LOS ANGELES — The connective tissues stretch all the manner throughout the nation and again once more, binding Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Queens. Through the years, by all the true bounces and dangerous hops and yellowed pages, the contents of this baseball triangle stay snugly sure.
Main characters recede and others emerge, after which it repeats once more. But the strongest and most constant connection between the Dodgers and the Mets stays Gil Hodges, the late, newly elected Hall of Famer whose No. 14 was retired by the Dodgers in a pregame ceremony right here on Saturday evening.
The Mets retired the identical quantity for Hodges in 1973.
“He was, indeed — I was going to say the thread, but he wasn’t the thread, he was the iron steel cable,” Vin Scully, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster, mentioned on Thursday throughout a uncommon phone interview.
The Mets franchise and Dodger Stadium each sprang to life in April 1962, and the former is starting a 10-day western swing this weekend with 4 video games in Chavez Ravine. It is a star-studded matchup of the prime two groups in the National League, however the golf equipment will briefly set the competitors apart to honor Hodges, a participant who meant a lot to either side.
Scully, 94, was a rookie Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster in April 1950 when he first met Hodges. Neither man, at that time, might have dreamed that simply seven years later, Dodgers proprietor Walter O’Malley, alongside along with his New York Giants counterpart, Horace Stoneham, would pack up their groups and produce Major League Baseball to California.
With these city-shaking strikes, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ lone World Series title in 1955 would change into frozen in time. Hearts would break, tears can be shed, however after Ebbets Field met the wrecking ball, the Mets quickly emerged. Decades later, the bricks and angles of Citi Field would evoke the spirit of the previous ballpark at Sullivan Place. The cross-pollination of the Dodgers and the Mets would change into one in all baseball’s constants.
When Jane Forbes Clark, chair of the Hall of Fame’s board, and Josh Rawitch, its president, phoned the Hodges household dwelling in Brooklyn in December to ship the information of Gil’s induction, it was his daughter Irene who picked up and positioned the telephone subsequent to her mom. Joan Hodges, 96, isn’t at all times in a position to assimilate today, however she perked up instantly at the telephone name. “Oh, Gil? My Gil?” Irene recalled her mom saying.
And then that iron metal cable was once more pulled taut. From his dwelling in Los Angeles, Scully rang with congratulations. He had been instructed simply earlier than the information turned public.
“It gave me a couple of moments before the big huzzahs to just spend an intimate moment with the family,” Scully mentioned. “I was so grateful.”
Fittingly, that decision was positioned to an previous dwelling on Brooklyn’s fabled Bedford Avenue. After the Hodges household lived by the shock of getting Gil’s job relocated to Los Angeles, and after he performed 4 seasons, from age 34-37, with eroding expertise in Southern California, the Mets introduced him again to New York in the enlargement draft.
So the Hodges household bought a house not removed from the place as soon as Ebbets Field as soon as stood. It is the place the household lived when Gil performed for the enlargement Mets, when he managed the Amazin’s to the 1969 World Series title (with former Brooklyn Dodgers Joe Pignatano and Rube Walker on his teaching workers), and it’s the place Joan and Irene reside immediately.
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“It really is amazing, isn’t it?” mentioned Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets in the 2000 Subway World Series towards the Yankees. “That Joanie never left, shopped at the same corner stores, walked the same streets, went to the same Mass all those years? Spectacular.”
As Irene put it: “It’s like having part of your youth stay with you.”
That spirit permeates in so some ways lengthy after Gil’s death from a heart attack in 1972 at age 47. Volumes have been written about these beloved Dodgers groups — all the things from Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer” to Thomas Oliphant’s “Praying for Gil Hodges.” The latter’s identify was impressed by a narrative capturing Hodges’s recognition. With Hodges caught in the throes of a uncommon stoop, a priest at Brooklyn’s St. Francis Roman Catholic Church, Father Herbert Redmond, instructed his congregation, “It’s far too hot for a homily. Keep the Commandments and say a prayer for Gil Hodges.”
“As a wet-behind-the-ears broadcaster, I looked up to him as a major leaguer, an All-Star, a very talented player,” Scully mentioned. “And then when I got to know him a little more, the real Gil Hodges started to come out. I remember one time the Dodgers had played on a really hot day and after the game we got on an airplane and it was Friday and the hostess came down the aisle serving a steak dinner.
