Gil Hodges exhibited a Hall Of Fame life. He came perilously close to being a Hall of Fame baseball player and manager. Author Mort Zachter lays it all out for us to make that determination. Hodges was a man that believed in values and used his influence in baseball to pass the lesson on to others.
Gil Hodges felt the call to serve his country. He went to boot camp in San Diego in 1943. From there he was assigned a lackluster job in Hawaii in 1944. The next year he was in Tinian and then on to Okinawa as a member of the Sixteenth Anti-Aircraft Battalion. He tells us that being in and near the battle, there is plenty of time to pass and that is when he took up smoking cigarettes. This habit would cause health issues later in life. He was always silent and never wanted to discuss his time in the military.
In baseball after the war, he works hard as a catcher to get all the mechanics correct. His managers wanting his bat in the line-up. When that really didn’t work, he became the first baseman that many feels could have been one of the best to play the position. He sat on the bench early in his career as the manager didn’t like rookies. In his successful baseball days, the story is told of his friendship to Jackie Robinson. Others weren’t happy to have a black player on the team, but Gil Hodges and his wife would socialize with Jackie and his spouse. Hodges was called many unkind words but it rolled off his back.
In his managing years, he was a solid force of leadership that exuded dignity and humbleness. Many respected Hodges and show real appreciation for Gil as a man and a baseball manager. One story that is in a negative context comes from Hawk Harrelson who stated in his book that he couldn’t stand Hodges. This stems from Harrelson wanting to play lots of golf when he was a player for Hodges and was told he couldn’t.
As the manager of the New York Mets, Hodges tells the story that early on he could walk down any street in the city or go into any business unimpeded. No one knew him. That all changed when he guided the team to the World Championship. There was a ticker tape parade and the entire city loved him.
Gil Hodges would succumb to heart failure. May believe it came from his incessant smoking habit.
This is a fabulous book about baseball. The author gives us stories and details that go with them. Any baseball fan would like to read this book. Hodges was a Hall of Fame kind of guy.
I would like to thank the University of Nebraska Press for the copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.
About the Author:
Mort Zachter is a former tax attorney and adjunct tax professor at New York University. His first book, “A Memoir”, won the 2006 Association and Writing Programs Book Prize for nonfiction.