How beloved and respected was Gil Hodges during his playing career? Enough that when he sank into a ferocious batting slump crossing the end of the 1952 season and the beginning of the 1953 season, the entire borough of Brooklyn, if not all New York City, took up prayers for him. A devout Roman Catholic, Hodges was genuinely touched that even non-Catholic churches joined the prayer chain.
Gil Hodges is getting another crack at the Hall of Fame. So are Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant, and Maury Wills. So is Bob Howsam, who built the Big Red Machine. Thank the Golden Era Committee, one of the three committees mandated to replace the former Veterans Committee to review the Hall of Fame credentials of those who didn’t quite make the Baseball Writers Association of America cuts in the past.
The Walking Man has walked home at 86.
Eddie Yost as a player could hit a little bit, sometimes with power, usually early in the order, but had one of the most remarkable facilities for wringing first base on the house out of opposing pitchers. At his death Tuesday he sat number eleven on the all-time pass list, having led his league in walks six times, and having averaged 124 walks per 162 games in his eighteen-season playing career.
At a Baseball Assistance Team dinner over a decade ago, Joe Pignatano—once a reserve major league catcher whose career began with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets; later a respected Mets bullpen coach—eased himself into a stool behind a table. His old Brooklyn Dodgers teammate, Sandy Koufax, was stationed behind the same table, signing assorted memorabilia and bric-a-brac.
“Hey,” a voice hollered, “how come he gets to sit there?” Koufax flashed a grin and replied, “Roomie seat.”
Most baseball analysts blurt out observations that beg for further examination here and there. Ken Rosenthal, the Fox Sports writer and commentator, and one of the best analysts of the breed, is one of them. Here he is, musing about Don Mattingly’s growth as a manager in light of having had “three strikes” against him when he took the command post for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year: He had never managed in the majors or minors. He had to exert greater authority over players who knew him only as a coach. And he had been a great player — a drawback, seeing as how great players rarely make great managers.
Golden Era, my foot. That’s what they’re calling the era from 1947-72. Actually, the era didn’t start getting “golden” until 1965. Unless you want to say to yourself that it really was the good old days when a) players were still chattel; b) a team from New York was invariably in or winning the World Series, with the occasional freak exception, until 1965; and, c) it was a big slugging/modest pitching/little else era for the most part.
But let’s not quibble about such details for now. The Hall of Fame Veterans Committe is considering ten men from that era as prospective Hall of Famers.