The Ironies Of The Late Duke Snider

It is, as ever, summed up perfectly by Vin Scully:

“Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant.”

Beyond the sadness of the passing of The Duke of Flatbush, Edwin Donald Snider, is the reminder that his career was filled with irony. As the top Dodger prospect of the late ’40s he was considered a temperamental bust. By the time of his passing today he was considered one of the game’s most personally revered gentlemen, and long before, by the time the Dodgers left Brooklyn, he was considered one of the elder statesmen of the sport, his prematurely-silver hair and hint of sadness in the eyes seemingly reflecting the tragedy that was the move of the franchise.

Therein too lay an irony. Duke Snider was a Southern Californian through and through. Alone among the key Brooklyn Dodgers, he was going home to Los Angeles. And yet he expressed only sadness and regret about that, and during his brief coda season with the Mets in 1963, was welcomed home to New York more loudly than any other of the “exes” – Casey Stengel included.

There is also something tremendously ironic about the iconic status included in Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball” song. Despite the premise of “Willie, Mickey, and The Duke,” the Baseball Writers needed eleven tries to get his election to the Hall of Fame right. In his first year of eligibility, Snider got just 51 votes – a stunning 17 percent. As late as 1975 he was under 40%.

The writers dismissed Snider, as they did nearly all the Dodger offensive stars, because they felt Ebbets Field provided some kind of extraordinary advantage and because the Dodgers lost so many ultimate games. Gil Hodges is still – criminally – not in Cooperstown in part because of this prejudice. In point of fact, Snider hit just 37 more homers in Brooklyn than on the road in his Ebbets Field years (discounting partial seasons, that’s an average of four or at most five more a year – a meaningless statistical variable).

Hodges has still not gotten his due; Snider and Pee Wee Reese struggled for it; Carl Furillo has never been taken seriously. It is amazing to contemplate that Snider’s Dodgers were somehow penalized because between 1946 and 1956 they won only the one World Series, while losing five of them, and losing two special NL playoffs, and losing yet another year (1950) on the last day of the season. That was painful stuff to be sure, but what it meant was, that for every year for a decade (excepting 1948) the Dodgers gave their fans, at worst, a team that made it to “the final four” – and with key parts of the Brooklyn franchise still at work in Los Angeles, added World Championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

This is a time for condolence and mourning and I don’t mean to at all take away from that. It’s just that the passing of a great and good baseball man like Duke Snider reminds me that the injustice of the undeserved undermining of the reputation of a player, or a team, should also not be forgotten.

17 Comments

Personally I believe the Hall of Fame is to recognize people baseball has made famous, and vice-versa, and a pettifogging conditioning of access based on statistics is irrational. So whether Snider got 4-5 more HR in Ebbets Field should have been completely irrelevant to his inclusion. For all those years the committee was overlooking him his name was more famous than theirs, which makes their action, as you said, criminal.

That said, I have to disagree that the 4-5 HR per season he may have gained playing in that ballpark are not, as you say, statistically insignificant. In all but one of his seasons as a Brooklyn Dodger they kicked him up another decade, from the 10s to the 20s, the 20s to the 30s, or the 30s to the 40s. Without them, he’d have had no 40-HR seasons in his career, and one year in the teens in the middle of his Brooklyn stint. A modern agent, without those 40s to flash, would have to work for what could otherwise be easy money. The 8% that they contribute to his lifetime total have thus been amplified.

But, fans sing the man’s name while driving to the park every day. The provenance of his numbers is a footnote to his meaning, which I’m sure lives on.

Keith,I am so sorry to here that DUKE SNIDER has passed away.I have to be honest,I’m not very familiar w/him.When my dad died I’m sorry to say I strayed away from the love I had for baseball.I would like to start watching and following it again,but I don’t even know when the season starts.I would like an E-MAIL on that if you don’t mind,its time to get back into the game so to speak.Again I had to register and leave a comment,because you seem to be so sad.Also no one had left a comment yet,but if it will cheer you up,MY DOGS NAME IS DUKE AND ILL TEACH HIM A STUPID PET TRICK IN YOUR HONOR….NO JOKE I HAVE 2 pic. Of him on twitpic,and I also follow you.I am. Kycatsbabydoll on twitter.Go check out my Dog.I gaurantee he will get a reaction.Ha!Ha! I HOPE YOU FEEL BETTER!!!!

Growing up in New York, the only sports followed in our family were baseball and boxing. Both heard over the radio. My father was a Giants fan, my mother was a Dodger fan and my grandfather was a Yankees fan, so there was a lot of loud rivalry going on when the Sunday game was on the big radio in the living room and the beer was consumed.

