Friday, October 19, 2012

#448 - Ron Hodges

This is the rookie card of Ron Hodges. Ron had a very interesting initial season in MLB. First off he was called up despite hitting only .173 in the minors, and that was in Double A. The Mets were in a bind: Jerry Grote broke his wrist the second week of May and NY bought Jerry May from Kansas City to replace him. May then went two-for-three in his first start a couple games later but sprained his own wrist in that game and would only get into a couple more games before he got released. Then there was Duffy Dyer, pressed into a starting role, but hitting only about .140 while playing every day. So Ron got the nod, leap-frogging the Triple A guys – they weren’t hitting too well either – because he handled pitchers much better. He then hit .306 in his first 15 games while Mets starters went 8-7 with him behind the plate. While that won-loss mark doesn’t seem too hot at that point the team was 25-32 when he wasn’t starting. Ron cooled off a bit offensively, but in September he was part of probably the biggest Mets play of the year: the “ball off the wall” play where he combined with Cleon Jones and Wayne Garrett to nail Richie Zisk at the plate in a game that helped NY win their division. By playoff time everyone was relatively healthy again so Ron only got one post-season plate appearance. But he made it count, getting on base with a walk. He would then settle into a long career with the Mets as a back-up guy for Grote, John Stearns, and Alex Trevino. I always like Ron’s ’77 card when he was a dead ringer for Thurman Munson in an action shot. Plus he's got a great surname for a Met. Here he is a bit more pedestrian in a posed shot at Shea.

Ron Hodges is from Rocky Mount, Virginia, and upon graduating from its Franklin High School in ’68 went to Appalachian State University where he pounded the ball pretty hard, including his first ’69 season when he hit .422. He hit well over .300 in both ’70 – when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Orioles – and ‘71, when he was a first round pick in two separate drafts by Kansas City and Atlanta, but opted not to sign with any of those teams. He did sign with the Mets after they picked him in the January ’72 draft in the second round and forewent his senior season for a pretty good year in A ball which included a .380 OBA. After a nice IL season he moved up to Double A in ’73 and then to NY. In ’74 he stayed up top as the third-string guy behind Grote and Dyer. When in ’75 John Stearns joined the club after a trade from Philadelphia Ron spent most of the year at Triple A Tidewater – where he hit .266 with a .372 OBA – before returning to New York for the rest of his career. In ’76 he had four homers and 24 RBI’s in only 155 at bats and in ’77 he hit .265 behind Grote and Stearns. The next two years were pretty much all Stearns in that catcher’s two best seasons and Ron was the number two guy. Then in ’80 Stearns got hurt for the first time and Alex Trevino got the starting nod. Ron got hurt that year also when in a game against Montreal he separated his shoulder going into first. The next year he was on the other side of an injury – again against Montreal – when, trying to nail Tim Raines attempting to steal second, he drilled pitcher Craig Swan in the back, breaking two of Swan’s ribs. In ’82 Stearns got hurt again and Ron got a bunch more at bats (the third string guy that season was Bruce Bochy, current Giants manager), topping out career-wise in homers (five) and RBI’s with 27. Then in ’83 Ron was the starter when Stearns missed pretty much the whole year. Though he had zero power that year he hit .260 with a .383 OBA. The next year Mike Fitzgerald took over and in his last season Ron again moved to the number two position. He finished with a .240 average with a .342 OBA. That walk in ’73 was his only post-season appearance.

After playing Hodges returned to Rocky Mount where since ’85 he has been a realtor. His site is linked to here. He also has raised three sons that were pretty good athletes themselves. The youngest one, Casey, was drafted by Atlanta in 2008 and had a couple good seasons in Rookie ball and may or may not still be playing Independent League ball.

Ron gets some pretty good star bullets given his short career until then. That tournament average is probably the highest I’ve seen quoted yet on a card in this set. And those IL numbers are what got him promoted to Double A. On the Ultimate Mets Database site, sort of a go-to for Mets fans where they can comment on different players, there is a bunch of derogatory posts regarding Ron’s career until a couple members of his family castigate those posters and defend their dad. Then the negative posts sort of grind to a halt. I dunno. .240 for a back-up catcher who had a pretty good OBA and hit lefty? That doesn't sound too bad. That site is linked to here.

So Ron is the other side of the double hook-up. First for Quilici as manager:

1. Hodges and John Milner ’73 to ’77 Mets;
2. Milner and Bert Blyleven ’78 to ’80 Pirates;
3. Blyleven was managed by Frank Quilici from ’72 to ’75.

Again, the hook-up for Frank as a a player is the same:

1. Hodges and John Milner ’73 to ’77 Mets;
2. Milner and Bert Blyleven ’78 to ’80 Pirates;
3. Blyleven and Frank Quilici ’70 Twins.

1 comment:

  1. Here is another card that I managed to have about 4 or 5 of. I think the kid down the street used to slip them into my collection. I was only seven years old and didn't really know who was who yet.