Blog Entry

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

Posted on: February 27, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2011 5:28 pm

Snider By Evan Brunell

Hall of Famer Duke Snider has passed away at age 84, the Baseball Hall of Fame revealed Sunday. Snider was battling an undisclosed illness at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif. 

"Duke was not only a great player but he was a great person too," said Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who had cups of coffee with the 1954-55 Dodgers and thus had Snider for a teammate. "He loved his family and loved the Dodgers. He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. He was my teammate and friend, and I will really miss him."

The "Silver Fox," as he was known -- along with "Duke of Flatbush" -- spent 16 years with the Dodgers, the final five out west in Los Angeles. He signed with the club as a 17-year-old, had a brief career in the minors and the Navy, then began his Hall of Fame career. Snider would end up with 407 total home runs, all but 18 with the Dodgers. Snider spent his penultimate season back in New York with the Mets during their brutal 51-111 campaign in 1963 as the center fielder struggled to career-worst numbers for the season. He returned to California the next year, earning 167 at-bats for San Francisco. A major part of his career was chronicled in Roger Kahn's iconic book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boys of Summer .

In his heyday, Snider was a feared hitter. He had five consecutive seasons of at least 40 home runs -- nine straight of at least 20 -- leading the NL with 43 in 1956, along with OBP and slugging percentage. His home-run streak began at age 22 after two years of apprenticeship. Snider was left off the World Series roster in his rookie season of 1947 and was then demoted to the minors in May of 1958 after he kicked the season off with a .158 batting average. Then-GM Branch Rickey challenged Snider to force Rickey's hand in bringing him back to town. In early August 1948, Rickey had seen enough, as Snider told Dodgers Magazine .

"After the doubleheader, he came into the clubhouse and said, 'You played very well tonight,'" Snider recalled. "I said, 'Thank you, Mister Rickey. Don't you think the numbers I put up are enough to make you call me back?' He said, 'I'm glad you brought that up because I want you to pack your uniform, catch tomorrow morning's plane and fly to Brooklyn. You're my center fielder tomorrow night in Brooklyn.' My mouth flew open, of course. Everybody heard it and went over and congratulated me. I went there and became the regular center fielder."

From that point on, Snider was simply great. While an MVP award proved elusive, Snider finished second in voting in 1955 when he hit .309/.418/.628 with 42 blasts and 136 RBI. He finished second to teammate Roy Campanella by just five points and could have very well won the entire thing. According to Wikipedia , Snider's Duke of Flatbush book details the story of an ill baseball writer from Philadelphia who submitted his ballot with Campanella both at No. 1 and No. 5. It is felt the writer intended to write Snider into one of these places. However, the Baseball Writers Association of America decided to keep Campanella at No. 1 and count the No. 5 spot as a blank ballot. Even inserting Snider into the fifth spot would have been enough to edge Campanella. Despite that, Snider helped the Dodgers win a World Series -- but not before a bad experience in the 1949 World Series when Brooklyn lost to the Yankees. Snider struck out eight times in five games, tying a World Series record.

Snider But Snider was no stranger to postseason greatness, winning the pennant six times and bashing 11 World Series home runs, four in both 1952 (another loss to the Yankees) and 1955. (Photo, right, shows Snider crossing the plate on his second home run.) His 11 home runs remain the most any NL player has ever hit in the Fall Classic. He would also earn another World Series ring in 1959 in the Dodgers' second season out west. His legacy marches on as he remains franchise leader in home runs (389), RBI (1,271) and led baseball in these categories during the entire decade of the 1950s.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who was 21 at the time of Snider's World Series victory in 1955, released a statement that called Snider "a key player during a special era in baseball, joining Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle to form New York City's unparalleled triumvirate of center fielders - Willie, Mickey and The Duke. Then the Los Angeles native went home and helped usher in a new part of baseball history with great class. I have many fond memories of watching Duke play, and I will be forever grateful for getting to know him well in the ensuing years."

"We shed a tear in Cooperstown for the man affectionately tabbed by his fans, 'The Duke of Flatbush,' " added Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "There was no one classier or more easy going than Duke Snider. He was nationally renowned for his smooth fielding and powerful bat -- as evidenced by hitting more home runs in the 1950s than anyone else. He is still today revered by Brooklynites everywhere for patrolling center field in Ebbets Field with grace and dignity, leading the underdog Dodgers to five pennants and their only World Series title in New York, in 1955. Above it all, he was a fan favorite for his style of play, personality, accessibility, and fondness for playing stickball with kids in the street of Brooklyn."

Snider's legacy is intact, as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980 on his 11th ballot. His No. 4 was retired in a stirring ceremony in 1980, when both DiMaggio and Mays accompanied him.

