“Hey look…Smokey Joe Wood, Mel Ott…Gil Hodges” goes the dialogue from a young and awe struck Archie “Moonlight” Graham in the film Field of Dreams. Brooklyn fans in the 1950s, Mets fans in 1969, and film makers in the 1980s knew all to well that Gil Hodges was truly something special. I am wondering when this will dawn on the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee.
If you are like me and have taken a look at Hodges’s career both as a player and a manager, you are likely asking yourself why is this taking so long. I have always likened this to the same set of circumstances that kept Tony Perez out of the Hall of Fame far past when it was due. The other thing that is interesting are the similarities between Hodges and Perez.
Both of these men:
-Were right handed first basemen who changed positions to accommodate the talents of a team mate.
-Played on dominate teams in the National League.
-Were quiet individuals who were overshadowed by other team members.
-Were RBI machines in terms of production and consistency.
-Had very similar power numbers in terms of home runs.
While I have always been a big fan of Perez and would never want to show his efforts in anything but a positive light, there are a number of things that are part of the Hodges resume that are not on that of the “Big Dog.”
Was a three time Gold Glove Winner at first base. This included 1957 when only one award was given out to cover the Major Leagues.
Hit four home runs in one game. When he retired in 1963, his 370 home runs placed him at 11th on the All Time Home Run list.
Won a World Series as a Manager with the 1969 Miracle Mets.
The attraction for collectors with respect to Hodges has always been strong. This is largely a function of three factors that I refer to as market, measure, and manner. For me these are the “Triple Crown” categories that I have always felt drove the collectabilty and value for a players items.
Market: Hodges played in New York at a time when that city was referred to as “the Capital of Baseball”. From 1949 through 1959, a New York team was in the World Series each year. The Dodgers and Hodges played in five of those from Brooklyn and one from Los Angeles. This topic is covered in wonderful detail in the book “New York City Baseball. The Last Golden Age: 1947-1957” by Harvey Fromer.
Manner: To say that Gil Hodges was a fan favorite is an understatement. He was referred to as “The Dodger Who’s Never Been Booed” as chronicled and captured by some young fan in a period scrapbook. This was never any more apparent than the fan reaction to Gil’s performance at the plate in the 1952 World Series when he went 0 for 21. Hodges was not booed…rather the fans only cheered louder and stronger for him. The sensing was that they knew he played hard all the time and if they could just show their support, something good was bound to happen sooner or later. In this case, as is fitting with the Brooklyn moniker “wait till next year,” Hodges responded in 1953 with 31 home runs, 122 runs batted in, and an average of .302. He was once again an All Star and hit a team leading .364 in the Series that year against the Yankees. He was a player the fans wanted to do well because of the manner in which he played and interacted with them. Could a New York baseball star go 0 for 21 in the World Series today and still be beloved?
Measure:Baseball and the fans that follow the game are well in tuned to numbers and here Hodges does not disappoint, as mentioned above with respect to his power numbers for both home runs and RBIs. Fans/collectors also take notice of things like:
All Star Selections:9
World Series Appearances:7 as a player and manager.
There is also one other factor that drives collectability in certain circles that are a function of team collectors. That being Hodges was part of some very popular teams with both the Dodgers and the Mets. This is not exclusive to the 1969 Mets as Hodges was also a member of original 1962 team.
