Gil Hodges & the HOF: Has the Never Ending Story Finally Ended?

This past December, followers of that never-ending question, why isn’t Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame, received quite a shock. No, Hodges was not elected. In fact, none of the nine worthy former players considered by the sixteen member Golden Era Veteran’s committee was elected. The shock was, that after coming so close so many times over the past four decades, Hodges only got three or less votes out of a possible 64 (the 16 members have 4 votes each, assuming they use them). We don’t know how many votes Hodges received since an exact vote total was only reported for Dick Allen (11), Tony Oliva (11), Jim Kaat (10), Maury Wills (9), and Minnie Minoso (8).

Why such a poor showing for Hodges after so many near misses? As far as I know his statistical record did not worsen since the last time the Golden Era Committee met. Hodges still ended the last full season of his playing career (1962) in tenth place on the all-time career home run list, he still won a Gold Glove Award the first three years the award was handed out (1957 – 1959) and would have won many more had the award been established earlier, he and Albert Pujois are still the only National League first basemen to hit at least 23 home runs and 100 runs batted in in seven consecutive seasons, and he still received the most HOF votes from the baseball writers than any other player never admitted to the Hall (3,010).

As always, the answer has much to do with the make up of the committee. This time around it included Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith, and Don Sutton, four baseball executives (Jim Frey, David Glass, and Roland Hemond, Bob Watson), and four writers (Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe, and Tracy Ringolsby. The sixteen men got together during the baseball winter meetings in San Diego to discuss the candidates and then vote.

Historically, the Hall of Fame players dominate the meeting. They set the tone for the others. And of the players, those who are perceived by their peers as the greatest assume a leadership role. For example, the very first year Ted Williams was a committee member, his former teammate, Bobby Doerr was elected. Williams’s support for the candidacy of his former teammate reveals a logical tendency. Players support the guys they went to war with. In that sense, nothing changed when the latest committee met on Monday.

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