The Passing of the “Duke of Flatbush”: Duke Snider 1926-2011

Duke Snider (Getty Images)

“He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character,” Tommy Lasorda

Baseball lost a legend today. Duke Snider the “Duke of Flatbush” who was instrumental in leading the Dodgers to 6 National League Titles in 10 years and a World Series Championship in 1955 was 84 years old.

During his 18 year career of which 16 were spend with the Dodgers, one with the Mets and his final season with the San Francisco Giants he batted .295 with 407 home runs and 1333 RBIs. He still is the all time home run leader for the Dodgers with 389 as well as RBIs. He was an eight time All Star. During his most productive period between 1953 and 1956 he averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average.  During the World Series Championship year of 1955 he hit .309 with 42 home runs and 136 RBIs.

While the Dodgers’ were in Brooklyn Snider was one of a trio of Center Fielders that all reached the Hall of Fame and are considered some of Baseball’s immortals. Snider along with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays electrified the diamond of Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds and have some baseball historians still arguing just who was the greatest New York Center Fielder of the era. He was consistently for a period of 10 years in the top 10 of votes for MVP finishing second by just 5 points to teammate Roy Campanellain a controversial vote involving a mismarked ballot from a hospitalized sportswriter which had the ballot been marked correctly could have given Snider the MVP.

Snider as well as his Dodgers’ teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Clem Labine, Don Newcombe, Ralph Branca, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Pee Wee Reese have been immortalized in Roger Kahn’s classic book The Boys of Summer. It is a book that I have read several times and is part of my usual summer reading program along with David Halberstam’s The Summer of 49, October 1964 and Teammates a Portrait of Friendship.

Snider was released by the Dodgers after the 1962 season after he and Third Base Coach Leo Durocher disagreed with Manager Walter Alston on a recommendation to have Don Drysdale go into the third and deciding game of the 1962 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. With a 4-2 lead Alston opted for Stan Williams in relief of Eddie Roebuck and the Giants rallied for a 6-4 win. After spending the 1963 season with the Mets and the 1964 season with the Giants he retired at the close of that season.  He would later be the play by play announcer for the Montreal Expos and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. The one blemish on his post baseball life was a conviction for tax evasion for not claiming income earned from the sale of baseball cards and memorabilia.

Despite the conviction Snider is remembered as one of the good guys of baseball respected by his peers and his fans.  He is immortalized with his fellow Center Fielders Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in the Terry Cashman’s classic baseball ballad (Talkin’ Baseball) Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Vin Scully said “He had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and 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.”

An ESPN News Story about “The Duke of Flatbush” is here:

Here is a clip of Duke Snider in his words.

I shall treasure my autographed Duke Snider Baseball Card even more.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Baseball, music

6 responses to “The Passing of the “Duke of Flatbush”: Duke Snider 1926-2011

  1. John Erickson

    A great history of a great man. Well done, Padre – you’re gonna convert me to your Church of Baseball yet! 😉

  2. John Erickson

    A great article about a great man. Well done, Padre, you may just convert me to the Church of Baseball!
    We also lost our last veteran who served in World War 1. Frank Buckles died, aged 110. A man who drove ambulances in the Great War, was a prisoner of the Japanese in WW2, who lived a full life and gave of himself without hesitation. And World War 1 now slides into the mists of history, as a vital touchstone to the past is gone. A tragic, but inevitable, loss.

    • padresteve

      I saw that, the last connection to WWI in the form of a US WWI veteran is gone. I wonder if there are any Brits, Germans, Canadians, Australians or any other veterans of that war still alive.

    • John Erickson

      Padre- I know Canada lost their last vet several months ago. I believe there is (or was, I might’ve missed it) going to be a “state” recognition (federal level) – the vet had specifically stated he did not want a state funeral. I believe Britain has two or three vets left. I’d have to check about our friends from the Southern Hemisphere – Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I believe all the German and Austrian vets are gone. I don’t know about the French or Italians – my contacts to the French are very limited, and the Italians are rather busy with a HUGE influx of North African refugees.
      I fear it will be all too soon when you and I see the last WW2 vet depart us, though I have less fear about WW2 sinking into myth, with all the film coverage and first-person histories available. Although some arenas still need worthwhile coverage – I have all but 1 book about the Aleutian campaign (fewer than 10) and all but 2 on the Dieppe invasion (about 6 or 7, last count). Then again, the African campaign of WW1 rarely gets mentioned, and even the hugely important Gallipoli campaign receives short shrift. So many valuable lessons run the risk of disappearing into the mists of time.
      That’s why folk like you are so critical, Padre. We have to record these events, and make people aware the information is there. Otherwise, we end up with history as myth!

  3. Pingback: שבת בבסיס: הליינאפ הטוב בהיסטוריה / יוני לב ארי – Hoops

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