If you are looking at or for Gil Hodges’ items that have entered the hobby over the years, a solid point of departure would be Leland’s October 2000 Auction. Beginning on page 314 and running through page 318 comes a number of items from the Gil Hodges estate. They include:
Late 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers Jacket
1951 All Star Bat (H&B Model H138)
1952 All Star Bat (H&B Model H138)
1952 World Series Bat (Adirondack Model 113A: No player name on barrel)
1953 All Star Bat (Adirondack)
1953 World Series Bat (H&B Model S2)
1955 World Series Bat (H&B Model S2)
c 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers team jacket
1956 World Series Bat (H&B Model S2)
1957 Gold Glove Award
1957 All Star Game Bat (H&B Model H178)
1957 Brooklyn Dodgers Home Jersey (Rawlings)
1959 All Star Bat (H&B Model H178)
1959 Gold Glove Award
1960 LA Dodgers Home Jersey (Rawlings)
1961 LA Dodgers Road Jersey (Spalding)
1969 New York Mets team jacket
1971 New York Mets road uniform (Wilson)
Other Gil Hodges Uniforms that have entered the market include:
1949 Brooklyn Dodgers Road Jersey (Spalding) LeLands August 1992
1954 Brooklyn Dodgers Home Jersey (Rawlings) Mastro November 1998
1963 New York Mets Home Jersey (Spalding) Lelands November 1997
1969 New York Mets Road Jersey (Wilson) Grey Flannel November 2000
Other Gil Hodges Bats that have entered the market include:
(Note: Since bats are in much greater supply based on production numbers than jerseys, I have provided information from the descriptions or images that may help you track them as they move through the hobby. It is also helpful to note these things over time in order to gauge the number of bats potentially available as opposed to counting the same bat 2 or 3 times as it is reoffered or resold)
Hillerich & Bradsby 1950-60 Model S2. 35”, 33oz. Uncracked and autographed. MastoWest June 1999.
Hillerich & Bradsby 1950-60 Model H178. 35”. Cracked and unautographed. Mastro’s November 2000.
Hillerich & Bradsby 1953 World Series Bat Model S2. 35”, 34 ¾ oz. Uncracked and unautographed. Possibly the same as the one offered in Leland’s, but this description includes both length and weight. Robert Edwards Auctions March 2001.
Adirondack 1951-57 Model 106. 35 ½”, 35 oz. Cracked and unautographed.Mastro’s August 2003.
Adirondack 1953 All Star Bat Model 106E. 36” 35 ½”. Uncracked and autographed. Same bat as offered by Leland’s based on personalization of the autograph. Mastro’s December 2003.
Hillerich & Bradsby 1961-64 Model H178. 35”, 33oz. Cracked and unautographed. Mastro’s April 2004.
Adirondack 1951-57 Model 106 A. 35”, 34 ½ oz. Uncracked and unautographed. Mastro’s August 2005.
Hillerich & Bradsby 1952 World Series Bat Model H138. 35”, 35 oz. Uncracked and unatographed. Dave Bushing MEARS Sales February 2007.
Hodges represents one of those players known to have used both Adirondack and Hillerich & Bradsby bats. His signature model bats are those of Adirondack. What’s nice about seeing World Series and All Star Game bats is that they are year specific and can be used as indicators for various things such as labeling changes. With respect to Hodges, since we see an Adirondack 1953 World Series bat with signature stamping, we know the endorsement at least dates back that far. Hillerich and Bradsby provides a couple things to help in this respect as well. At their museum in Louisville, they a wall devoted to player signatures and when the where endorsers. The other thing H&B provides the hobby are the World Series Black Bats that were provided to players and team personnel. On these bats you will notice a combination of both block and signature names for players. The signature names represent H&B endorsing players.
An interesting thing to note with respect to these World Series and All Star H&B bats is how they are reflected, or in this case, not reflected in Hodges production information. We clearly know that the 1951 and 1952 All Star Bats are real and but are not found recorded on his order sheet. Between October 1949 and September 1952, orders listed are:
10-3-49 W.S. (World Series) H138, 35” 35oz A2
3-15-50 H138, 35”, 35oz A4
7-21-50 H138, 35”, 35oz A4
9-26-52 W.S. (World Series) H138, 35”, 35oz A2
This gives rise to an interesting observation. These early 1950’s H&B Hodges bats do not appear to exist in great number, especially outside of World Series and All Star Bats.
If you happen to be looking for a Gil Hodges glove to round out a display, you will find his named stamped on a number of store model basemen mitts. These would include (information sourced from the 2004 Vintage Baseball Glove Catalog Source Book by Joe Phillips):
Sears Model 1628
Sonnett Model 77B
Stall & Dean Model 7602
Western Auto G1349
Wilson Models A2820, A2880, A2820, A2774, and A2850
Other known gloves include those offered by:
The only other thing that would make any Gil Hodges collection or display complete is a Plaque Post Card from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just the like the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s…wait till next year.
MEARS Auth, LLC