Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky, teammates on the Miracle Mets team that went from laughingstocks to world champions in 1969, are also teammates on this: Gil Hodges, who managed that team to a 100-win regular season and a 7-1 postseason, belongs in Cooperstown.
“I think he should definitely be in the Hall of Fame,” said Shamsky. “He was a terrific ballplayer and a great manager, and if you put those two together, how can you keep him out?”
“He dominated the National League for a number of years when it was not a live ball era, and he was a great first baseman defensively,” Kranepool said. “Other players have gotten in with lesser records, and some of the managers have gotten in without doing what Gil Hodges has done, also.”
Shamsky and Kranepool appeared at Citi Field on Wednesday to mingle with fans during a Mets-sponsored blood drive. Shamsky also has a book coming out in March, “After the Miracle,” chronicling that magical season.
And both agreed on another point – the reason that Mets team failed to win another championship was because of Hodges’ untimely death from a heart attack just days before the start of the 1972 season.
“Hodges’ death finished that team,” Kranepool said.
“If he had lived longer and managed longer I think he would’ve brought more world championships to the Mets franchise,” Shamsky agreed.
Hodges was on the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame for 15 years, coming closest in 1983, his final year of eligibility, but still falling 12 percentage points short of the 75% needed for election. Since 1987, his name has come up for consideration by the Veterans Committee – now called the Golden Era Committee – and came within one vote of election in 1993. But in recent years, his support has waned; in 2014, he got only 3 of the required 12 votes for election.
Hodges’ candidacy be considered again in 2020.
“I’ve tried to analyze this and it’s difficult for me to understand,” Shamsky said. “The year he just missed going in, the four people who finished behind him (Harmon Killebrew, Luis Aparicio, Hoyt Wilhelm and Don Drysdale) eventually wound up going on. I can’t figure that out.”
Both Shamsky and Kranepool acknowledged that Hodges could be a difficult man to play for.
“He was a tough guy and he didn’t say much,” Shamsky said. “He platooned everybody and quite honestly, nobody liked it. It was not a scene that could help your career. But the thing about it is, it worked. Gil had the ability to look you in the eye and say, this is the way we should do it, and you believed in him. He knew everybody on the bench and was able to get the most out of them.”
“Could he manage today? I think he could manage in any era,” Kranepool said. “He had one set of rules and either you played by them or you didn’t play. It might be difficult today but he had a way of earning the players respect.”