Today all of baseball gathers to celebrate the groundbreaking career of legendary reserve catcher Ron Hodges, who bravely shattered the Scrubeenie Barrier by serving 12 years for the same team while hardly ever rising above third on depth charts at his position. His example of self-sacrifice, waiting his turn, and hitting lefthanded while being a catcher has been an inspiration for last-men-on-the-bench everywhere including Alberto “Bambi” Castillo, Tim Spehr, Ed Hearn and Barry Lyons.
To mark the historic occasion, every player in the Major Leagues today will be outfitted in the No. 42 jersey Ron made famous while rotting on the bench behind Grote and Dyer; then Grote and Stearns; and then Stearns and Grote; and then Stearns and Trevino; and then Trevino and Stearns; and then Stearns and Trevino again; and then Mike Fitzgerald. Relievers from Harry Parker to Wes Gardner found Hodges’ target while warming up in the bullpen; and managers from Berra to Frazier to Torre to Johnson called on his left-handed bat to pinch hit in crucial situations, provided they had already used Kranepool, Staub or Jorgensen.
It’s an extra special occasion for the Mets, whose new home stadium features a Rotunda dedicated to Ron’s exploits including a gigantic No. 42 statue to honor his contributions. Mets owner Fred Wilpon paid Hodges the ultimate compliment by implying he might have been good enough to warm up and perhaps pinch hit for his childhood chum Sandy Koufax, a hero of his beloved Dodgers.