1974 TOPPS RON HODGES
This is the rookie card for Ron Hodges but Hodges made his major league debut the year before in 1973.
For reasons known only to a kid, I remember Hodges’ MLB debut. Specifically, I remember his first at-bat. Hodges crushed a ball but it was foul and he ended up striking out in his first plate appearance. I don’t remember anything else about the game, which is a shame because Baseball-Reference tells me that Tom Seaver had a complete game win against the Giants.
I don’t recall Seaver’s gem, I don’t recall Dave Kingman getting two hits for the visitors, I don’t recall Felix Millan hitting a HR – I remember a rookie striking out in his first major league action.
We had neighbors who lived two houses away from us that had kids close to me and my brother’s ages. They were a little weird but they were Mets fans so they were okay. I remember asking them if they saw Hodges play and they reacted like I said a bad word. According to them, while he was in the minors, Hodges somehow killed their cousin.
Today, I can find no corroborating evidence of this story. There’s nothing about it in his Wikipedia page and the Ultimate Mets Database on Hodges also has no mention of it. A Google search of “Did Ron Hodges kill a man” comes up with no story, either. Odds are it didn’t happen yet part of me thinks it somehow did.
How did he stay in the majors for so long? Well, you want to be the guy to cut someone who killed the Wright’s cousin? And it also makes his lifetime games played mark of 666 make a little more sense. Plus, he did break Craig Swan’s rib so he was no stranger to violence.
Even the Topps photographer was a little scared of Hodges. Here we see him in the traditional backup catcher pose – squatting but with no catching gear on – but we get a sideways shot. It was as if the camera man was too scared to look him in the eye.
In his first year in the majors, Hodges played on a team that went to the World Series. In his final year, he played on a team that won 90 games. In between, his teams amassed a combined 673-888 (.431) winning percentage. And that’s not even taking into account that he spent most of 1975, one of two seasons in that stretch where the team finished with more than 71 wins, in the minors.
That sounds like some kind of penance to me.