April 2, 1972 began like so many other spring Sunday of Gil Hodges’ life. Church and a round of golf with friends.
After attending an early Easter service in Florida, Hodges met his coaches on the golf course. The foursome of Hodges, Joe Pignatano, Rube Walker and Eddie Yost played 27 holes at the Palm Beach Lakes course before calling it a day. As the group walked from the course back to the clubhouse, Hodges collapsed and died of a massive heart attack just two days prior to his 48th birthday.
His coaches and his team were shocked.
“I was floored,” Tug McGraw told the New York Times after the news broke. “I really didn’t know what to do … I couldn’t believe it. I was confused, really in bad shape … the next morning I got the papers and saw it in black and white and thought, ‘it’s unbelievable.'”
“I’m not going to realize it fully until I walk in that clubhouse and he’s not sitting there behind a desk,” said Tom Seaver. “He gave every player on the club a living example of how to be a professional.”
Hodges played 18 seasons in the majors, 16 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and his final year-and-one-half as a member of the original New York Mets. He went on to manage the Washington Senators from 1963-1967 before taking over the reigns of the Mets. Hodges led the Mets to their first World Series title one year later (1969). He compiled a won-loss record of 339-303 (.523) in four seasons as manager of the Mets.
On Thursday, the 2019 New York Mets will open their home schedule against the Washington Nationals. Prior to the game, the organization will hold a ceremony to honor Hodges life and legacy. According to the team’s official press release: Members of the Hodges family will be recognized on field prior to the ceremonial first pitch on what would have been Gil Hodges’ 95th birthday. Hodges led the Mets to their first World Championship in 1969. Gil’s son, Gil Hodges Jr., will throw the pitch to Mets Hall of Famer and 1969 World Series Champion Ed Kranepool. Joan Hodges, Gil’s wife, and their daughter Cyndi will join Hodges Jr. on the field for the pitch.
ADDITIONAL PRESS FROM HODGES LIFE AND DEATH
- Hodges Dies of Heart Attack (New York Times // April 3, 1972)
- A Fond Farewell to Gil Hodges (New York Times // April 4, 1972)
- They’ll always be playing for Hodges (New York Times // April 5, 1972)
- Hodges Funeral marked by quiet, simple rites (New York Times // April 5, 1972)
- Hodges Dead (The Sporting News // April 15, 1972)
- Yogi’s the Boss, But Mets will play for Gil (The Sporting News // April 22, 1972)
- Mets retire No. 14 worn by Hodges (The Sporting News // April 29, 1972)
- Flatbush Faithful pay last respects to Hodges (New York Times // May 5, 1972)
- Hodges widow will get $13,680 annual income (The Sporting News // May 13, 1972)