In descriptions of athletes, the word “hero” is bandied about and liberally attached to players with outstanding statistics and championship rings. Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life is the story of a man who epitomized heroism in its truest meaning, holding values and personal interactions to be of utmost importance throughout his life—on the diamond, as a marine in World War II, and in his personal and civic life. A New York City icon and, with the Brooklyn Dodgers, one of the finest first basemen of all time, Gil Hodges (1924–72) managed the Washington Senators and later the New York Mets, leading the 1969 “Miracle Mets” to a World Series championship. A beloved baseball star, Hodges was also an ethical figure whose sturdy values both on and off the field once prompted a Brooklyn priest to tell his congregation to “go home, and say a prayer for Gil Hodges” in order to snap him out of the worst batting slump of his career.
Mort Zachter examines Hodges’s playing and managing days, but perhaps more important, he unearths his true heroism by emphasizing the impact that Hodges’s humanity had on those around him on a daily basis. Hodges was a witty man with a dry sense of humor, and his dignity and humble sacrifice sometimes masked a temper that made Joe Torre refer to him as the “Quiet Inferno.” The honesty and integrity that made him so popular to so many remained his defining elements. Firsthand interviews of the many soldiers, friends, family, former teammates, players, and managers who knew and respected Hodges bring the totality of his life into full view, providing a rounded appreciation for this great man and ballplayer.
Mort Zachter is a former tax attorney and adjunct tax professor at New York University. His first book, Dough: A Memoir, won the 2006 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Book Prize for nonfiction.
“Zachter brings the same grace and precision to the page that Hodges brought to first base at Ebbets Field and with methodical research, insight, and pure affection gives life to the man behind the astounding stats, proving once and for all that Hodges truly belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Kudos to Mort Zachter for giving a beloved Brooklyn legend his due.”—Marty Markowitz, former Brooklyn Borough president
“As a Marine, one of Brooklyn’s beloved Boys of Summer, and the manager of the Miracle Mets, Gil Hodges lived a great American life, though one cut too short. In these pages you understand how Hodges defined what it meant to be a role model in a golden age.”—Tom Verducci, senior writer for Sports Illustrated
List of Illustrations
Prologue: His Reputation Preceded Him
HOME—Princeton and Petersburg (1924–43)
1. Coal Miner’s Son
2. The Twig, the Branch, and the Lip
AWAY—The Pacific (1944–45); Newport News (1946)
4. Newport News
5. Hanging On
6. Breaking Through
7. Four in One, One for Four
8. Great Expectations
9. A Bitter Uniqueness
10. Say a Prayer
11. The Day Next Year Arrived
12. Where in America Would You See That?
13. The Last Season
AWAY—Los Angeles (1958–61)
14. The Worst Place Ever
15. World Champions
AWAY—Washington DC (1963–67)
17. In the Cellar
18. Off the Floor
19. On the Doorstep of Respectability
20. The Mets Get Serious
23. Struggles in the Spotlight
24. Easter Sunday
Epilogue: A Life
Afterword: Hodges and the Hall