"He was an extremely gifted talent and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said. Scully  began his broadcasting career with Brooklyn in 1950, Snider's second year as a full-time player. "When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of [Joe] DiMaggio and [Willie] Mays and of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant."

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Category: MLB

Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 19, 2011 8:27 am

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

Allow us hope this just disappears a hundred percent. Even so, that can might need the Vikings to begin gaining and I do not like that probably.

Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2011 7:46 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

You sound an awfully lot like me except I never had the pleasure of meeting the Duke.  Growing up in Kentucky and being a rare Dodger fan for this area, I did get to see him play 4 times against the Reds at old Crosley Field.  Pure joy.  I did have a Duke Snider glove and I have a Duke Snider autographed only one and the only one I ever wanted.  It was so alarming hearing of his death and i along with all his other fans will miss and feel fortunate to have idolized such a great human being.


Since: Apr 23, 2009
Posted on: February 28, 2011 7:41 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

One of the class gentlemen of Baseball , truley one of the nicest guys
guys in the game , will be missed !
God Bless Duke!

Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2011 7:20 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

The Amazing Duke

Been a HUGE fan of his since Dodgers winning 1955 World Series when I was 11.  With his great hitting ability aside, his fielding average during the 1950's was also higher than Mantle or Mays as were his HR's and RBI's during the Fifties.  The Dodgers move to LA and playing in the Coliseum probably cost Duke at least 60 homers as this was during his prime.  He was truly "The Amazing Duke" and a real class athlete...he will never be forgotten.

Since: Oct 19, 2008
Posted on: February 28, 2011 1:10 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

I met Duke down in Vero Beach at Dodgertown in 1992 and for a few years after, each time we went down there.    While eating at his restaurant, he came in, sat down with us, signed autographs, took pictures (which we had autographed the following year) and chatted with us for awhile.   He was very friendly and very down to earth.   A baseball legend and a good person.   RIP Duke.

Since: May 22, 2007
Posted on: February 28, 2011 6:35 am

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

I can remember watching Duke Snider when I was growing up...I was a Phillies fan, but always liked Snider. He was Dodger blue, through and through. He was one of the leaders of the Dodgers of the 50s...what a great team...Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Jim Gilliam to name just a few. I remember reading books and watching a lot of old film clippings of some of the boys of Summer...Duke was a fine person, and an emmessary of baseball. He will surely be missed and baseball may never see another like him. 

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: February 28, 2011 12:59 am

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

Thank you, Duke, for your infinite contributions to baseball. For capturing the imaginations of boys in neighborhoods from coast to coast. For providing the model of power sustained through the 1950s. For being the example to countless occasions in the school yard. You did it all.

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: February 28, 2011 12:02 am

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

What type of echelon are we talking about?  He hit more home runs and knocked in more runs in the 50's than anyone else in baseball. Also had to move to L.A. and the Coliseum for 2 of those years, where center field and right field were not condusive to Sniders left handed bat. Remember, the Coliseum was configured from the Olympic stadium and a football field, where right field was way out there and left field was barely 240 feet. Center field was way over 400 feet as well as right center and Snider hit so many warning track outs that would have been home runs anywhere else it was pathetic.  Snider and all his fans were frustrated concerning that configuration and by time they moved to Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) Sniders last productive years were wasted.  Wally Moon made his name by hitting home runs to left field called "Moon Shots", barely going over the left field fence at 240 feet while Snider would hit one 420' for an out.
Another Echelon?  How about elected to the Hall of Fame?  Not too shaby from a guy who was rasied in avacado country in Fallbrook, CA. in norhtern San Diego county.
The "Duke" and the "Mick" also shared something awesome, the best looking strike out swing known to man.  The "whiff" was almost as exciting as them hitting it out.  You could hear the wind "swish" when they swung through the ball.  What a beautiful swing Snider had.  Think about it, Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Bonds, etc. never hit 40 home runs 5 years in a row.  He was unique, he was one of the greatest players ever to play, Snider as the hitter, Koufax as the picture and Vinny got to call them all, All Hall of Famers, ALL DODGERS!

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: February 27, 2011 11:38 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

You forgot a Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale!  I think the big "D" came to L.A. way a head of Koufax in every category.  It's nice to have you remember all the others, just can't believe you forgot the side-slinger.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: February 27, 2011 10:43 pm

Dodgers great Duke Snider passes

Truly a sad day. As a Montrealer, I knew Duke Snider as a long-time voice of the Expos though the 70s and 80s as he bound a fledgling franchise to the history and greatness of the game through numerous stories about some of the biggest names to ever play baseball. He was not a great broadcaster in the traditional sense, but he was a story-teller and a man who exuded class, a man who brought legitimacy to the Montreal Expos by his mere association with them.

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