Former Mets catcher Hodges dies at 74
NEW YORK (AP) — Ron Hodges, a catcher who spent his entire 12-season major league career with the New York Mets, died Friday. He was 74.
Hodges died at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital after a short illness, Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.
Selected by the Mets in the second round of the second phase of the January 1972 amateur draft, Hodges finished with a .240 batting average, 19 homers and 147 RBIs during a big league career from 1973-84. Hodges had a .342 on-base percentage with 224 walks and 217 strikeouts.
He played under seven managers with the Mets: Yogi Berra, Roy McMillan, Joe Torre, George Bamberger, Frank Howard and Davey Johnson.
A native of Rocky Mount, Virginia, Hodges was the seventh of nine children of Daisy and Tony Hodges. He attended Franklin County High School, then attended Appalachian State.
Hodges was brought up to the Mets from Double-A Memphis in 1973 because of injuries to Jerry Grote and Duffy Dyer. Hodges made his debut on June 13, 1973, nine days shy of his 24th birthday, catching Tom Seaver's complete game win over San Francisco.
He batted .260 with one homer and 18 RBIs in his rookie season, hitting a 13th-inning walk-off single against NL East-leading Pittsburgh on Sept. 20.
In the top of the inning with a runner on first, Dave Augustine hit a two-out drive against Ray Sadecki that caromed off the left-field wall above the 358-foot sign. Cleon Jones threw to Wayne Garrett, and the shortstop relayed to Hodges, who tagged Richie Zisk trying to score from first, what became known as the “Ball on the wall play.” The Mets pulled within a half-game of first, and took the division lead for good the following day behind Seaver's five-hitter.
“I just remember so many key hits he got for us," Jones said in a statement. "Any time he played, Ron always managed to do something to help us win.”
Hodges had one postseason plate appearance, walking against Oakland's Rollie Fingers in Game 1 of the World Series.
“Playing in that ’73 season with the pennant drive in September is my favorite memory of my baseball career,” Hodges said in a 2018 interview with the Society for American Baseball Research.
Hodges was among the players whose career was interrupted by the 50-day midseason strike in 1981.
″If nothing happens in the strike talks,″ he told The New York Times ahead of the walkout, ″I’ll put everybody in the car and head home to Virginia. There’s not much demand for substitute teachers in summer school. But I used to get $25 to $30 a day during the winter, teaching phys ed in the middle school — sixth, seventh and eighth grade. Lots of days, I found myself in math and science. When you’re a sub, you take what they have."
Hodges was behind the plate for Seaver's return to the Mets on opening day of the 1983 season after the star spent 5 1/2 seasons with Cincinnati. Because of injuries to John Stearns, Hodges played 110 games that year, his only season with more than 80.
Hodges is survived by wife Peggy; sons Riley, Gray, Nat and Casey; sisters Aubrey, Carmen, Pat and Donna; and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were pending.
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