|Mrs. Joan Hodges at the 2011 Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner|
Completing the ceremonial first pitch in front of a crowd of 250-plus supporters, former New York Yankees Frank Tepedino and Rusty Torres accepted their inductions into the Winning Beyond Winning “Winners Circle.”
Torres along with attorney Tom Sabellico founded the organization which helps to educate kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, while promoting participation in athletics. Tepedino was one of their first recruits. “At a time in my life, when I gave up alcohol, Rusty and Tom came into it. Winning Beyond Winning was a blessing,” said Tepedino.
New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson and his wife Erin were presented with the Great Americans Award for their community work with their charity High Socks for Hope in their home state of Alabama.
The dinner, which bears the name of the legendary Dodgers’ first baseman and New York Mets manager, served this year as an impromptu booster party for Hodges’ Hall of Fame candidacy. When Hodges’ wife Joan took the podium for the celebration of her 85th birthday, the buzz circulated about her late husband’s Hall of Fame credentials. Hodges is one of the ten candidates on the newly formed Golden Era ballot to be voted on December 4th in Dallas.
Long time New York Mets shortstop and Long Island Ducks owner Bud Harrelson spoke with Examiner about Hodges’ paternal influence as his manager. “When I was with him, I felt like I was a son and I think he made a lot of players feel like that,” said Harrelson. “I fell in love with this guy. He was not negative, always positive. … He was just a good man, a family man [with] really solid principles.”
Washington Senators outfielder Fred Valentine, who played under Hodges from 1964-67, also praised the character of his fallen manager. “Throughout my whole playing career I think I gave him 100, 110 percent while I was on the field. … I knew what type of person he was. He was a devoted person, a devoted manager and he treated all of the players equally well. All of the ballplayers seemed to like the way that he managed,” said Valentine. He hopes that the upcoming vote will land Hodges in Cooperstown. “I can’t say enough about Gil Hodges about a manager. I’m just praying as I told Mrs. Hodges [today], that he will make it to the Hall of Fame where he deserves to be.”
Another disciple of the beloved Mets manager, Art Shamsky, felt that Hodges’ honor is long overdue. “It’s certainly something that should have been done a number of years ago, especially if you look at his stats against guys like Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda; it’s very comparable. I’m just not sure why it hasn’t happened before, and hopefully at this point while Mrs. Hodges is around to enjoy some good news, it will happen sooner than later.”
Mrs. Hodges took a rare public moment to reflect on this renewed opportunity for her late husband’s to gain entry to the Hall of Fame. “I’m going to be truthfully, very very honest with you. I have never really discussed this … how I feel about him, how over deserving [he is]. If it happens, we’ll be eternally grateful; if not, he’ll be in my heart forever.”