We also went to games. My grandfather took us to most of the Mayor Trophy games when they were held in either the Polo Gounds or in Yankee Stadium. Ebbets Field was too far from New Rochelle to drive and the other two we could go by subway from the Bronx which wasn’t a long drive.

It wasn’t till 1955 that I got to Ebbets Field for the first time. It was with my late ex-husband who also was a Dodger fan. We drove in a car there and got there very early because we had to wait in line to buy standing room only ‘seats’. They let us in early and we staked out standing room between 1st base and the outfield. We had a great view, no poles in the way.

Duke Snider hit two home runs that game and the Dodgers won and ended up winning the series, their first. It was exciting, almost as exciting as the Mets in 1969. My heart was broken when they moved to LA, I more or less watched them on the tv for a year and then just stopped rooting or keeping track of them.

I saw a lot of great players growing up and was so fortunate to see Duke Snider play. He should be in the Hall of Fame. Thanks for the blog, Keith.

I was an 11 year old 6th grader when my first male teacher had all of us following baseball on the radio. I somehow became a Brooklyn Dodger fan (despite living in Tiger country), when I found out they were the underdogs. For some reason, I picked Duke Snider as my hero. I had quite a crush on him. (This was before Elvis came along.) I was home from school with a cold in the fall of 1955, and I was able to watch the Duke in action in that World Series. Later, I watched him on some prime time TV show that featured famous people dancing (a prequel to “Dancing with the Stars.”) Duke was on one show, doing a “dark light foxtrot”-whatever that was, and I thought I would die, he was so cute. My father let me go with him on a business trip to St. Louis in 1956. The Dodgers were playing the Cards at Busch Stadium. Duke hit 3 homers, knocked the lights out in the clock, and was being pitched to for an intentional walk, when he stepped out of the box and whacked that ball out of the park!
When Duke was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I called the long distance operator and asked for his phone number. This was in 1980, I believe. My entire family was at my house. Duke answered the phone, and I congratulated him, and then asked for his address so I could send him a page from my autograph book, and a cover from Sports Illustrated. He autographed them, sent them back, and I have them in my “archives”. I am sad at the passing of my sports hero. Karen Weir

i grew up in queens, but we started in brooklyn. my dad was a giants fan. i dont think mom cares about baseball, but everyone else in my family were dodger fans. we used to leave the radio on on Yom Kippur so we could listen to the world series, particularly in the early 60s, when the (LA) Dodgers were in it, and Koufax pitched (But not on YOm Kippur)……. i never did get to Ebbets. but when i was 5, and in kindergarten, in 1956, i sat next to a kid whose last name was SCHNieder. accent on the sccchhhhhh, not SNNNN. but it was early fall. my first few days at PS 176 Q. i couldnt really read yet. i surely couldnt spell. anyway, this kid (who was a friend, sort of, all through high school, and who married and later divorced — a friend of my cousin’s – a little later in life) anyway, i think he may have been a playa even then – anyway, he said he was Duke Snider’s cousin. hey, the dodgers were the dodgers! I was 5. it was morning kindgergarten in queens in 1956. but i remember the conversation as tho it were last week. i got home and remembered to tell my dad that this schneider kid was the duke’s cousin……. he laughed out loud.
the dodgers were so HUGE to Brooklyn (and some Queens) kids in the 50s.
imagine trying to get over when you’re a 5 year old kid with a name that SOUNDS like a famous brooklyn ballplayer! the dodgers were still in brooklyn at that time. we were still dodger fans. and we stayed that way even after the move, until koufax retired in 66.
my dad passed many years ago, but we had already moved on to the mets, where i still sit. and hope. and pray.
but i’m still a brooklyn kid too.
Miss ya Keith! cant wait to see you on Current.

i grew up in queens, but we started in brooklyn. my dad was a giants fan. i dont think mom cares about baseball, but everyone else in my family were dodger fans. we used to leave the radio on on Yom Kippur so we could listen to the world series, particularly in the early 60s, when the (LA) Dodgers were in it, and Koufax pitched (But not on YOm Kippur)……. i never did get to Ebbets. but when i was 5, and in kindergarten, in 1956, i sat next to a kid whose last name was SCHNieder. accent on the sccchhhhhh, not SNNNN. but it was early fall. my first few days at PS 176 Q. i couldnt really read yet. i surely couldnt spell. anyway, this kid (who was a friend, sort of, all through high school, and who married and later divorced — a friend of my cousin’s – a little later in life) anyway, i think he may have been a playa even then – anyway, he said he was Duke Snider’s cousin. hey, the dodgers were the dodgers! I was 5. it was morning kindgergarten in queens in 1956. but i remember the conversation as tho it were last week. i got home and remembered to tell my dad that this schneider kid was the duke’s cousin……. he laughed out loud.
the dodgers were so HUGE to Brooklyn (and some Queens) kids in the 50s.
imagine trying to get over when you’re a 5 year old kid with a name that SOUNDS like a famous brooklyn ballplayer! the dodgers were still in brooklyn at that time. we were still dodger fans. and we stayed that way even after the move, until koufax retired in 66.
my dad passed many years ago, but we had already moved on to the mets, where i still sit. and hope. and pray.
but i’m still a brooklyn kid too.
Miss ya Keith! cant wait to see you on Current.

