When you think of 1950s baseball, what comes to mind?

All sorts of stuff, no doubt, but surely New York baseball looms large in those thoughts.

The Yankees, the Giants, the Dodgers.

Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Heated rivalries …

Crushing heartbreak …

Amazing comebacks …

Unbridled joy ..

And so much of that drama during one of baseball’s golden decades came to a head each October when the Yankees faced off against the Braves or the Giants or (usually) the Dodgers in the World Series.

The Yankees won so many titles (6) during the decade, in fact, that they all sort of run together.

You know what things don’t run together, though?

The Giants’ dash to a pennant in 1951, capped by Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

And the Giants’ win over the Indians in the 1954 Fall Classic.

And, maybe most of all, the Dodgers’ victory over the hated Yankees — finally! — in the 1955 World Series.

Through it all, young (and old) fans lived and died with their heroes — Mantle, Mays, and Snider, sure, but also Jackie Robinson and Monte Irvine and Don Newcombe and Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto and Roy Campanella and on and on and on.

But if you were looking for one guy amongst all those New York greats who could appeal to just about anyone, who would it be?

For my money — and as a fellow Hoosier — you’d be hard-pressed to find a more worthy torch-bearer than Dodgers first baseman and (yes!) future Hall of Famer Gil Hodges.

Hailing from tiny Princeton, Indiana, Hodges broke in (briefly) with Dem Bums in 1943 at the age of just 19 before spending ‘44 and ‘45 in the military.

After a year of minor league seasoning in 1946, Hodges played 28 games for the 1947 Dodgers before taking over first base (and playing part time at catcher) in 1948.

He brought a steady-Eddie Midwest demeanor to a team that was full of big personalities and even bigger stories, thanks to Robinson and a maturing roster that started winning like they never had before.

In a world of bright lights and big names and racial strife and bloody pennant battles, Hodges settled in as one of the most consistent, dependable sluggers and quiet leaders in the game.

He would have seemed right at home on Leave It to Beaver or I Love Lucy.

“Gee, Wally, I’d like to go to the malt shop with you after school, but I have to study for my algebra test. And take fielding practice. And, you know, milk the cows.”

Hodges was, in a word, swell.

Which made his appearance in the 1989 through 1991 Swell Bubble Gum Baseball Greats sets seem all the more appropriate.

Here he is in maybe the most colorful of all those, the 1990 edition, as a first baseman for the New York Mets (on card #132):

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Of course, that assignment would come about only after the Dodgers … and Giants … broke New Yorkers’ hearts by leaving for California prior to the 1958 season, and after the Mets sprang into existence to help salve those wounds in 1962.

Seven years later, and six after he moved back “home” as a New York first baseman, Hodges led the 1969 Miracle Mets to their — yes — miraculous World Series title, this time as their manager.

The back of that 1990 gem tells us as much …

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All in all, an utterly Swell baseball card of an imminently swell baseball player who built his legend from coast to coast but never seemed to lose those farm-grown roots.

Check out our full list of posts about Gil Hodges baseball cards!

The Mets skipper job wasn’t Hodges’ first, as he had a go-round with the Washington Senators in the mid-1960s. We run down the cardboard proof of that engagement over on YouTube …

1990 Topps Baseball (24 pack) Cello Box

End Date: Tuesday 06/18/2024 15:53:58 EDT
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Ken Griffey Jr. 1990 Topps All Star Rookie #336

End Date: Monday 06/24/2024 15:46:16 EDT
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1990 Topps #5 Nolan Ryan

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1990 Topps Deion Sanders Rc #61 New York Yankees

End Date: Tuesday 06/04/2024 09:17:11 EDT
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1990 Topps #45 Dave Parker

End Date: Monday 06/24/2024 07:01:24 EDT
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