The Brooklyn Dodgers had played 17 games and Gil Hodges was still looking for his first extra base hit of the 1953 season. He had batted in one run.
The game against the Milwaukee Braves on May 5 had been cancelled due to rain. While most of his teammates went about their business, Hodges went to Ebbets Field in a determined effort to end his slump.
Few individuals, in or out of baseball, ever had more determination than Gilbert Ray Hodges. He was in the same class as another great New York first baseman named Lou Gehrig.
A wet playing field and nasty weather couldn’t deter Hodges, pitcher Bob Milliken, coach Cookie Lavagetto and outfielder Bill Antonello.
Milliken had firm instructions to pitch Hodges outside because opposing pitchers had achieved success against Hodges by making him fish for pitches that were off the plate.
Hodges was hitting only .220. He was coming off a 1952 season in which he had hit .254/.386/.500 with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs.
The extra work paid immediate dividends.
The next day Brooklyn faced the St. Louis Cardinals. With the teams tied 1-1 in the sixth inning, Roy Campanella singled home Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson to give Brooklyn a 3-1 lead.
After George Shuba was retired for the second out, Hodges put the game away with a towering blast into the upper left field deck to score Campanella.
It was Gil Hodges’ 140th home run as a Brooklyn Dodger, which made him their all-time home run king. He had been tied with former first baseman Dolph Camilli.
In the eighth inning, Hodges drove in another run with a single.
The baseball “experts” in 1952 criticized his .254 batting average because neither they nor anyone else, including Brooklyn’s manager Charlie Dressen, knew that batting average is an overrated statistic.
Today, “experts” know that Hodges’ .386 on base percentage and .500 slugging average were excellent for a player who had a “bad” year.
Gil Hodges finished the 1953 season hitting .302/.393/.550 with 31 home runs and 122 RBIs.
He finished his career as a Brooklyn Dodger hitting .279/.366/.499, averaging 32 home runs and 112 RBIs over a 162-game season.
He was the best first baseman of his era.
Hodges practices on off day in bid to end batting slump. (1953, May 06). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 41. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/112844811?accountid=46260
Brooks win by 7-3 in protested game. (1953, May 07). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 40. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/112828559?accountid=46260