Keith, have you ever see the 1942 movie “It Happened in Flatbush” starring Lloyd Nolan who plays the manager of the Dodgers? I haven’t but as a fan of Nolan and old movies, it sounds fun. Actual Dodgers from the 1941 World Series team appear in the film. I also wonder about the more famous 1973 movie “Save the Tiger” where Jack Lemmon is trying to remember the lineup of the Dodgers team he loved as a kid– that is, I’ve always wondered which specific team he was trying to remember. By the way, Duke Snider was in the 1958 Jerry Lewis movie “The Geisha Boy.” What a legend– just his name wows me.

I learned late yesterday that Edwin “Duke” Snider died that day at the age of 84. It feels like part of my past–a youthful and joyful part–has died. Sure, Willie was more versatile; Mickey was more powerful. But Duke was… well, Duke was my baseball hero, a very human hero who strove for greatness on the field and at the batter?s box. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Having the opportunity to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play in Ebbets Field for 23 games (they never lost while I was in the stands) and witnessing his high-flying home runs over the right field wall and his wall-climbing catches that ended opponents’ rallies were among of my fondest memories during my early teenage years?and beyond. With his death, all of the “boys of summer” but Sandy Koufax ( I believe) have passed into eternity. Maybe no one but those geographically close could feel the intense rivalry of the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees in the fifties. More hopefully, true fans who grew up during the Golden Age of big-league baseball will remember that rivalry personified in the Say-hey Kid, the Mick, and the Duke of Flatbush.

Last night, I raised one for the Duke. I hope you Golden Age baseball fans will take to time to symbolically doff your hats to someone who now walks with other legends in the celestial ?field of dreams, ? but whose achievements remind us of the virtues of the competitive play spirit and fair play in sports and life. Ernie Yanarella

To smile again…an old baseball story that intersects space… NEIL ARMSTRONG’S SECRET

GUARANTEED TO MAKE YOU SMILE

ON JULY 20, 1969, AS COMMANDER OF THE APOLLO 11 LUNAR
MODULE, NEIL ARMSTRONG WAS THE FIRST PERSON TO SET FOOT ON THE MOON.

HIS FIRST WORDS AFTER STEPPING ON THE MOON,

“THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND,” WERE TELEVISED TO EARTH AND HEARD BY MILLIONS.*

BUT JUST BEFORE HE RE-ENTERED THE LANDER, HE MADE
THE ENIGMATIC REMARK “GOOD LUCK, MR. GORSKY”.

MANY PEOPLE AT NASA THOUGH IT WAS A CASUAL REMARK
CONCERNING SOME RIVAL SOVIET COSMONAUT.

HOWEVER, UPON CHECKING, THERE WAS NO GORSKY IN
EITHER THE RUSSIAN OR AMERICAN SPACE PROGRAMS.

OVER THE YEARS MANY PEOPLE QUESTIONED ARMSTRONG AS
TO WHAT THE ‘GOOD LUCK, MR. GORSKY’ STATEMENT MEANT, BUT ARMSTRONG ALWAYS JUST SMILED.

ON JULY 5, 1995, IN TAMPA BAY , FLORIDA , WHILE ANSWERING QUESTIONS FOLLOWING A SPEECH, A REPORTER BROUGHT UP THE 26- YEAR-OLD QUESTION TO ARMSTRONG. THIS TIME HE FINALLY RESPONDED.

MR. GORSKY HAD DIED, SO NEIL ARMSTRONG FELT HE COULD NOW ANSWER THE QUESTION.

IN 1938, WHEN HE WAS A KID IN A SMALL MID-WESTERN
TOWN, HE WAS PLAYING BASEBALL WITH A FRIEND IN THE BACKYARD. HIS FRIEND HIT THE BALL, WHICH LANDED IN HIS NEIGHBOR’S YARD BY THEIR BEDROOM WINDOW.

HIS NEIGHBORS WERE MR. AND MRS. GORSKY.
AS HE LEANED DOWN TO PICK UP THE BALL, YOUNG
ARMSTRONG HEARD MRS. GORSKY SHOUTING AT MR. GORSKY.

