John T. Saccoman
Gil Hodges was born Gilbert Ray Hodge on April 4, 1924, at Princeton, Indiana, in the state’s southwestern corner. The origin of the discrepancy between his birth name of Hodge and the name by which he became well known is unclear; however, the family name was Hodges at least by the time of the 1930 U.S. census. Gil’s parents were Irene K. (Horstmeyer) and Charles P. Hodges. When Gil was seven years old, the family, including Gil’s older brother, Robert, and younger sister, Marjorie, moved thirty miles north to Petersburg. Big Charlie, as Gil’s father was known, did not want his two sons to work in the coal mines as he did. (Big Charlie lost an eye and some toes in various mining accidents and died of a heart embolism in 1957.)
Charles Hodges taught his sons how to play sports, and Gil was a four-sport athlete at Petersburg High School. He ran track and played baseball, basketball, and football, earning a combined seven varsity letters. In 1941, like his brother before him, Gil was offered a Class D contract by the Detroit Tigers, but he declined it and instead enrolled at St. Joseph’s College on an athletic scholarship. St. Joseph’s, located near Indianapolis, had a well-regarded physical education program, and Gil had designs on a college coaching career. He played baseball and basketball for the Pumas and was a member of the Marines ROTC.
Gil Hodges was still a second-string catcher in 1947.
After his sophomore year, he was offered a contract by local sporting-goods store owner and part-time Dodgers scout Stanley Feezle. The lure of playing in the Major Leagues was too much this time, and Hodges left St. Joseph’s and signed with Brooklyn, who then sent him to Olean, New York. He worked out with the Class D Oilers but did not appear in a game.
Brooklyn called up the nineteen-year-old Hodges late in the 1943 season. He made his debut at Crosley Field on October 3, the Dodgers’ last game of the year. Facing Cincinnati’s Johnny Vander Meer, Gil went 0 for 2 at the plate and made two costly errors at third base. Eleven days later, he entered the Marine Corps and was sent to Hawaii, first to Pearl Harbor and later Kauai. Hodges