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Dodgers Historian Mark Langill Hopes Don Newcombe Makes it into the Hall of Fame Next



Long time Dodgers fans rejoiced last week as the National Hall of Fame Golden Day Era committed announced that legendary Brooklyn and Los Angeles first baseman, Gil Hodges, would become a hall of famer. Hodges, part of the old Boys of Summer in Dodger lore, played 16 seasons for the organization, amassing 8 All-Star selections, 361 home runs, and 1,254 runs batted in while helping lead the club to World Series titles in 1955 (Brooklyn’s only title) and 1959 (LA’s first).

The new hall of famer retired in 1963 and went on to manage the Washington Senators and New York Mets, leading the Miracle Mets to a championship in 1969. Sadly, Hodges passed away suddenly in 1972, suffering a heart attack. 

Now, a half-century of wrong has been corrected and Gil will be enshrined in the Hall next summer. With that in mind, Dodgers Nation recently chatted with Dodgers team historian, Mark Langill, about the late, great first baseman. Additionally, we asked Mark’s thoughts on who really should be considered next for the Hall.

I think there are a couple of cases. I don’t think you can suddenly drop Maury Wills and say, ‘ok, it’s over’ … I think people will look at Steve Garvey’s career and re-visit as far as 5-0 in the league championship series. They’re gonna see that he and George Brett had the most hits among anybody in the 1980s. … But I think the case of (Don) Newcombe is also very interesting…

Wills was on the same Golden Days Era ballot that Hodges was just on but fell well short of the 75% of the vote needed to be enshrined this year. Garvey played 14 of his 19 seasons with the Dodgers and was an All-Star 10 time, a league MVP in 1974, and won a World Series title with LA in 1981. He also owns the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207 from September 3, 1975 to July 29, 1983.

Newcombe pitched for the Newark Eagles of Negro Leagues in 1944 and 1945 before being signed by the Dodgers in 1946. He spent three seasons in the minor leagues for Brooklyn before making his debut in 1949. Langill continued on about Newk.

… Newcombe’s stats. When you look at it — and he had to, quote, ‘wait his turn’ because Jackie (Robinson) comes up in 1947, Campy (Roy Campanella) in 1948 and Branch Rickey — you know Newcombe’s champing at the bit and he has to wait until 1949. And how much of an impact does he make right away? He’s on the National League All-Star team just six weeks into his major league career and he wins Rookie of the Year. [Then] the Cy Young award, and the MVP.

Now, the other thing to think about, not only everything he had to go through off the field as far as the discrimination off the field and not being able to room with his teammates on the road. But he also had two years of military service, so if somebody wants to flip over that trading card and say, ok, he only won such and such games’ and everything like that. Think about this, Campanella and Don Newcombe and Jackie are all together in the Dodger organization in the mid-1940s. … How many people can say that their other two teammates are United States postage stamps?

So Newcombe lives a very long age and Campy and Jackie are immortalized in postage stamps and I think that’s the magnitude of what those guys were dealing with. So, yes, you’ve got modern players — players from the 80s and 90s who have stats, but I think it’s worth revisiting and looking at everything that Newcombe went through because, just like Buck O’Neill, just like others where you revisit and they weren’t even on the radar 20 years ago, suddenly there’s new appreciation for what they went through.

Why People Need to Know Gil Hodges & Which Dodgers Legend Needs to be in the MLB Hall of Fame Next?

Altogether, Newcombe’s numbers don’t blow you out of the water. 10 MLB seasons. 149-90 record with a career 3.56 ERA over 2,154.2 innings. But the full picture adds context to the story. He missed two seasons during the war. The second half of his short career he struggled on the mound while battling alcoholism. He endured hate as a black man in an era unkind. His story is one worth telling to new generations and the millions of fans who walk the halls of Cooperstown each year.

NEXT: Laying Out LA’s Biggest Need, MLB Insider Suggests LHP Carlos Rodón

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

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