“SEX! YOU WANT SEX?! YOU’LL GET SEX WHEN THE KID NEXT DOOR WALKS ON THE MOON!”

TRUE STORY.

I was saddened at the news of the Duke’s death, sadder still at the loss of another of the Boys of Summer who were my mother’s childhood idols, and angry that Gil Hodges still is not in Cooperstown and that it took Duke so long to get there. I wanted to offer a thought or two related to that.

One is that when Duke first became eligible, The Boys of Summer had not come out. That book, I think had an impact on his chances, good and bad. The good was that it reminded people of his greatness again. The bad was that it reminded people of some of his difficulties, and that he had not been the favorite of the writers because he dared to say, in an article with Roger Kahn, that baseball wasn’t easy to play and that he liked money.

Related to that is the politics of Cooperstown. Let’s face it. Writers make judgments on personal prejudices, and so does the Veterans Committee. That doesn’t make them wrong or evil because it would be hypocritical to say that; all of us do it. Some are “wronger” than others–Warren Giles kept Larry MacPhail out, for example.

As for Duke’s homering in Ebbets Field, on the one hand, he benefited from the right field wall being relatively close. On the other hand, it was further than the targets Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams had (Fenway is short down the line and falls away fast, I know), and they didn’t have a 39 1/2-foot high scoreboard to hit the ball over. That can work for or against you. Gil Hodges got to LA and tried to hit the ball over the screen 250 feet away in the Coliseum and it screwed him up.

Dear Mr. Olbermann, I would like to know if you knew Joseph Pelaez? I know the both of you have the same political views and you also share the same Passion and Love for Baseball. From what I understand from a few of his associates of Mr. Pelaez, (My Uncle) the two of you have spoken to each other on several occasions. He passed away this past May 2010. And if this is true I would like if you can reach me at my e-mail so I may tell you privately why I would like to touch base with you. (If you did talk with him you might know why already) I hope to hear from you soon. Thank-You Elizabeth

P.S. I would of wrote to you privately but I couldn’t find an e-mail address for you.

By the way I am sorry I had to use this blog to try to get in touch with Mr. Olbermann..I didn’t know any other way..

Ahh Keith, Hearing of the Duke’s passing fills me with simultaneous sadness and joy.
I was a young (9 in ’55 when God gave us the WS win) boy growing up in suburban New Jersey. Both parents worked in “The City”, so we had a maid/nanny named Dixie who lived and breathed Dodger baseball.
Every summer afternoon (remember when baseball was played in the daytime?) she would make us hot dogs and we would settle in for a couple of hours of pure delight (unless we lost).
The Duke, Gil, Pee Wee, Jackie, Junior Gilliam, Furillo, Erskine, Campy…They were my heroes. Johnny Podres, Newk, Preacher Roe… I think I could recite the entire roster a mere 55 years later.
Of course my heart broke in ’58. Dixie moved on too, and I never rooted for “The Boys of Summer” again. My devotion has transfered to the Mets. Even though I’ve lived in the West for 36 years, I still live and breath Mets baseball.
But I’ll never forget where my love of the game was honed. Over hot dogs with Dixie on summer afternoons, long ago.

RIP Duke

Although I’m not old enough to have been a baseball fan during the 1950s, I’m old enough to have at one time possessed a collection of baseball cards from the late 1950s and the early to mid 1960s. I had a 1959 Duke Snider baseball card which I cherished as a small boy. Later on I became something of an amateur baseball statistician, and as such concluded that Duke Snider was the equal of any hitter in the major leagues during his prime. Willie Mays had more skills and Mickey Mantle drew more walks but Snider was a tremendous run producer, both scoring runs and driving them in. Check out ’53 through ’55. Although he never won the mvp award, it was largely because of Roy Campanella and Willie Mays. Why Snider’s prime was so much shorter than that of Mays, Mantle, Aaron and Frank Robinson I still don’t know.

Well, at least you have managed to come out of it with only a few inconveniences. It could have been much worse. Nettverk

The 1957 Topps card of Hank Aaron shows his “Left Hand” as the top on the bat as if he were a left hand batter. The number 44 is reversed.

The only way it could be a reverse negative is if he stood for the photo batting right handed and had his hands crossed (Left hand on the top, Right hand on the Bottom).

The duke was one of the greatest guys that my family had the honor of knowing personally and a true phenomenal player on the field and the guy was one of the friendliest stars of his day as he would take the time to meet and great fans even when he was on his personal time with friends and family which just is a lesson that today’s players could take from him also he was as dedicated to the game as any one could hope for and in
Mine and all of his loyal fans his star will always burn brightly dodger blue

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