We're in the midst of the World Series right now so what better time to re-tell the story of one of baseball's greats, right? When this documentary short film was produced in 2021, Gil Hodges was one of the greatest players not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many of those who knew him wonder in the film, "Why isn't Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame?" Partly due to this film, that is no longer the case, Hodges having been inducted in July of 2022.
Now, the film has won a New York Emmy, making it the prime time to take another look at the film and life of Baseball Hall of Famer, Gil Hodges.
Hodges's baseball statistics speak for themselves. He was an eight-time All Star while with the Brooklyn Dodgers, a three-time World Series winner, three-time Golden Glove winner, and the hitter of 370 career home runs. He was also the manager of the New York Mets during the 1969 World Series win by what came to be known as "the Miracle Mets." But what really made Gil Hodges special was his personality, integrity, and respect for everyone.
What else would you expect of someone called "the heart and soul of the Brooklyn Dodgers" by none other than teammate Jackie Robinson?
Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges (screenshot) from "Soul of a Champion." © 2022 courtesy of Spirit Juice Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Soul of a Champion: The Gil Hodges Story, free to watch online, was written and produced by David Naglieri and directed by Naglieri and Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Studios in collaboration with Catholic Athletes for Christ. It highlights Gil's baseball career but more so his integrity as a person and how that rubbed off on everyone around him. Gil Hodges, Jr., contributing much to the film, tells of how his Dad never missed Sunday Mass, even if the team was on the road.
Carl Erksine, a Dodgers pitcher from 1948-1959, called Hodges the peacemaker of the team. "He didn't yell, he didn't scream, he didn't cuss, he didn't throw chairs in the club house. But he'd look at you and he'd singe your shorts."
Much insight on Hodges comes from fellow Catholic and long-time broadcaster for the Brooklyn (and later Los Angeles) Dodgers, Vin Scully. Scully was the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years, on air from 1950-2016. Of Hodges he says, "The story of Gil Hodges was a beautiful one, he just taught me so much by example."
Vin Scully in "Soul of a Champion." © 2022 courtesy of Spirit Juice Studios. All Rights Reserved.
And isn't that what we are all called to do? Teach by example. Pope Francis in document Gaudete et Exsultate, on the call to holiness says, "We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves" (no. 14). None of the folks interviewed in this film talk much about whether or not Gil Hodges was considered a "holy" person, but they do talk about how he bore witness to his faith in the way he lived and acted, whether that was as a player or later, as a manager, or as a husband and father.
Gil's son recalls how Hodges had his priorities straight. "God, family, country. Those things didn't get altered."
So, while you enjoy watching the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros this year, take 30 minutes at some point during commercial breaks or the seventh inning stretch to let yourself be inspired by the life of Gil Hodges, a baseball great, a family man, a normal guy whose faith soaked into his life, influenced the way he lived and spread to those around him.
Click here to watch Soul of a Champion: The Gil Hodges Story.