A lesson in perseverance: Gil Hodges is in the Hall of Fame
By the time you are reading this, Gil Hodges – our agency namesake – will have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The old saying “good things come to those who wait” seems especially appropriate.
Gil’s 18-season playing career ended on May 5, 1963 at the Polo Grounds. Gil trotted out to his familiar territory at first base, starting the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against the Giants. He would go 1-4 in his valedictory game, driving in what turned out to be the Mets’ winning run in a 4-2 victory. It was perhaps an inauspicious exit from his years as a player, a final bow that none of the 53,880 in attendance realized at the time. Three days later, his 39-year-old aching knees put him on the disabled list, followed two weeks later by a trade to the Senators where he would assume the reins as manager.
His playing days over, Hodges’s career with the Dodgers and Mets had been a remarkable one. In 2,071 games in the Bigs, he had amassed 1,921 hits, 1,274 RBIs and 370 homers. At the time, he was among the National League’s all-time home run leaders for right-handed batters, and even today his number of round-trippers ranks him 80th in Major League history. And he was no slouch in the field: he was awarded the first three Gold Gloves ever given to a first baseman and led the league in various defensive categories.
And yet, despite these achievement, Gil’s qualifications for the HOF over the years have been roundly debated. In his first year of Hall eligibility in 1969 – ironically, the year he would skipper the Miracle Mets to the franchise’s first pennant – he received just 24.1% of the vote. The following year, he was third in voting, but his 48% was still a far cry from the 75% needed. Between 1971 and 1981, Gil never finished outside the top five in HOF voting, placing third on three occasions. In his last year of eligibility through the traditional process in 1983, he garnered 63.4% of the vote, falling short one final time.
Even so, the campaign for Gil’s induction continued over the years, and no less than Tom Seaver and Joe Morgan endorsed his candidacy. And then this past year, a bit of – shall we call it “public relations?” – happened. The dean of baseball broadcasting, Vin Scully, who spent more than six decades as the Dodgers play-by-play announcer and himself a member of the Hall of Fame, wrote an op-ed advocating for Hodges. He wrote:
I am often asked who the best ballplayer was that I watched during my broadcasting career. In looking back over my 67 years behind the microphone, I was truly blessed to watch firsthand so many of the all-time greats performing at their very best on all the biggest stages of the game’s history. It is truly impossible for me to single out just one player. However, in terms of the players I watched who performed at a high level on the playing field, but at an even higher level off the field in how they lived and carried out their lives, my response is an easy one – Gil Hodges.
Soon after, Gil would receive 12 of the 16 votes from the Golden Days Era committee – 61 years after his final game as a player.
As with my other installments of Gil’s Corner, there are perhaps PR lessons to be gleaned from this odyssey. Perhaps it’s the power that comes from an important influencer, that third-party endorsement that is critical in so many public relations campaigns and that makes it such an important marketing tactic.
But there’s also a lesson here to be learned about patience. We have had clients over the years who sometimes expect that we can turn on the faucet of publicity lickety-split, especially with earned media. The truth is, these things often have a gestation period that requires perseverance and time. Sure, we’ve had our share of out-of-the-box hits, but if the story is a good one, authentic and compelling, chances are, it will find the right home.
Good things come to those who wait. Hall of Famer Gil Hodges – that’s a good thing.