Friday, May 18, 2012

A look at Gil Hodges: 1954 Bowman #138


A major component of the mission statement for Ryan's Pitch was a promise to take a look at cards from my collection.   To share and enjoy.   To remember and appreciate - both the card and the player.   I've had a healthy run of trade reviews and new card reviews on here, mixed in with some good tidbits of TTM success and other random topics.....but here's a great example of what I consider to be the favorite part of my sports card collection:

Gil Hodge's 1954 Bowman card, Card #138


But...but....It's not even a Yankee, you may say......and you're right!   It surely isn't.   Don't worry, fellow Bombers fans.   I promise that there will be pinstripes aplenty as this blog marches on.   But the Ryan's Pitch Collection (that sounds so enjoyably corny to me as I write it) appreciates greatness from the game in all shapes, sizes and colors - and this is no exception.

The Card.

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you and I don't have a defective scanner.   This card is horribly trimmed.   In fact,  I can't imagine that this card could have been in a worse shape to have caused the guilty trimmer to reach the point at which he or she stopped and said, "OH YES - THAT looks so much better!"

But that's fine by me.   I can see color.   I can see Mr. Hodges.   I can see his signature.   We're good to go.   I love vintage in any shape, form or fashion (especially for 99 cents)!   The '54 Bowman set is certainly not going to cause you to jump in jubilation.   It's a simple design, much more so than the Topps set from that same year for sure.   But it IS color, which by '54 had finally become the prevailing medium (Deckle Edge and other special sets to come notwithstanding).   And these colors are sharp.   The yellow highlighting has nothing to do with that beautiful Dodger Blue but the clear skies and fluffy clouds behind Gil's huge smile brings it all back to order.   There are creases all over this great card but they don't take away anything from Gil Hodges, arguably the finest first baseman from the golden age of baseball and a true gentleman as well. 

“If you had a son, it would be a great thing to have him grow up to be just like Gil Hodges.” -- Pee Wee Reese

He was loyal to the Dodgers from '43 on through 1961 when he finished things up with the Mets.   He would also then manage for the Senators and Mets until 1971, highlighted by his role as leader for the "Miracle Mets" in 1969 when they overcame the machine that was the Baltimore Orioles and claimed the first World Series title for any expansion team.   As a player, though, Gil was an eight time All-Star and three time World Champion.   He garnered three Gold Glove Awards and ended his career with a total of 370 HRs.   I'm always a bit partial to those amazing players who broke away from the game to defend our country during WWII and Korea.   Mr. Hodges was one of these heroes, leaving after that initial '43 season at the age of 19 to join the Marines and, you know,  man some anti-aircraft guns at the Battles of Tinian and Okinawa in the Pacific Campaign.  

Reflect on that for just a moment.

He earned a Bronze Star for his meritorious service and returned to baseball in 1946.   Job well done, Mr. Hodges.   I have some other Gil Hodges cards in my collection that I can't wait to share here - so I'll save a few of my other favorite stories of Brooklyn's beloved ballplayer from Indiana.   It's all good stuff - this man was amazing.   In the meantime, let's wrap up this look at his '54 Bowman card!

Here's the back of this great card:

The classic design is at work here for Bowman.   Dominating the back of the card is a great write-up to devour that starts off with a very proper, dated comment:

"Big Gil is one of the nicest fellows in baseball and one of the most capable and dangerous of players."

I love it.   He's a great guy......but he's dangerous.   The ying AND the yang.    The write-up also describes Hodges' four HR game in 1950.   In light of Josh Hamilton's recent tying of that mark, this certainly seems appropriate.   This '54 card notes that Gil tied a major league mark with his four dingers.   So who had previously slammed four round trippers in one game?

Bobby Lowe (Boston Beaneaters) in 1894
Ed Delahanty (Philadelphia Phillies) in 1896
Lou Gehrig (New York Yankees) in 1932
Chuck Klein (Philadelphia Phillies) in 1938
Pat Seerey (Chicago White Sox) in 1948

Impressive, Phillies!   The Hambino was the 16th player to join this list in baseball statistics when he knocked four out against the Orioles on May 8th. 

The back of the card also delivers both offensive and fielding statistics for the previous year and Mr. Hodge's career averages.   Gil would slam 42 home runs in 1954, taking back the Brooklyn team record for dingers in a season from Roy Campanella (who bested the previous mark of 40, set by Hodges in 1951.   Duke Snider would overtake Hodges again in '56.

A great vintage baseball card of a great ball player from the game's golden age.   I am thrilled to have it in my collection and to be able to share it with you.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Really sweet card. I look forward to seeing more of the vintage cards in your collection!

  2. here's a hodges story to add to the legend. actually, its a hodges tale via vin scully.

    it seems hodges was out sick from the team and the Dodger manager put vin scully in hodges uni and sent him out to play in an exhibition game! (scully had played some ball in the past.) vinny said hodges was a big bear of a man and the uniform draped on him such that the 'Dodgers' on the jersey hung below his waist.

    scully shagged some balls in the outfield and on his way back to the dugout he was dogged by a couple of young boys wanting his - hodges'- auto. of course he tried to shoo them away at first but then realized these kids will always think the real gil hodges is rude to fans. so he signed the autos, remembering to circle the 'i' on gil, just like the real mccoy.

    scully wonders if somewhere out there to this day, those boys - now men, still believe they have the real gil hodges' autograph.

    good times in old time baseball.