Ex-Indian 'Gomer' Hodge dies
After notching his fourth hit in four official at-bats for the Indians in April 1971, Hodge said, "Golly, fellas, I'm hitting 4.000."
The quote captured the essence of the easygoing Hodge, who died Sunday in Rutherfordton, N.C. He was 63. Hodge had suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Fans loved him," said Russell Schneider, who covered the Indians for The Plain Dealer in 1971. "Everybody loved being around him."
Schneider devoted a chapter to Hodge in his latest book, "Whatever Happened to Super Joe'? Catching up with 45 Good Old Guys from the Bad Old Days of the Cleveland Indians."
Hodge finished the 1971 season with a .205 average in 83 at-bats in 80 games. The reserve infielder had one homer -- over Fenway Park's Green Monster -- and nine RBI.
The Indians demoted Hodge, then 27, to Class AAA and he never made it back. Hodge was a minor-league player/coach or manager in the Indians' system through 1976, Schneider wrote. Hodge held various jobs in the systems of other clubs, and coached in Australia and Mexico before retiring in 2001.
"Gomer would be the first to tell you he wasn't blessed with an abundance of talent," Schneider said. "He was a solid, hard-working country boy who played the game for the sheer love of it."
Hodge was nicknamed Gomer by teammates in the minors because they thought he sounded like Gomer Pyle, the TV character played by Jim Nabors.
The funeral is at 11 a.m. today at McMahan's Funeral Home, 249 S. Main St., Rutherfordton. The family will receive friends after the service.
Donations can be made to Hospice of the Carolina Foothills Inc., 130 Forest Glen Drive, Columbus, N.C., 28722.