To honor Jill Hodges, the Dodgers retire with their number against the Mets

Los Angeles – Connective tissue stretches all the way across the country and back again, connecting Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Queens. Over the years, through all the real bounces, bad jumps, and yellowed pages, the contents of the baseball triangle have remained tightly bound.

The main characters recede and some appear, and then it recurs all over again. But the strongest and most cohesive connection between the Dodgers and the Mets remains Gil Hodges, the late, Newly elected Hall of Famer Who was No. 14 was retired by the Dodgers at a pre-game party here Saturday night.

The Mets retired by the same number as Hodges in 1973.

“It was really — I was going to say the thread, but it wasn’t the thread, it was the steel iron cable,” legendary Dodgers anchor Finn Scully said Thursday during a rare phone interview.

The Mets franchise The Dodger Stadium both originated in April 1962, and the first begins the 10-day western swing this weekend with four games at Chavez Ravine. It’s a star-studded match between the two best teams in the National League, but the clubs will briefly put the competition aside to honor Hodges, a player who meant so much to both sides.

Scully, 94, was a rookie broadcaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1950 when he first met Hodges. Neither man, at that point, would have dreamed that just seven years later Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, along with his New York Giants counterpart, Horace Stoneham, would pack up their teams and bring Major League Baseball to California.

With those moves rocking the city, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only world championship title in 1955 would be frozen in time. Hearts will break, tears will shed, but after the Ebbs field met the wrecking ball, the Mets soon appeared. Decades later, the bricks and nooks of Citi Field evoke the spirit of the old stadium at Sullivan Place. Cross-pollination between the Dodgers and Mets would become one of the constants of baseball.

When Jane Forbes Clark, chair of the Hall of Fame board, and Josh Rawich, its chair, phoned the Hodges’ Brooklyn home in December to deliver news of Jill’s incitement, it was his daughter, Erin, who picked up the phone and put it down afterward. for her mother. Joan Hodges, 96, isn’t always able to absorb these days, but she warmed up immediately on the phone call. “Oh, Jill? My generation?” Irene remembered her mother, saying.

Then this iron steel cable was stretched again. From his home in Los Angeles, Scully called to congratulate. He was told just before the news broke.

Fittingly, that call was placed in an old house on Brooklyn’s legendary Bedford Street. After the Hodges family lived through the trauma of Jill’s job move to Los Angeles, and after he played four seasons, from ages 34 to 37, as skills eroded in Southern California, the Mets brought him back to New York on an expansion project.

So the Hodges bought a house not far from where the Ebbets Field once stood. It’s where the family lived when Jill played for the Mets expansion, when he led Amazon to the 1969 world title (with former Brooklyn Dodgers Joe Benatano and Robbie Walker on his coaching staff), and it’s where Joanne and Erin reside today.

“It’s really cool, isn’t it?” said Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets in the 2000 Subway World Series against the Yankees. “That Joanie never left, shopped in the same stores, walked the same streets, and went to the same Mass all those years? Astonishing.”

As Erin said, “It’s like a part of your youth staying with you.”

That spirit permeates in many ways after a long period of a generation Died of a heart attack in 1972 At age 47. Volumes were written about beloved Dodgers bands—everything from Roger’s “Summer Boys” to Thomas Oliphant’s “Prayer for Jill Hodges.” The latter’s name is inspired by a story that captured Hodges’ popularity. With Hodges suffering a rare recession, a priest at St. Francis Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, Father Herbert Redmond, told his followers, “It’s too hot for a sermon. Keep the commandments and say a prayer for Hodges’ generation.”

“As a corny announcer, I viewed him as a top league player, an all-star player, a very talented player,” Scully said. “And then when I got to know him a little bit more, the real Jill Hodges started showing up. I remember one time the Dodgers played on a really hot day and after the game we got on a plane and it was Friday and the flight attendant came down the aisle serving a steak dinner.

