By TED MEBUST
COOPERSTOWN – In keeping with tradition, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum recognized the military service of 2022 inductees Gil Hodges and Buck O’Neil with a ceremony in its plaque gallery on Veteran’s Day. Before a crowd of NBHoF-goers and a Cooperstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard, the pair became the 69th and 70th members to bear a special medallion below their nameplates, indicating the details of their service.
“The Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery is where we recognize baseball excellence, but it’s also where we honor service and sacrifice,” stated NBHoF President Josh Rawitch. He encouraged all those in attendance to contribute letters to Operation Gratitude, a service which provides care packages for deployed troops, first responders, military families, recruit graduates, veterans, wounded heroes and caregivers.
Joel Evans, executive deputy director of New York State’s Division of Veterans’ Services, noted the “pleasure and honor” he felt—as a veteran and a baseball fan—in celebrating Hodges and O’Neil. He mentioned a personal connection to Hodges’ Brooklyn Dodgers, as they sometimes played stickball in the streets with kids from around the neighborhood—like Evans’ father.
The ceremony included a video message from Commander Evan Wright, speaking aboard the USS Cooperstown, a naval Freedom-class littoral combat ship which carries the names and honors of NBHoF military servicemen and is the first naval ship named after Cooperstown, New York.
For more information regarding Operation Gratitude, visit operationgratitude.com.