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Wednesday, 08 December 2021 14:31

Gil Hodges and Ralph Kiner will always be linked to New York Mets history and their paths to the Hall of Fame

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Two men who are loved by New York Mets fans, enjoyed similar successes, and suffered similar frustrations. But each, eventually, received the respect and adoration that they so very much deserved.

Ralph Kiner and Gil Hodges crossed paths many times on the ballfields of Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, as teammates on the National League All Star team, and then both playing significant roles in New York Mets lore.

Ralph Kiner hit for a .279 average, slugged 369 home runs, drove in 1,011 runs, with an on base percentage of .398. He walked 260 more times than he struck out, something unheard of in today’s game. Kiner led the National League in HR for the first seven years of his career – in each of his full seasons he spent in a Pirates uniform. He was named an All Star six times, all but his rookie year with the Bucs.

Kiner played the bulk of his 10-year career in Pittsburgh where the Pirates languished at, or near, the bottom of the standings. It most likely contributed to the fact that Kiner never won, or even came close, to winning an MVP award.

Pirates GM, the famous one-time Brooklyn Dodgers GM, Branch Rickey sent him packing to the Cubs, in the middle of his eighth season with the club, after a contract dispute telling Kiner, “We came in last place with you, we can come in last place without you.” (Tell THAT to any one of today’s players.)

He would end up playing a season and a half with the Cubs and a single season with the Indians before back injuries cut down his career at the age of 32.

Kiner was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975 in his last year of eligibility, just ekeing past the 75% vote, following an emotional public plea to the baseball writers.

Kiner became a part of the original Mets when he was hired to be a part of the broadcasting team in 1962. He would make his mark with the Mets entertaining fans with his stories, and making them laugh with his many on-air gaffes. But he was most known for his post-game show, Kiner’s Korner, both a player and fan favorite.

Gil Hodges hit for a .273 average, clubbed 370 home runs with 1,274 runs batted in, including a 10-year stretch where he averaged 100 RBI. He was named an All Star eight times. And he won the Gold Glove Award, the first three years of its existence, for his play at first base.

Hodges played the majority of his career at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and was the big bat in the middle of a potent Dodgers lineup. He moved with the Dodgers to Los Angeles before finishing out his career with the Mets.

Hodges became a part of the original Mets when he was selected in the expansion draft to be a member of the team and their starting first baseman in 1962. His production and playing time greatly diminished in 1963 and he quickly retired as a player and took a job to manage the new version of the Washington Senators, which had just come into the American League the year before the Mets began play.

Original Met or not, he is more adored by Mets fans for what he did upon his return to the club than what he did as a player. You would have to be in another galaxy to not know what Gil Hodges did for the organization and what he meant as the manager of that 1969 World Championship team.

Hodges just missed being elected to the Hall of Fame in his last year of eligibility by a vote of the Writers Committee. And he was constantly, inexplicably, overlooked by the Veterans Committee, and all of the other iterations of the committees that would be chiming in. For years there has been a push to get him in and he finally squeezed in thanks to a vote by the Golden Days Committee – along with Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Minnie Minoso.

There will always be an argument regarding who is and who isn’t deserving of election to the Hall of Fame. Is it really by statistics? Because if so, then how was Hodges ignored for so long? When he retired, he had the third highest total of home runs by a right handed batter behind only Willie Mays and Jimmie Foxx. There are players with lesser statistics who have been elected. But that is now an argument for another day, and another candidate.

Ralph Kiner and Gil Hodges were two men who made their marks elsewhere but both of whom left their indelible marks in New York Mets history. Although their caps may sport the insignia of another team, they will forever be held close to the hearts of Mets fans.

Read 1051 times Last modified on Thursday, 06 January 2022 18:38
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Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.