"The Duke of Flatbush"- Duke Snider (Mets 1963)

Edwin Donald Snider was born September 19th, 1926 in Los Angeles, California. As a child he walked around like he was royalty and his parents gave him the nick name “Duke”.

While playing in Brooklyn he became known as the Duke of Flatbush & The Silver Fox.

Snider was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 while he was a quaterback at Compton High School. He went into the military in 1945 then came to the minor leagues, and by 1947 made a brief debut with the Brooklyn Dogers, who still had Carl Furillo & Pete Reiser playing centerfield. In 1948 Snider was batting .326 at AAA Montreal and was called up for good.

By 1949 he was Brooklyn’s main centerfielder and would hold down that position until the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Snider went on to become the biggest bat in the classic Brooklyn line up, making 8 All Star Games, leading the league in HRs in 1956, lading in RBIs, doubles, hits & walks one time each, as well as runs scored three times.

He went to six World Series, winning two Championships, Snider is the ALL Time NL World Series HR leader with 11, and was the only player to hit four or more HRs in two World Series.

Coming up as a rookie in 1947, he refused to sign the petition some team mates started against Jackie Robinson. Snider remembered Robinson growing up when he was a star at UCLA in Southern California.

During his early struggles, Snider would sometimes get moody and pout in the locker room. Dodger Captain Pee Wee Reese, seven years older than Duke, would come over joking “who stole Duke’s candy’ breaking the mood & helping mature the young 20 year old Snider.

In 1950 he led the league in hits (199) and batted over .300 (.321) for the first of seven times he would do so. His 31 HRs were 5th in the league, his 101 RBIs 7th best. He would drive in over 100 runs five different times.

In 1951 he hit 29 HRs with 101 RBIs but his average fell to .277 as the Dodgers blew a 13 game late August lead to the New York Giants. The media critised Snider & his mates and he requested a trade becaue he fellt he couldn’t help the Dodgers. That soon changed & all blew over.

In 1952 he raised his average up to .303 as some of his power numbers dropped 21 HRs 25 doubles & 92 RBIs. Not known for his base running, Snider stole 14 bases in 1951 & 16 bases in both 1950 & 1953. He also had 10 triples twice, and six or more seven different seasons.

Defensively he was always in the N.L. shadows of Willie Mays, but the Duke was probably the next best outfielder in the game. He was swift and fleet footed with a good accurate arm patrolling the Ebbetts Field centerfield position.

He would lead centerfielders in fielding in 1955 (.989) while coming in the top five, five other times. He was in the league’s top five in assists seven times and ranks 60th all time (4099). He had six different seasons with 10 or more assists from the outfield.

From 1953- 1956 he was one of the best all around hitters in the game, during Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer Days.

In 1953 he hit 42 HRs with 126 RBIs, and would hit 40 plus HRs & drive in over 100 runs over the next three seasons as well. During that period he hit over 30 doubles each year, scored over 100 runs while leading the league three straight years, and batted over .300 three consecutive times.

In 1955 he won the NL Player of the Year Award just missing out to team mate Roy Campanella for the MVP Award as well.

The vote was controversial since one sports writer was hospitalized and while filling out his ballot selected Campy twice, mistakenly not filling in the 5th slot where Snider should have been placed. If so, Duke would have won the award, but the league accepted the incorrect ballot.

Snider led the N.L. in RBIs (136) runs scored (126) his 42 HRs were 4th in the league, his 34 doubles 3rd best and he posted the 2nd best on base percentage at .419%.

He followed that up with arguably an even better year, leading the league in HRs (43) walks (99) on base percentage (.399) slugging (.598) & intentional walks (26). His 112 runs scored were second best & his 101 RBIs fourth in the league.

Post Season: His first World Series was in 1949, Snider only went 3-21 batting .149. He would hit over .300 in his next four Series’ perhaps having his best in 1952. He batted .345 (10-29) with HRs in the Dodgers Game One & Game Five wins as well as hitting a pair in Game #6.

In Game #5 he put Brooklyn ahead with a 5th inning two run shot then tied the game in the 7th inning with an RBI single scoring Billy Cox. The game went to extra innings and Duke’s 11th inning RBI double (again scoring Cox) was the game winner. In the 1953 Series he hit .320 with a HR & 4 RBIs.

In 1955 World Series, he homered in the opening Series game but Brooklyn lost 6-5. In Game #4 Snider hit a three run shot at Ebbetts Field leading Brooklyn to an 8-5 win and tying the Series at two games each.

In Game #5 Snider had three hits, including two solo HRs lifting Brooklyn to a 5-3 win, and heading across the city with a 3-2 Series lead. Hodges finished the Series batting .320 (8-28) with 4 HRs & 7 RBIs as Brooklyn won their only Championship.

In the 1956 Series Duke hit another HR, with three hits & three RBIs in the Dodgers Game #2, 13-3 rout. Overall he batted .302 as Brooklyn fell short of winning back to back Series by one game.

In the Dodgers last season in Brooklyn Duke batted only .274 which was his lowest average since he had been a full time player. He still bashed 40 HRs with 92 RBIs, while also leading the league (for the third time) in strikeouts with 104.

He did not play in the last game at Ebbetts Field. During his Brooklyn days he lived on Long Island and commuted to Brooklyn with Pee Wee Reese.

