As we close the book on 2011, let’s remember who we lost this past year in the Dodger family. Duke Snider, The Duke of Flatbrush, was one of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ “Boys of Summer.” The Hall of Famer passed away this past February 27th at the age of 84. He was both a Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger for 16 years out of his 18 years in the Major League. He also played with the New York Mets in 1963 and the San Francisco Giants in 1964.
Born in Los Angeles, Edwin Donald Snider got his nickname at five years old. Noticing his son return home from a game with somewhat of a strut, Snider’s dad said, “Here comes the Duke.”
The left handed batter played his first game in the Majors in 1947, two days after Jackie Robinson’s historic debut. In 1955 Ebbet’s Field was filled with baseball stars like Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Gil Hodges.
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Snider was a homerun hitter and excellent defensive outfielder. He was an eight time all-star and the center fielder helped the Dodgers win 6 National League Chamionships and Brooklyn’s only World Series title. Snider hit .309 with 42 homers and a career-high 136 RBIs in 1955. That October, he hit four homers, drove in seven runs and hit .320 as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in a seven-game Series. He would also win a championship as a Los Angeles Dodger in 1959.
The popular song “Talkin’ Baseball” mentions Snider as part of the famous trio of center fielders.
“If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke. They’ll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.”
He was often regarded as the third best center fielder in New York behind Willie Mays of the Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees during the golden age of New York baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig called Snider an “integral part of Dodger history” and part of an “unparalleled triumvirate of center fielders” in New York.
Snider is the Dodgers’ franchise leader in home runs (389) and RBIs (1,271). He led all Major Leaguers in the 1950s with 326 homers and 1,031 RBIs. He hit 40 or more homeruns in 5 consecutive seasons. He also hit the very last homerun at Ebbet’s Field before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. His number 4 was retired by the Dodgers in 1980, the same year he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Snider died in Escondido, California from natural causes. He will always be the #1 center fielder in our hearts.