It was 25,000 days ago today that one of the Boys of Summer made his major-league debut on a fall afternoon.
Yes, that’s right, third base. Though he gained fame as a first baseman, Hodges had enough defensive ability to play third. It’s just that the club also had a fantastic defensive third baseman in Billy Cox, and so Hodges moved to first. If it wasn’t for that, Hodges might now be in Cooperstown.
As it is, he received considerable support. As it happens, in a fact I love to repeat (and have on at least a half-dozen occasions here at THT), in the entire history of BBWAA balloting, only one man not currently on the ballot ever has received a majority of the BBWAA vote even once and is not in Cooperstown right now: Gil Hodges. Many weren’t put in by the BBWAA but were instead by the Veteran’s Committee.
Hodges achieved this ignominy despite comparing his bat to that of others first base. If he were against third baseman, whose bats aren’t typically as strong, Hodges would’ve gone in. Well, that’s assuming that Hodges would’ve spent considerable time at third. Who knows if that would’ve happened?
As it happens, Hodges only played 32 big league games at third. After debuting at the conclusion of the 1943 season, Hodges went off to war. He didn’t return to Brooklyn in 1947, during which time he hit .156 in 28 games. In the 1947-48 offseason, Brooklyn acquired Cox from Pittsburgh, and third base was closed off to Hodges.
Fortunately for him, the Dodgers also traded away second baseman Eddie Stanky. That allowed 1947 Rookie of the Year Jackie Robinson to shift from first base to second and allowed Hodges to move into the hole at first. Thus, though the Dodgers won a pennant in 1947, their 1948 infield had three guys who either weren’t there the year before or who played another position. At the same time behind the plate, 1948 saw Roy Campanella settle in for Brooklyn. Only shortstop Pee Wee Reese provided any continuity.
The outfield already had right fielder Carl Furillo, who first joined the everyday lineup in 1946. In 1949, Duke Snider joined him in center. Brooklyn also had a variety of guys ranging from Gene Hermanski to Andy Pafko to Sandy Amoros work for them in left.
Thus, of all the famous “Boys of Summer” everyday players, Hodges was the first to break in with the Dodgers. While there were stars with him on the field that day in 1943, they were guys whose suns were setting: Arky Vaughan, Paul Waner, Billy Herman, and Dixie Walker.
Thus 25,000 days ago wasn’t just a big day for Gil Hodges, it also marked the first day of a new generation in Dodger-dom.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Brian Giles plays in his final game.
2,000 days since Sam Chapman dies.
3,000 days since 1980s White Sox/Mariners outfielder Ivan Calderon dies.
4,000 days since Jo Jo Moore dies. I believe he was the last surviving athlete to have played for John McGraw.
5,000 days since the Cubs select Glenallen Hill off waivers from Seattle. This will work well for Chicago.
6,000 days since George Steinbrenner is fined $50,000 for criticizing umpires in the ALDS.
6,000 days since the Braves top the Reds, 2-1, in 11 innings in Game One of the NLCS. Atlanta scores a run in the top of the ninth to tie it.
6,000 days since the Pirates are sold to Kevin McClatchey and partners for $85 million.
7,000 days since the Brewers purchase Bill Doran from the Reds.
7,000 days since Richard Ravitch, the lead negotiator for the owners, urges no lockout during negotiations, which begin that day.
1869 Billy Rhines, 1890s Reds pitcher, is born.
1883 The Northwestern League votes down a motion by the Peoria club to ban blacks, but only after an “exciting discussion” on the matter.
1945 Reporters hear the umpires are being briefed on the way one-armed outfielder Pete Gray catches the ball in case he makes the major leagues.
1953 St. Louis’ Mayor Joseph Dart vows to fight losing the Browns to Baltimore.
1956 Butch Wynegar, Twins catcher, is born.
1956 Satchel Paige signs with the Birmingham Barons of the Negro Leagues. Both are in their twilight years.
1960 Kirby Puckett, Hall of Fame centerfielder, is born.
1961 The NL New York expansion team names George Weiss as its first team president.
1965 Kevin Brown, pitcher, is born.
1969 Heinie Zimmerman, star third baseman of the 1910s, dies at age 82.
1981 Bobby Jenks is born.
1986 Toronto signs free agent Cesar Cedeno.
1993 The Reds announce that the dog Schottzie 02, the St. Bernard owned by Marge Schott, is banned from Riverfront Stadium.
1995 The National Labor Relations Board issues a complaint against baseball owners for violating labor laws. This is the third such complaint they’ve issued in the last month.
2003 The Pirates sign free agent centerfielder Kenny Lofton. He does fine for them, but in midseason the Pirates will package Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs for prospects that fizzle.