Gomer Hodge and other forgotten baseball heroes of Opening Day

Opening Day in baseball always brings up memories for me, most of them taking me back to the finger-stinging cold that usually accompanied an Indians opener on the shore of Lake Erie. And somehow this week popped into mind Gomer Hodge, a utility infielder who was the toast of Cleveland in April 1971.

Keep in mind that in those days, the name Gomer was fully in the public consciousness because of the simple country boy Gomer Pyle character that Jim Nabors played on the Andy Griffith show and on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Gomer Hodge had labored in the Indians farm system for eight years before getting his chance with the big-league club. Baseball Reference has a fine summary on him, which I won’t repeat here. In the Tribe’s home opener, the late innings of which I caught on the radio, Gomer delivered the game-winning hit.  Cleveland went crazy.

Alas, Gomer played nothing more than a utility role that year, appearing in about half the Indians’ games during his only season in the majors. He later managed in the minors for the Indians farm system before dying at age 63 in 2007.

Hodge played a bit part in Tribe history, but he made his mark. Today, there are other rookies getting the first crack in the big-leagues and none of them knows whether they’ll see several seasons or just a few games in “The Show.”

It’s a good reminder for us all to “seize the day,” or “carpe diem,” as the Romans used to say.

 

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