Gil’s Corner: Why Gil Hodges is on our masthead
The Hodges Partnership marks the 20th year since our founding this year. I need a moment to let that sink in. The time has gone by almost as fast as a Tom Seaver fastball, and the world has changed so much over that time.
We share a launch year with LinkedIn, and I recall back then thinking it would be a handy birthday reminder service. Google was just four years old in 2002, before long making Ask Jeeves a distant memory. It’d be another two years before Zuckerberg initiated all those lawsuits by founding Facebook and another four before all that Tweeting would begin.
While Jon and I were setting out to create a new public relations agency, we of course had no idea the impact those tech giants would have on the shape of our own company over the years. As we contemplated the kind of firm we wanted to become, we had two immediate orders of business: first, convince our wives that we sufficiently knew what we were doing, that we were not chasing dreams at the expense of our comfortable positions at The Martin Agency.
A second priority: an agency name.
We quickly dismissed the idea of naming our new venture after ourselves and looked instead for an intersection of our lives. That wasn’t hard. I recall the first conversation I ever had with Jon, we discussed our shared upbringings in the New York area and talk soon meandered to the Miracle Mets, which provided an exclamation point to our childhoods when they went from ninth place in 1968 (the last year before divisions), a mere 24 games behind the National League-leading Cardinals, to World Series champs the following year. It was a heady time to be a kid in New York, with the Knicks and Jets winning their own championships that same year.
There were many standouts on the Mets that year. Seaver and Koosman on the mound, of course. Cleon Jones would have a career season, batting .340, sixth highest in the National League. When the Mets acquired Donn Clendenon from the Expos in June, they were nine games behind the Cubs, a margin the power-hitting first baseman helped the Mets to whittle away by late summer when they went on a 19-5 tear. Not sure why exactly, but I was a huge Ron Swoboda fan, who shared duties in rightfield with Art Shamsky and who would make a memory-searing catch in Game 5 on a sinking Brooks Robinson liner.
So, there were childhood heroes aplenty, but we knew there was just one man who was deserving of carrying the name of our nascent agency – the team’s manager, Gil Hodges. A former Brooklyn Dodger, Hodges was beloved for his steady bat and glove and his workmanlike approach to the game, a characteristic fitting his Hoosier roots. Humble and respected, fans loved Gil as much off the field as on, which says something for a man who would amass 370 career homers, despite time away with the Marines in World War II.
There is the classic story of Hodges, whose slump in the 1952 World Series had crept into the spring of the ’53 season. On one sweltering Sunday in May, a priest in Brooklyn was reported to have told his congregation, “It’s too hot for a sermon. Keep the commandments and pray for Gil Hodges.”
It was, of course, under Gil’s steady and unassuming leadership that the Mets captured baseball’s throne that year, and so as our small tribute to Gil, we became The Hodges Partnership on July 1, 2002. It has always been our hope that our agency would embrace the values by which Gil lived his life.
As we commemorate this our 20th year, we also have another reason to celebrate, perhaps all too fittingly. This year, after waiting in the wings since the 1970s following Gil’s untimely death at 47 in 1972, Major League Baseball has selected the pride of Princeton, Indiana to join baseball’s hallowed shrine in Cooperstown. This July 24, some 50 years after his death, Gil Hodges will be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Over the next few months, you’ll have to indulge some musings on Gil and some of the milestones of our 20 years since we put out our shingle. Look for more, here on the blog and in in future issues of our newsletter, the Press Box. Meanwhile, I think our wives are coming around.