Hodges and O’Neil’s Service Celebrated During Ceremony

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Arielle Gordon

The Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery doesn’t frequently change. All 340 bronze plaques hang proudly day in and day out. But two additions were made to the walls in Cooperstown on Nov. 11. Branch-of-service medallions were installed below Class of 2022 members Gil Hodges and Buck O’Neil’s plaques to honor their military service during World War II.

Hodges served in the Marine Corps for 29 months, when he was stationed in the Pacific and received a Bronze Star. He began his service in October 1943, days after making his major league debut, and he returned to the Dodgers to begin the 1946 season.

O’Neil served in the Navy for two years when he served in a construction battalion. His service interrupted his time with the Kansas City Monarchs – missing part of the 1943 season and all of 1944 and ’45 before taking the field again in 1946.

“The Hall of Fame’s Plaque Gallery is where we recognize the all-time greats of our National Pastime,” Josh Rawitch, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum said. “But it’s also where we recognize service and sacrifice. As you walk around, you’ll get to see the medallion below each of the Hall of Fame plaques of those veterans who left for military service.”

Seventy Hall of Famers interrupted their careers for military service and their sacrifice is recognized with a medallion under their plaque. Each medallion notes the branch and conflict the Hall of Famer served in.

Friday’s ceremony included the Cooperstown V.F.W. Post 7128 Color Guard led by Commander Floyd Bourne, a Marine and Vietnam veteran who served four years of active duty. Benjamin Pomerance, Deputy Director for Program Development for the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, performed the National Anthem.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to be here in the Baseball Hall of Fame honoring two veterans,” said Joel Evans, Deputy Director for the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services.

Evans, a combat veteran of the U.S. Navy, served 23 years on active duty.

“Today I decided to wear the Marine Corps colors,” Evans said. “Gil Hodges was the Mets’ manager and I’m a Mets fan, so I’m doing that for him.”

The Hall of Fame maintains an active connection with today’s armed forces, including the sailors aboard the future USS Cooperstown, a littoral combat ship scheduled for commissioning next year.

“We are America’s away team,” Commander Evan Wright of the USS Cooperstown said in a prerecorded video message.

“The USS Cooperstown is named in honor of the 70 Hall of Famers who sacrificed parts of their baseball careers to serve in the military during wartime,” Wright said, “the very men we are honoring here today. That includes 27 veterans of the U.S. Navy whose service spanned World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Their names and accomplishments are prominently described throughout the USS Cooperstown, reminding our sailors of their important stories of sacrifice.”

The Hall of Fame includes Veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War who served in the Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines.

“The game of baseball and our armed forces have never been so closely connected,” Rawitch said. “We’re extremely grateful for all of you who came here today to celebrate with us as we honor all Veterans and recognize the service of Gil Hodges and Buck O’Neil.”

Following the remarks, both medallions were installed. They will forever remain in their place below the plaques – a permanent part of the Hall of Fame and a lasting tribute to the Hall of Famers’ service to their country.

As part of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Day celebrations, all Veterans will be admitted to the Museum free of charge throughout the month of November with proof of Veteran status. Following the month of November, the Hall of Fame will continue to provide 20-year career retired military and active duty military with free Museum admission every day the Hall of Fame is open, with all other Veterans also receiving discounted admission each day.


Arielle Gordon is the Digital Content Specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series