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On Friday, on the way back, probably in the early 1950s, I could hear him say, ‘No, thanks.’ And the hostess said, Hodges, I just played a long game in the sweltering heat, etc., etc., You have to eat the steak. And he said, “No, it’s Friday and I’m too close to the manager.” We were at 30,000 feet. But it was the way he did. He didn’t get a box of soap, did nothing and left her with a smile. No, I’m close Pretty much the boss.”

Jay Horowitz, a Mets official for more than 40 years, said he was surprised to learn how much Hodges had helped Jackie Robinson.

“Pee Wee Reese took a lot of credit, but I was told that with Gil playing on the same side of the court as Jackie, he prevented a lot of fights and he was the enforcer,” Horowitz said.

In fact, Scully recalls an incident in St. Louis where Hodges and Robinson met on a sloppy fly behind first base and “from the stands, from the upper deck, came a bottle of whiskey.”

The bottle fell among the men, and Scully noted Hodges offering a little pat on the back to Robinson, “as if to say, ‘We’re in this together, my friend’.”

“If you weren’t focused on the moment, you missed out,” Scully said. “I thought it was very typical of a generation. Whatever he did, if you hadn’t had your eyes on him, he would have done it and gone. That’s really the way he played and the way he lived.”

Currently, according to Erin Hodges, her father quipped to Robinson: “You’d better pay attention, Jackie. They’re targeting me.”

The poetic days are gone. Robinson was dealt to the Giants after the 1956 season and retired. The Dodgers moved and the era ended.

“My mom, an Italian from Brooklyn, was never far from her parents,” said Erin Hodges. “We lived in LA the first year, I don’t think she cleared her bag. She really couldn’t do that.”

The Metropolitans were an expansion team given to New York City in 1962 with a very long title and team colors that blended memories of both the Dodgers and the Giants. The club’s new president, George Weiss, has worked strategically to stock the expansion roster with familiar names. In addition to Hodges, he caught former Brooklyn players Roger Craig and Don Zimmer. Soon he added Duke Snyder, Charlie Neal, and Clem Lapin.

It paid off because the Mets have been so popular since day one, and they’re really back in the Dodgers,” said Howie Rose, Mets radio announcer. “I think the Dodgers and the Giants, in many ways, were training wheels for New York fans.”

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It was too much of a burden for the Mets to be asked to replace those old teams.

“And my dad being drafted by the Mets in the expansion draft, to have their first home race in their history, he kind of bridged that gap,” said Jill Hodges Jr.

By 1980, Fred Welbone had purchased the team, adding another layer of connective tissue: Welbone attended Lafayette High School in Brooklyn with Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Kovacs and was a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Under his watch, Citi Field opened in 2009 with so many Dodgers-related touches – most notably the massive Jackie Robinson Rotunda – that some Mets fans complained of having more nods to Brooklyn than they did to the Mets.

The connections will only continue, as Mike Piazza’s Hall of Fame career has extended to franchises and Justin Turner, an important member of the current Dodgers, having started his career in orange and blue.

Now, Stephen A. Cohen, who tried to buy the Dodgers in 2012, is calling the Mets’ shots. in His first public statements After buying the Mets, the Dodgers cited him as a model for what he hoped would become the Mets. He’s backed that up by pushing the Mets’ payroll near the top of the sport.

“They will separate themselves from the herd,” said Valentine, who, in keeping with the connective tissue theme, was once married to the daughter of Ralph Branca, who co-stars with the Brooklyn Dodgers. “A lot like the Dodgers tried to do when they left town, and the Yankees always did.”

Two of Hodges’ adult sons — Jill Jr., 72, and Erin, 71 — were at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, as were his grandson Jill Jr., two of Erin’s granddaughters and a cousin. As videos rolled and lights flashed, the ferrous steel cable running through decades and miles remained as strong as ever.

“Without a doubt, the ’69 World Championships was amazing,” says Erin Hodges of her favorite memory. “Everyone was just ecstatic. Brooklyn was all crazy. It was a great time. I think my dad was a little worried about management in New York. He knew how good the fans were here, how much they loved him, and he just wanted to do them right. He wanted to He has a successful team, and he is too.”

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