After 11 games with the lowly 1963 New York Mets, legendary first baseman Gil Hodges hung up his spikes … sort of.

See …

Hodges’ last appearance came in a win against the San Francisco Giants on May 11, where he went 1-for-4 with an RBI to raise his season average to .227.

Within a couple of weeks, Hodges would be gone, traded by his (adopted) hometown expansion club to the Washington Senators in exchange for Jimmy Piersall — it was the oh-so-rare centerfielder-for-first-baseman-on-the-verge-of-manager swap.

The CF piece was fulfilled by Piersall.

The skipper role was to be Hodges’ new gig, installed as the new-wave Senators’ third manager ever, and third of the season, after Mickey Vernon was canned 40 games in and after a one-game cameo for Eddie Yost.

The rookie manager didn’t fare much better than his predecessors, leading the team to a 42-79 record the rest of the way. Overall, the three managers — and their club — landed at a gaudy 56-106.

Ah, but these Senators were also expansion babies, created from a magical elixir of threats, castoffs, dollars, and political pressure in the immediate aftermath of the departure of the, um, Senators for the wilds of Minnesota after the 1960 season.

So, while Minneapolis cheered on a club on the verge of contention, D.C. took their rightful place at the bottom of the American League standings and began to build.

And, once they got the first couple years of true ugliness out of the way, it was Hodges they chose to lead them up the ladder, and so he did …

To 62-100 in 1964 … and to 70-92 in 1965 … and to 71-88 in 1966 … and to 76-85 in 1967.

Super slow improvement, to be sure, but enough to get the Senators into sixth place in the A.L. and instill a little hope for 1968 and beyond.

Heck, just look at how happy, confident, optimistic Hodges himself appears on his gorgeous 1967 Topps baseball card:

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Hitch your wagon to Gil’s train, boys!

This was a man who was going places!

A man no one could stop!

But then, well, Wes Westrum resigned as manager of the New York Mets with 11 games to go in the ‘67 season, leaving coach Salty Parker in the hot seat for a couple weeks.

Rumors began to swirl in Flushing that Yankees legend and then-current Mets coach Yogi Berra would take the reins.

And that just might have happened had owner Joan Whitney Payson and general manager Bing Devine not gotten creative.

The same day the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to even the World Series at three games apiece, the Mets swung a deal with the Senators to acquire … yes, Gil Hodges.

Later that offseason, New York would send Bill Denehy and 100 grand to the nation’s capital to complete the deal, instantly (or, you know, a-couple-of-months-ly) rendering that 1967 Hodges card obsolete.

By the next spring, collectors already had a burlap-wrapped version of this new reality, courtesy of 1968 Topps:

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And, of course, by the fall of 1969, the Mets had their first championship.

The Senators?

Well, they became the Texas Rangers, who have won …

Oh, right.

Next time you hear cursing coming from Arlington, followed by the sound of cardboard ripping, well, might be time to check up on the whereabouts of your ‘67 Gil Hodges.

Check out our full list of posts about Gil Hodges baseball cards!

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