Story of the Week
Edwin Snider was born in Los Angeles. His playing career took him 3000 miles east, to a place called Brooklyn. That’s where he gained his fame, and that’s where he gained his celebrated nickname, "Duke." And so was born Duke Snider.
The New York Giants had Willie Mays, the New York Yankees had Mickey Mantle, and the Brooklyn Dodgers had Duke Snider all playing center field at the same time. Snider invariably received third billing by comparison.Perception is not necessarily reality; Duke hit more home runs in the 1950’s than did Mays or Mantle, or any other major leaguer for that matter, 326.
Snider also tied Ralph Kiner’s National League record of hitting 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons. Kiner himself had great respect for the Duke. He ranked Snider as the second-best centerfielder he had ever seen, behind Joe DiMaggio. The criteria; amount of ground covered, arm, and consistency.
Snider chose the Dodgers because of his admiration for Pete Reiser and Pee Wee Reese. General manager Branch Rickey put Snider in the batting cage three hours every day, but not to hit. His mission was to call each pitch a ball or a strike; interesting, huh?! It sounds easy enough, but I can assure you that it isn’t.
The Duke became a regular in 1949, hitting .292 with 23 home runs, and clinched the pennant on the last day of the season by driving in the winning run. His World Series debut was a disaster; .143 and eight k’s. But he redeemed himself in the 1952 World Series with 10 hits, four of them home runs to tie the mark then shared by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
In 1955, Snider led the league with 136 RBI’s, led for a third time in runs scored with 126, hit .309, and had 42 home runs. He hit four more homers in the 1955 Series as Brooklyn won its only World Series ever, and became the only player to hit four homers in a Series twice. After the season, he was named Player of the Year by the Sporting News.
Duke led the league in home runs in 1956 with 43. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, the Duke’s home town, for the 1958 season. He hit 23 home runs and contributed heavily in the Dodgers’ success the next year; they went to and won the World Series in 1959, in which he homered again. That was the Duke’s last Series; his lifetime World Series stats include 11 homers and 26 RBI’s.
After two seasons with the Mets, and then, even more incongruously, as a Giant, Snider retired with a lifetime batting average of .295 with 407 homers. He served time as a manager and scout in the Dodgers’ and Padres’ organization before becoming a broadcaster. The Duke was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.
Last Week’s Trivia
The Houston Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965. It was the site of the first indoor major league baseball game. Who was the first batter in the game, who had the first hit in the game, and who hit the first home run ever hit indoors in a game between two major league teams? Yankees’ manager Johnny Keane gave Mickey Mantle the honor of being the first batter in the game. Mantle also had the first base hit, a single, and the first home run in the proclaimed "Eighth Wonder of the World." (As a trivia bonus, Mike Schmidt is the only player to ever hit a ball that hit the roof of the Astrodome during a game.)
Trivia Question of the Week
What do Arthur Ashe, Bobby Knight and Bill Parcells have in common? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.