“It was a total surprise to me,” said Joan Hodges after the unveiling of her own plaque on August 14 at MCU Park. In a ceremony that marked what would have been Gil Hodges’ 90th birthday, the Cyclones surprised everyone in attendance with a “Mrs. Joan Hodges 14” plaque placed on the upper deck railing near her late husband’s already established “14 Hodges” plaque.
Joan Hodges, who still lives in Flatbush, was a supporter of the Brooklyn Cyclones since their inception in 2001. With heartfelt emotion, she thanked the Cyclones and all the fans for remembering her husband and for the honor to be remembered alongside Gil.
In addition to the Hodges’ dedication, it also was a special evening for the master of ceremonies, Cyclone Hitting Coach Benny Distefano, who grew up in Brooklyn playing for the Gil Hodges Little League. Distefano, a Lafayette High School grad who went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, told fans that one of his biggest thrills was to meet Gil Hodges at the Hodges Bowling Lanes in 1971 at the age of nine.
After enlisting the help of his sister to sell the most chocolate in the off-season as a fundraiser for the little league, Distefano got his picture on the cover of the Gil Hodges Little League yearbook and an opportunity to meet Hodges at his bowling alley as his reward. “He was a model and someone to look up to,” said Distefano. “He was a great ballplayer and a better human being.”
Coincidentally, this would be Distefano’s second time meeting Joan Hodges. Back in 1977, after winning the Babe Ruth World Series beating the team from Newark, Ohio, Distefano met her during his team’s celebration on the steps of Boro Hall alongside Borough President Howard Golden.
Looking ahead past the end of the regular season to the post season for the Cyclones, Manager Tom Gamboa is confident of his team’s chances to capture the Wild Card spot for the playoffs as the season winds down.
“We got one of the best pitching staffs in the league,” maintains Gamboa. “Besides our pitching, our hitting has come around. We’re beginning to take advantage of situations to tack on runs instead of winning by just one or two runs.”
At this point in the season, the Connecticut Tigers are the Cyclones’ only competition to challenge for the Wild Card race in which Brooklyn maintains a slim two-game lead over Connecticut.
Noting that his team can’t back into the post season by scoreboard watching, Gamboa stated, “We’ve got to win the rest of our games, and right now we’ve got the momentum.”