They were sons of the 1920s, Indiana teenagers when Brooklyn came calling. Gil Hodges, from Petersburg, was about three years older than Carl Erskine, from Anderson. One day, in 1950, they shared an afternoon for the ages: four home runs for Hodges and a complete game — with four hits at the plate — for Erskine. The pitcher was friendly with the slugger and his family.
“I knew his brother and I knew his father,” Erskine said by phone from Indiana on Monday. “All three of those men died of the same heart condition. It was rare, but one of the biggest, strongest men on the team was Hodges, and yet his heart was not strong and it took him too early in life.”
Hodges was just 47 when he died on Easter in 1972, in West Palm Beach, Fla., after a round of golf with his Mets coaches during spring training. Erskine turns 95 on Dec. 13, one of just two living Dodgers — with Roger Craig — who played for the winners of the 1955 World Series. Their candle is flickering, but their legend burns brighter now. Hodges is a Hall of Fame player.
He made it on Sunday when a 16-person panel, at last, delivered a different verdict than all the others. Denied for 15 years by the writers, and again by several iterations of the veterans committee, Hodges will finally have a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.