Gil Hodges’ Daughter Gives a Heartwarming Hall of Fame Induction Speech

COOPERSTOWN, NY – With seven new members in the Class of 2022, there was so much emotional release emanating from the stage and the crowd of fans and family members in attendance at this year’s induction ceremony at the Hall of baseball fame.

There were thousands of fans based in Boston and the Dominican Republic who came out to wave flags and salute former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. There was also plenty here to honor Twins stars of long ago, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, Cuban legends Oliva and Minnie Minoso, and Negro League pioneers Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler.

Yet none of the resounding speeches given Sunday at the Clark Sports Center were more heartbreaking or poignant than the tearful words uttered by Gil Hodges’ daughter. The family of the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman and 1969 World Series-winning Mets manager had waited more than 50 years for this day since his death at age 47 in 1972.

Irene Hodges knocked one out of the park – just like her dad has done so often – to sum up this trip.

« My dad was a very humble man, but he would be so proud to be here with the best of the best in baseball, » Irene Hodges said in a speech that lasted nearly 15 minutes. « Fifty years ago, not only did the Mets and Dodgers lose one of their heroes, we lost a husband and a father.

“Our greatest gift, though my father’s life was so short, was his influence on those around him. His teammate Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except for the influence it leaves on others. My father sincerely believed in it and led a life that had a positive impact on others.

(Front row from left) Irene Hodges, representing Gil Hodges, Dr. Angela Terry, representing Buck O’Neil, and Sharon Minoso, representing Minnie Minoso, pose for a photo with (top row from left) Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch, representing Bud Fowler, inductees Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and David Ortiz after the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of course, Hodges’ daughter also reminded everyone of her glittering playing career, which included World Series titles with the Dodgers in Brooklyn (1955) and Los Angeles (1959). She pointed out that he led every major league first baseman during the 1950s in home runs, RBIs, runs, hits and games played – and finished with 370 home runs in 17 seasons. with the 1962 expansion Dodgers and Mets.

« You’ll also hear how he took a team affectionately known as the Lovable Losers and turned them into the Miracle Mets in just two short seasons, » added Irene Hodges of her father’s stint as Mets manager from 1968 to 1971. « But I’m his daughter, and I’m here to tell you about the man he was. »

Hodges’ daughter has spoken eloquently of how he appeared in a game for the Dodgers in 1943 before joining the Marines to serve in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, earning a bronze star and medal fighting for heroism under fire. She told stories of her father and fellow Marines teaching Japanese children baseball and, upon returning to Brooklyn, kissing teammate Robinson from their rookie season together in 1947.

« Nothing was more important to my dad than giving Jackie his full support, » Irene Hodges said. “We were like a family with the Robinsons. Jackie’s kids played in our house and we played in theirs. My dad was not only teammates with Jackie, but they were part of the family. My dad put everyone at ease and accepted Jackie when he came to the big leagues.

Irene Hodges speaks on behalf of her father, Gil Hodges, at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Irene Hodges speaks on behalf of her father, Gil Hodges, at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Getty Images

Less than three years after leading the Mets to the 1969 World Series title, Hodges died of a heart attack at the end of spring training in 1972, two days before his 48th birthday. Robinson « cried uncontrollably » at Hodges’ funeral, Irene recalled, before dying just six months later.

Five decades have passed, but the family were delighted that after so many Hall of Fame misses, Hodges’ widow – Joan Hodges, 95 – was able to attend Sunday’s ceremony, even though she didn’t could attend the festivities.

« Today I am especially happy for my mother, » said Irene Hodges. “When the call came from the Hall of Fame. … I started sobbing, probably as much as when I lost my father. I was so happy for him, and even thrilled that my mother at 95 could hear this news. My mom is watching today from our house in Brooklyn.

As Irene Hodges held back tears, she concluded her speech – to a standing ovation – by saying she knew her father was smiling from heaven with his late sister Barbara, « and without a doubt, I know you are celebrating with tom [Seaver] and summer boys.


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