According to BR bullpen: One day the police stopped the car Reese was driving for some traffic infraction. The cop recognized Reese, wished them well in the game and let them pass with no ticket. Soon thereafter, Snider was driving and the same thing happened. Remembering Pee Wee's escape, the Duke identified himself. And the cop said, "I hate baseball."

With the move to Los Angeles Snider was thrilled to be playing back where he grew up in sunny Southern California.

In his first two seasons in L.A. he batted over .300 although his power numbers fell off. He hit 23 HRs with 88 RBIs in 1958 which were his biggest season totals in L.A. 

That season the Dodgers won their first Championship in Los Angeles beating the Chicago White Sox. In that Series Snider only hit .200 (2-10) but did hit his final career World Series HR in the final game, Game #6 off Early Wynn.

In 1962 the Dodgers & Giants again had a playoff to determine the winner of the N.L. pennant. Snider & now Dodger coach Leo Durocher begged manager Walt Alston to bring in Hall of Famer Don Drysdale to pitch the final inning of the 3rd & final game with L.A. holding a 4-2 lead. Instead Alston brought in Stan Williams & the Giants rallied winning the pennant. The following April, Snider was sold to the New York Mets. The big tough Drysdale broke down in tears learning of his close friends trade.

The Mets were trying to bring back some former National League New York stars to draw fans to the Polo Grounds. For the 1963 season, Snider was reunited briefly with former Brooklyn team mate Gil Hodges.

During their 1950’s hey days Snider had batted third in front of the clean up man Gil Hodges. Snider & Hodges were the only players in the decade of the fifties to drive in over 1000 runs each.

In terms of greatness, here is a most interesting stat; Duke had the most HRs (326) and most RBIs (1031) during the 1950s, while teammate Gil Hodges was second in both categories. Now with the Mets the two were both at the end of their careers.

Snider debuted with the Mets, on Opening Day 1963 batting cleanup and drew a walk in his first at bat in game at the Polo Grounds against the St. Louis Cardinals. In just his third Mets game he hit a HR against the Milwaukee Braves and on the team’s first 1963 road trip he hit three HRs.

On May 3rd he hit a pair of HRs at home against his old rival Giants now in San Francisco. Snider drove in all three runs in the Mets 5-3 loss that day.

By early May he had five HRs & 13 RBIs leading the weak hitting Mets team, thrilling the hometown fans. On June 7th with the Mets down 2-0 to the Cardinals in the bottom of the 9th inning, Snider blasted three run walk off HR at the Polo Grounds giving the fans one of their biggest dramatic thrills in the teams early history. On June 14th at Crosley Field in Cincinnati his 1st inning HR off Bob Purkey was his milestone 400th career HR coming while Snider was wearing a Mets uniform.

On June 25th he hit his last HR in New York City, it came in a loss to the Chicago Cube. Throughout the summer he only hit two HRs while driving in seven runs in both July & August.

On September 6th in Cincinnati Snider drove in two runs one coming on a single which scored Ed Kranepool & the other a sac fly leading New York to a 5-3 win.

In his next start on September 11th, he drove in his last career run (#1333) coming in New York at the Polo Grounds. On the season he hit 14 HRs with 45 RBIs (both third best on the team behind Frank Thomas & Jim Hickman), with 86 hits eight doubles 3 triples, 56 walks a .345 on base % while batting .243.

In 1964 Duke went to his long time rival San Francisco Giants batting .210 with 4 HRs playing in 91 games. Snider singled in the last at bat of his career on Oct. 3, 1964, while playing for the Giants.

Snider did play in 129 games but only batted .243. In an 18 year career playing in 2143 games, Duke hit 407 HRs (45th all time), with 2116 hits (205th all time), 358 doubles (242 all time), 85 triples, 1237 walks (123rd all time), & 1333 RBIs (85th all time).

He posted a .540 slugging percentage (38th all time) & a .380 on base percentage (175th all time). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and had his number 4 retired by the Dodgers. Snider is ranked among the top 100 Player of all time.

Retirement: He is was one of the last Brooklyn Dodgers still living from the 1955 Championship team. Through the years he had appeared at many Dodgers reunions & Mets Old Timers games.

He also appeared at many card & memorabilia shows and pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges for not claiming the income.

In 1988 he wrote his autobiography “The Duke of Flatbush” & also penned Few & Chosen defining Dodger Greatness with Phil Pepe. He is a also one of the main characters in the books Boys of Summer, Tales from the Dodger Dugout, & Brooklyn Remembered. Duke married his wife Beverly in 1947, they have four children.

Retirement: He was one of the last Brooklyn Dodgers still living from the 1955 Championship team.

Through the years he has appeared at many Brooklyn Dodgers reunions. He also appeared at many card & memorabilia shows and pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges for not claiming the income.

In 1988 he wrote his autobiography “The Duke of Flatbush” & also penned Few & Chosen defining Dodger Greatness with Phil Pepe. He is a also one of the main characters in the books Boys of Summer, Tales from the Dodger Dugout, & Brooklyn Remembered. Duke married his wife Beverly in 1947, they have four children.

Snider was a classic figure at both Mets & Dodgers Old Timers games as well as Spring Training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.

A popular visitor & who was often honored  at Dodger Stadium, the Duke always got a standing ovation on whichever coast he was on.

Sadly, Snider passed away on February 27, 2011, at the age 84 from what his family was an undisclosed illness at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, California.


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