County Profile: Pike County

Posted on Mar 23 2022 in County
Pike County Rotunda
The Pike County Courthouse in Petersburg features a larger-than-life bust of Gil Hodges in its rotunda.

Pike County is named after Zebulon Pike, the Western explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado also was named. But the person from Pike County to scale the loftiest heights was baseball star Gil Hodges.

Hodges, the former Brooklyn Dodger and manager of the New York Mets who died suddenly 50 years ago April 2, finally reached the summit of baseball’s highest mountain when he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this past December. His official enshrinement will be held July 24 in Cooperstown, New York.

A giant mural dedicated to both his playing and managing days is featured prominently on the side a building in Petersburg, across the street from the Pike County Courthouse. On the main floor of the courthouse is a larger-than-life bust of Hodges in his Brooklyn cap.

Hodges was born in Princeton (in neighboring Gibson County), April 4, 1924. When he was 7, his father, a coal miner, moved the family to Petersburg. A multi-sport star, Hodges graduated from Petersburg High School in 1941 and played baseball, basketball and briefly football at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer. In 1943, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played one game for the Dodgers that summer, and then joined the United States Marines Corps to serve in World War II. In April 1945, Hodges landed with assault troops on the Pacific island of Okinawa and was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star for heroism under fire.

After the war, his baseball career resumed, and he was called up to the Dodgers in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier 75 years ago. Throughout the 1950s, Hodges was considered one of the finest fielding first basemen and sluggers in the league. Hodges was an eight-time All Star and played in seven World Series with the Dodgers.

Still a fan favorite, Hodges was drafted by the expansion New York Mets in 1962 and retired a year later. In 1968, he rejoined the Mets as manager and led the team to its miracle 1969 World Series championship.

Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack after golfing with his Mets coaching staff on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972. It was reported that Robinson, who died later that year, was so distraught at the loss of his old teammate that through tears he told Hodges’ then 22-year-old son, Gil Jr., “Next to my son’s death, this is the worst day of my life.”

After years of disappointment going through the Hall of Fame’s various voting processes, Hodges was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2021 by the Golden Days Era Committee. Folks in Petersburg are planning a “Gil Hodges weekend” following the enshrinement, but as of press time for this issue, details were not fully available.

County Facts

Founded: 1816

Named for: Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a Western explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado was named and an American brigadier general who was killed in battle in the War of 1812.

Population: 12,250 (2020 estimate)

County seat: Petersburg

Indiana county number: 63