Snider, the Duke of Flatbush, passes away

Open Thread: February 27th Camp Notes
Fan Confidence Poll: February 28th, 2011
Duke Snider, shown here in Ebbets Field in 1950, patrolled center field in Brooklyn for years. (AP Photo/File)

The Hall of Fame, on behalf of the Snider family, announced on Sunday afternoon that Duke Snider, the Duke of Flatbush, had died at the age of 84. Snider, a mercurial player who had a love/hate relationship with the fans and eventually faced tax fraud charges, is the only player to hit four home runs in the World Series twice and blasted the last long ball at Ebbets Field. Of the famous trio of New York center fielders immortalized in highlight reels and song by Terry Cashman, only Willie now remains alive.

Snider, enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1980, suffered under the shadow of his more well known center field counterparts. Both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle put up better career numbers and won more awards. But Snider, an eight-time All Star and one of two players to drive in 1000 runs or more in the 1950s, earned Brooklyn’s love by sticking it to those damn Yankees in the 1955 World Series. He blasted four home runs and hit .320/.370/.840 during the Dodgers’ lone World Series win while in Brooklyn.

What I know about Snider I’ve learned through second-hand sources and my own study of baseball history. I’d urge you to read The Times obituary and excerpt Dave Anderson’s profile:

They don’t make center fielders like that anymore. With the big ballparks now, most center fielders are gazelles who can chase down balls lined into the gaps and hit for average, if they hit at all. Willie, Mickey and Duke not only were sluggers, they could also run.

Over their careers, Mays and Mantle each earned adulation as arguably the best baseball player ever. Snider never did, but for a time in the ’50s the Duke of Flatbush was better than either of them. He hit 407 home runs, almost all for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and a few for the Mets and the Giants at the end. But in the ’50s he hit more home runs than Mays or Mantle or anybody else in the big leagues.

Duke had it all: a sweet swing, a bazooka arm, springs in his legs. He also had the luck of being virtually the only left-handed slugger in a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo. As a result, Snider usually was swinging against right-handed pitching.

Then again, he didn’t really have it all. As he often acknowledged, he had a “big mouth” that tarnished his image and his popularity. After being booed at a game at Ebbets Field one night, he snapped that Brooklyn fans “don’t deserve a pennant.” That prompted even more boos the next night. He later put his name on a Collier’s article confessing that he played baseball only for the money, that he would rather be in California on his avocado farm not far from Los Angeles.

Today, I live a short walk — and an even shorter subway ride — away from where Ebbets Field once stood. Now and then, old Brooklyn Dodger fans emerge to wax nostalgic about Dem Bums. Baseball lost another one. Here’s to you, Duke, ever the Duke of Flatbush, ever a thorn in the Yanks’ side.

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Open Thread: February 27th Camp Notes
Fan Confidence Poll: February 28th, 2011
  • http://twitter.com/Carlosological Carlosologist

    Baseball really should come back to Brooklyn. It would be cool to see another good team in NY.

    My crazy relocation idea: Tampa comes up to NY, fills the void left behind by the Dodgers.

    • pat

      They could be the Brookyln Whitefish.

      • http://twitter.com/Carlosological Carlosologist

        I was actually thinking they could replace the sun they have in the background and replace it with a city horizon or something.

        • Y’s Guy

          great idea, a city horizon as long as it doesnt look too much like the one the mets have. and put the team, say 7 miles from the mets and they can take back the blue and white (and have black ‘sunday’ jersey’s. and they can name thier park after a DIFFERENT bankrupt bank. and then they can come up with a cute cuddly baseball mascot that doesnt look TOO MUCH like MR. Met!

          …yeah, that’s just what ny needs…

    • mbonzo

      I’d love it, I doubt the Yankees or Mets would. Especially the Mets. If Tampa moved to NJ I think the Yankees would see a lot of fans disappear. I think this’ll be a serious discussion when the Rays want a new stadium.

      • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

        I think you mean there wouldn’t be any Mets fans (who would you want to root for, a disaster of an organization that can’t get anything right, or a young, up-and-coming team with infinite promise?). Yankee fans who live in TAMPA are still Yankee fans. Why would they switch allegiances?

  • Kiko Jones

    Nice piece. And, appropriately, from someone whose initials are BK.

  • Jonathan

    ya they don’t make CF like that anymore that can run and hit…..Kemp/Sizemore/Granderson/Beltran/Rasmus/Rios/Hamilton/McCutchen

    and to a lesser degree adam jones/upton/chris young

    Not to mention last generations CFers.

    Also, was the bra invented after 1950?

    • Spaceman.Spiff

      Reads comment.

      Scrolls up to related picture.

      Nods in agreement.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        he is totally staring at her bazongas

      • Pounder

        Ditto

    • mbonzo

      Career OPS:

      Snider- .919

      Kemp- .808
      Sizemore- .840
      Granderson- .822
      Beltran- .853
      Rasmus- .786
      Rios- .777
      McCutchen- .824

      These are guys in the prime of their careers and they can’t even put up what Snider averaged throughout his career. Rasmus had the highest OPS for a regular centerfielder in 2010, with an .859 OPS. At the same age (23) Snider OPSd .932, Mays OPSd 1.078, and Mantle OPSd 1.042.

      In case you’re wondering, Hamilton started 29 games at centerfield, he can’t be considered a centerfielder anymore. Gonzalez isn’t a regular centerfielder either, and I doubt he ever will be with all the power he’s producing.

      • mbonzo

        Rasmus is a great player, but if you want to talk about fielding, he’d be lost in this.
        http://farm2.static.flickr.com.....d0f2_o.jpg

        • Jonathan

          perhaps you should work harder on your reading comprehension. The original writer said they don’t make CFers anymore that can run and hit. That’s it. So i displayed many CFers who could run and hit. Not to mention most of their #’s would be much better if their pull foul poul was under 300 ft. Before you spend all that time pulling up stats you should actually read what was written.

          Why don’t you check out Snider’s stats after he moved away from Ebbets Field? His high in WAR was 2.7 and under 1 WAR 3 years. The guy was a great player, but that ballpark helped him a ton, and there is no way getting around it.

          • mbonzo

            I read it just fine. You compared the all the time great centerfielders to the ones we have now. To prove this you use Snider’s numbers when he moved to LA. Snider still OPSd higher at the tail end of his career in LA than any centerfielder this year. The author is right, no player today can run and hit as well as Snider, Mantle, or Mays.

  • DQ

    3rd gal from the right – Doris from Rego Park?

  • The Big City of Dreams

    R.I.P. Duke

  • Accent Shallow

    RIP.

    The Boys of Summer should be required reading for every baseball fan.

    • CS Yankee

      Agreed.

      Plus, The Summer of ’49

  • Y’s Guy

    who broke the lohud?

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    Boys of Summer was one of my favorite sports books. makes me wish I was around at that time. Another great book about the Brooklyn Dodgers is BUMS, by Peter Golenbeck