 1955 win over the Yankees, and .391 in Los Angeles' 1959 victory over the White Sox.

The eight-time All-Star finished his playing career with a .273 batting average, 370 home runs and 1,274 RBIs.

After his playing career was over, Hodges managed the Senators (1963-67) and Mets (1968-71). He compiled a 660-753 (.467) mark in nine seasons with the two teams.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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