Sunday, February 27, 2011

Edward Donald "The Duke" Snider 1926-2011

During the summer of 2007, I visited the exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 located at the Museum of the City of New York. In it I saw first hand the effect that players such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider had on their fans and the city of New York. Listening the song Talkin' Baseball by Terry Cashman also brings back memories of a baseball past that I can only see through newspaper articles and news footage. So when I heard that one of the famed trio of the Golden Age of New York City centerfielders and member of the famed Boys of Summer, Duke Snider passed away at the age of 84, well I felt that had to write something.

Duke Snider was born Edwin Donald Snider September 19, 1926 in the city of Los Angeles California, growing up in the South Central area of the city. Snider was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers straight out of Compton High School, where Snider was an athletic standout in the sports of baseball, basketball and football. After serving a tour of duty in the Navy from 1944-1946, Snider began his major league career.

Snider debuted with the Dodgers on April 17, 1947 joining a talented team made up with such outstanding players like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo. This era is considered to be the Golden Age of New York Baseball. The page for the Museum of the City of New York's exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 describes it as so:

The decade between 1947 and 1957 was the golden age of baseball in New York City. With three major league teams—the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the New York Giants—at least one of whom played in the World Series every year except 1948; two National League teams in an intense rivalry each season; and seven landmark subway series, New York was the undisputed baseball capital of the nation.

From 1947, until they left Brooklyn in 1957, the Dodgers won six National League pennants (1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956) and winning their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955. The man known as the "Duke of Flatbush" was a main component of these teams. Snider was a seven time All Star and finished in the top ten of MVP voting six times. Snider continued playing with the Dodgers as they moved to his home town in 1958. He has the distinction of being the last player to get a base-hit at Ebbets Field and the first player to get a hit at Dodger Stadium.

Snider helped the Dodgers win their second World Series in 1959 against the Chicago White Sox. Snider's contract was sold to the New York Mets in 1963 and after a brief return to New York City, Snider's contract was sold to the San Francisco Giants in 1964. Snider would retire in the same year after the Giants released him. Snider would be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1980, joining fellow New York Centerfield Greats Willie Mays (1979) and Mickey Mantle (1974).

Former Los Angeles Times staff writer Mike Kupper describes Snider's career as so:

Snider hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons and during the 1950s led all major leaguers in home runs, 326; runs batted in, 1,031; runs scored, 970; and slugging percentage, .569. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .295 and 407 home runs, 389 of them as a Dodger, still the team record. He is the only player to have twice hit four homers in the World Series, matching his 1952 feat in '55, the year the Dodgers won the Series and he was named major league player of the year by Sporting News.

Snider remained in baseball as a broadcaster for the San Diego Padres (1969-1971), Montreal Expos (1971, 1973-1986) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1991), as well as, being a hitting coach for the Montreal Expos (1973-1974).

Having been child in New York City during the 1970's, I would hear the stories about New York's Golden Era of Baseball on baseball telecasts and be envious that I was born too early to have experienced it. Going to the areas of Flatbush and Harlem where the former Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds existed I find it hard to believe that there were major league stadiums erected there once upon a time ago. Another component of the magical era has gone to rest. The Duke has gone to the big ballpark in the sky, joining the Mick in a fabled homerun contest. May the Duke of Flatbush rest in peace.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Mike Kupper from the Los Angeles Times website dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Richard Goldstein from the New York Times dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here to access the Duke Snider page from the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown's webpage
- Click Here to access the transcript of Duke Snider's induction speech given at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown on August 3, 1980
- Click Here to access the virtual exhibit of The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 provided by the Museum of the City of New York