The song featured Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. The Duke died today. He was ranked #84 on the list of the 100 greatest players of all time. He hit.295 with 407 home runs and 1,333 RBI in 2,143 games.
“…In 1949 Snider came into his own, hitting 3 home runs with 2 runs batted in, helping the Dodgers into the World Series. Snider also saw his average rise from .244 to a respectable .2. In 1950 he hit .1. But when his average slipped to .277 in 1951, and the Dodgers squandered a 13-game lead to lose the National League pennant to the New York Giants, Snider received heavy media criticism and requested a trade.
“I went to Walter O’Malley and told him I couldn’t take the pressure,” Snider was quoted in the September 595 issue of SPORT magazine. “I told him I’d just as soon be traded. I told him I figured I could do the Dodgers no good.”
From 1947 to 1956, Brooklyn ruled the National League, winning 6 of 10 pennants. They benefited greatly from a large network of minor league teams created by Branch Rickey in the early 40′s. It is here when the system called the “Dodger Way” of teaching fundamentals took root. From that large network of teams, a number of young talented players began to blossom at the same time: Snider, Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Clem Labine, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Jim Gilliam. Most have been enshrined in Roger Kahn’s classic book, The Boys of Summer. By 1949, Snider, as he matured, became the triggerman in a power-laden lineup which boasted the likes of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Hodges, Campanella and Furillo. Often compared favorably with two other New York center fielders, fellow Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, he was the reigning “Duke” of Flatbush. Usually batting third in the line-up, Snider put up some impressive offensive numbers: He hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons (1953–57), and averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average between 1953-1956. He led the league in runs scored, home runs and RBIs in separate seasons. He appeared in six post-seasons with the Dodgers (1949, 1952–53, 1955–56, 1959), facing the New York Yankees in the first five and the Chicago White Sox in the final. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and in 1959….”
“…Don Zimmer stood in front of the dugout, remembering longtime pal and one-time Dodgers teammate Duke Snider. A smile spread across the 80-year-old’s face when he was asked about the friendship he and others such as Johnny Podres, Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges had with the late Hall of Famer off the field.
“Duke of Flatbush, that’s something I’ll never forget,” Zimmer, a senior adviser with the Tampa Bay Rays, said Sunday after learning that Snider, who helped the Dodgers win World Series titles in 1955 and 1959, had died in Escondido, Calif., at age 84.
“As a friend,” Zimmer added, hesitating before his smile grew wider, “I had a lot of good times with him. Podres and I, and Duke, we spent many hours at night over a beer or something.”
Zimmer, who was in uniform with the Rays for Sunday’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, played five years with Snider. The former Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox manager called his ex-teammate an outstanding hitter who never got his just due as a center fielder while playing the position in New York at the same time as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
“They were great players in one city, one town,” said Zimmer, who’s in his 63rd season of professional baseball — 53 as a major league player, coach and manager. He dresses with the Rays during spring training and for pregame workouts during the regular season.
“Duke never got the credit of being the outfielder that Mays and Mantle were. First of all, it was a small ballpark, Ebbets Field. But Duke was a great outfielder. He was a great player,” Zimmer said….
He cited Snider’s passion for horse racing: “Duke liked the horse like I did,” Zimmer said. He also recalled a big party Snider hosted for the entire team after the club relocated from Brooklyn to California. “He had a lemon and avocado farm down between San Diego and L.A.,” Zimmer said, recalling the trip to Fallbrook. “We had a heck of a time.”…”
“…Tommy Lasorda remembered Duke Snider as a winner, a clutch player who also was easy-going and generous with young players.
“When I was a rookie on the team, he always seemed to make me feel good,” Lasorda said Sunday after hearing of Snider’s death during a spring-training game at the Dodger’s camp at Camelback Ranch. “He made me feel wanted. He made me feel like I was a part of the team.
“You know, when we’d ride on the bus, he’d call me back to where he sat and he’d have a beer with me,” Lasorda said. “When you’re that young and a guy like Duke Snider calls you back, you’re in good shape. You feel pretty good about that.”
Lasorda had not been able to speak to Snider much since the Hall of Famer was hospitalized. Before Snider’s health declined, Lasorda said he spoke to him often.
“We’d talk about Dodger baseball,” Lasorda said. “That was his love and it’s my love.”
Mostly, Lasorda remembers Snider for his home runs.
“Hitting balls out of Ebbets Field and trotting around those bases,” said Lasorda, who later became the Dodgers’ manager. “That was Duke Snider. He could throw. He could field. He was one of the great, great players of our time. Check his World Series accomplishments.
“He was a winner,” Lasorda added. “It is a tremendous loss for the Dodgers, for his family. I’m proud to say I was a teammate and friend of his.”…”