Genuine humility is a hard quality to find in baseball today. With mega money contracts and endorsement deals, being humble will cost a player some dough. In some cases overwhelming humility will lead to injustice. Sometimes that person that shows humility will just blend into the crowd, become overshadowed by the not so humble and almost be forgotten. Such is the case of our book subject we are looking at today. His own humility has led to the world sometimes overlooking the greatness he showed both on and off the field.
I am going to say I walked into this book biased. I think Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, and it is just another in a string of dumb moves the hall has made in recent years to exclude him. This book verified many of the things that I felt in regards to Hodges as both a player and a man. He did more in his 48 years on Earth than most people who are here twice as long as Gil was.
Mort Zachter takes a look at the man behind the legend. What Gil Hodges accomplished as a player and manager is readily available out there in all the media outlets for us to research and review. The thing that makes this better than all the other Gil Hodges biographies is the stories you get about the man himself. From humble upbringings as the son of a coal miner, you see the formative years that shaped Gil Hodges personality and made him the humble man of baseball. You see how World War II shaped Gil’s life and the sacrifices he made for his country, and of course you get his baseball career in Brooklyn. Managerial stints in both Washington and New York show how Gil affected others in the way he became a teacher and helped others succeed on the field.
What I find fascinating is that Gil never really left Brooklyn. From his stint with the Dodgers until his death in 1972, Gil was just an average guy living among the people of Brooklyn. He played stick ball with the kids in the neighborhood and never felt that he should be considered a star. While this form of humility is very admirable and hard to find, it is probably what has kept him from reaching the Hall of Fame. The voters have forgotten his quiet consistency on the field and the leader he became in leading the 1969 Mets to the World Series. It is hopefully an injustice that will be corrected in the near future.
If you have read other Gil Hodges biographies that are out in the marketplace, you are still going to want to pick this one up. From the others I have read in the past, this new one by Zachter is the most comprehensive and gives some new insights into Gil as both a person and a manager. I did find it odd, the one book that I feel is the most comprehensive, is the one that I read Gil’s widow Joan Hodges did not make herself available to the author for interviews. All baseball fans will enjoy the book, especially if you have an appreciation for the pre-expansion era.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press