October 11, 2013

Historic Mets: Gil Hodges

When thinking of individuals with a rich history with the New York Mets, Gil Hodges may not be the first person who comes to mind.  Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, Hodges would play sixteen seasons with the organization to include four after the organization moved to Los Angeles.  A man of the times, Hodges sacrificed two years of his career for military service during World War II.

He would return to New York when selected by the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft.  Hodges would appear in only fifty-four games that season, hampered by knee injuries.  Despite his struggles, Hodges hit the first home run in franchise history on April 11th, 1962 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  After enduring the team's inaugural season, in which they won only forty games, Hodges was promptly traded to the Washington Senators after just eleven games of the 1963 seasons.  The catch however, is that Hodge was acquired to take over as manager of that Washington squad, retiring upon his arrival.

Oddly enough, Gil Hodges would return to the Mets as manager for the 1968 season.  His arrival sparked the best season to date for the franchise (73 wins), but no one could have anticipated what would happen in his sophomore season.  The 1969 team would improve twenty-seven wins over the previous campaign in rout to the franchise's first World Series Championship over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.

Hodges would manage the Metropolitans to another pair of eighty-three win seasons before he unexpectedly passed away on April 2nd, 1972 following a heart attack.  His death sent ripples through baseball and ushered the entry of Yogi Berra as Mets' skipper.  Despite never being elected to the Hall of Fame, Hodges' number 14 was retired by the New York Mets as a manager in 1973 and remains one of only three Mets numbers to receive the honor.

Career Highlights: 3 World Series Championships, 8 All-Star Appearances, 370 Home Runs (73rd all-time), 1,274 Runs Batted In (122nd all-time)

Mets Highlights: Manager of the 1969 World Series Championship team, 1st Home Run In Franchise History

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