“Being Friday, and way back, maybe in the early ’50s, I can hear him and he said, ‘No thank you.’ And the stewardess said, ‘Mr. Hodges, you’ve just played a long game in terrible heat, et cetera, et cetera, you should eat the steak.’ And he said: ‘No, it’s Friday and I’m way too close to the boss.’ We were 30,000 feet up. But it was just the way he did it. He didn’t get on a soap box, he didn’t do anything and he left her with a smile. ‘No, I’m too close to the boss.’”
Jay Horwitz, a Mets official for greater than 40 years, mentioned he was struck when he realized how a lot Hodges helped Jackie Robinson.
“Pee Wee Reese gets a lot of credit, but I was told that with Gil playing the same side of the infield that Jackie did, he prevented a lot of fights and was the enforcer,” Horwitz mentioned.
Indeed, Scully remembers an incident in St. Louis wherein Hodges and Robinson converged on a foul pop fly behind first base and, “out of the stands, from the upper deck, came a whiskey bottle.”
The bottle landed between the males, and Scully observed Hodges supply slightly pat on the again to Robinson, “as if to say, we’re in this together, friend.”
“If you weren’t concentrating on the moment, you’d have missed it,” Scully mentioned. “I just thought it’s so typical of Gil. Whatever he does, if you don’t have your eyes on him, he’ll have done it and it’s gone. That’s really the way he played and the way he lived.”
In the second, in keeping with Irene Hodges, her father quipped to Robinson: “You’d better watch out, Jackie. They’re aiming at me.”
The idyllic days pale. Robinson was dealt to the Giants after the 1956 season and retired. The Dodgers moved and an period ended.
“My mom, an Italian from Brooklyn, had never been that far away from her parents,” Irene Hodges mentioned. “We lived in L.A. that first year, I don’t think she unpacked. She really couldn’t do it.”
Metropolitan Baseball Club Inc. was awarded an enlargement group for the 1962 season, with a nickname shortened to Mets and group colours that blended recollections of each the Dodgers and the Giants. The new membership’s president, George Weiss, strategically labored to inventory the enlargement roster with acquainted names. In addition to Hodges, he grabbed former Brooklyn gamers Roger Craig and Don Zimmer. And he quickly added Duke Snider, Charlie Neal and Clem Labine.
“It paid off because the Mets were very popular from day one, and it did go back to the Dodgers,” Howie Rose, the Mets’ radio broadcaster, mentioned. “I think the Dodgers and Giants, in many ways, were training wheels for New York fans.”
It was fairly a weight for the Mets to be requested to interchange these storied previous groups.
“And dad being drafted by the Mets in the expansion draft, hitting the first home run in their history, it sort of bridged that gap,” Gil Hodges Jr. mentioned.
By 1980, Fred Wilpon would buy the group, including one other layer of connective tissue: Wilpon attended Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School with Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and was a rabid fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was below his watch that Citi Field opened in 2009 with so many Dodgers-related touches — most notably, the monumental Jackie Robinson Rotunda — that some Mets followers complained there have been extra nods to Brooklyn than there have been to the Mets.
The connections would solely proceed, with Mike Piazza’s Hall of Fame profession spanning the franchises and Justin Turner, a vital member of the present Dodgers group, having began his profession in orange and blue.
Now, Steven A. Cohen, who tried to purchase the Dodgers in 2012, calls the Mets’ pictures. In his first public remarks after buying the Mets, he cited the Dodgers as the mannequin for what he hoped the Mets would change into. He has backed that up by pushing the Mets’ payroll close to the prime of the sport.
“They’re going to separate themselves from the pack,” mentioned Valentine, who, in step with the theme of connective tissue, was as soon as married to a daughter of Ralph Branca, who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers. “A lot like the Dodgers tried to do when they left town, and the Yankees have always done.”
Two of Hodges’s grownup kids — Gil Jr., 72, and Irene, 71 — had been in Dodger Stadium on Saturday evening, as was his grandson, Gil III, two of Irene’s granddaughters and a cousin. And as the movies roll and the lights flashed, the iron metal cable operating by the a long time and the miles remained as robust as ever.
“Without a doubt, the ’69 World Series was amazing,” Irene Hodges says of her favourite reminiscence. “Everybody was just ecstatic. All of Brooklyn was crazy. It was a wonderful time. My dad, I believe, was a little apprehensive about managing in New York. He knew how good the fans were here, how much they loved him, and he just wanted to do right by them. He wanted to have a successful team. And he did.”