He ruled with respect. He taught fundamentals and the importance of teamwork. He loved them like his own children. He taught them how to win. He taught them how to be respectful. He taught them how to be men. He made them World Champions.
His name? Tom Seaver? No. Jerry Koosman? No. Ed Charles? No. Donn Clendenon? No.
He was Gil Raymond Hodges. He should be enshrined in Cooperstown. He was a Gold Glove 1B, He was a
World Series Champion player (1955, 1959). He was a Marine who received
Today the Mets will trot out the surviving members of the Miracle Mets of 1969. Unfortunately Hodges, who died 37 years ago, won't be there on the field. I would like to think he is in God's Hall of Fame looking down on his "Boys" who are now men in their 60's.
Hodges was a bit concerned coming back to NY when he was hired to manage the Mets. According to his widow Joan, Gil said, "I just don't want to disappoint those fans. I just hope I can do it for them, they deserve it." Ever the great wife, Joan responded, "You could never disappoint those fans. Those fans cheered for you when you went 0-for-21. They love you no matter what."
A funny little story Joan recently relayed was:
"I said to Gil one day when he was home with the children, 'Honey, you are not even listening to me.' And he said, 'Yes, I am, " Joan said. "Then I said as a joke, 'I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to put Astro-turf in the house and I'm going to get uniforms for the children with numbers.' He laughed and said, 'Now, c'mon.' I said, 'No honey, I mean it. You have to realize, these players, they are not your children. They're grown men.'
"He said, 'No, honey, you've got that all wrong. When they put on that uniform and they walk out onto that field, they are my children."
Hodges was a drill Sergent with a conscience and compassion. He knew how to make a point, and send a message. Who can forget that time in 1969 when Hodges slowly walked out to LF to remove Cleon Jones for lack of hustle? Cleon sure didn't, because he never loafed again. Hodges didn't make a big deal, went out to LF asked Jones if he was injured, and promptly escorted him off the field.
Today when the fans are cheering their heroes of yesteryear, some will surely be missed: Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon, Cal Koonce, Tug McGraw and others. But their 'father', their leader, their manager - will not be there on the field. His widow Joan will. When the fans cheer, it would be nice for a loud standing "O" for the man who taught them how to win: Gil Raymond Hodges.