Duke Snider's Final Season (Playing for the 1963 Mets)

 Mets Career: In the early days of the New York Mets, the team were trying to bring back some former National League New York stars to draw fans to the Polo Grounds. 

In 1963 the Brooklyn Dodger legend, Duke Snider was brought in & reunited with former teammate Gil Hodges. 

Snider had considered retiring but was convinced by Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi that he should go play back in New York, as he was close to reaching milestones in hits & HRs. Bavasi worked out a deal selling his contract to the Mets for $40000.

During their 1950’s heyday, Snider had batted third in front of Hodges, the cleanup man. Duke Snider & Gil Hodges were the only players of the decade of the 1950's to drive in over 1000 runs each. Snider had hit the most HRs (326) & driven in the most RBIs (1031) in the 1950s, while his teammate Gil Hodges was second to him in both categories. 

But in 1963, the two players were at the ends of their careers. Snider was 36 years old & Hodges 38 years old. 


On Opening Day 1963, Snider debuted with the Mets batting cleanup in the 7-0 loss to St. Louis at the Polo Grounds in front of 25,049 fans. 

In his first at bat he drew a walk off Ernie Broglio, then went 0-3.

On April 11th, in just his third Mets game Snider hit a HR off the Milwaukee Braves Warren 
Spahn, scoring the only Mets run in a 6-1 loss at County Stadium. He added another HR the next day as well.

2000 Career Hits: On April 16th, Snider hit his third HR of the season, coming off the Reds Jim Maloney in a 7-4 loss at Cincinnati. In that game he also collected his 2000th career hit.




Snider drove in runs in the final three games of April, although he was batting just .190 on the month.

Multi HR Game: On May 3rd, in a 5-3 loss to the Giants in front of 49,431 old Giants & Dodger fans at the Polo Grounds, Snider hit two HRs off Jack Fisher. Snider drove in all three runs for the Mets on that day.

By early May, he had five HRs & 13 RBIs leading the weak hitting Mets team while thrilling the nostalgic hometown fans with his heroics. 

On May 12th, in a wild 13-12 win at Cincinnati Snider hit a 6th inning three run shot off the Reds Dom Zanni putting the Mets up 11-6. It was his 395th career HR. On May 22nd, he homered off his friend Don Drysdale in a 7-3 loss at Los Angeles, as the Dodger fans cheered for him. 

On June 2nd, he hit a solo shot off the Pirates Vern Law in a 2-1 win highlighted by a Pittsburgh error allowing the Mets walk off winning run to score.

Walk Off HR: On June 7th, with the Mets down 2-0 to the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds in the bottom of the 9th inning, Frank Thomas singled & Ron Hunt drew a walk. Snider then blasted three run walk off HR off pitcher Diomedes Olivo, giving the early Mets fans one of their biggest dramatic thrills in the team's short history. 


400th Career HR: On June 14th at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Snider reached a milestone
hitting his 400th career HR. It came in the top of the 1st inning off the Reds' Bob Purkey. Snider became just the seventh player up to that point in MLB history to record 400 HRs with 2000 hits.



Trivia: Snider's Mets teammate, the flaky Jimmy Piersall noticed the milestone HR was hit without much fanfare. A few weeks later, when Piersall hit his 100th career HR he decided to do something different, he circled the bases backwards. 

Although it delighted the hometown fans it upset the Mets management & Phillies players.

On June 25th, Duke hit his last HR in New York City, it came off the Cubs' Larry Jackson in a 4-1 loss to Chicago.

Throughout the summer he only hit two more HRs, both coming on the road at Philadelphia & San Francisco. 

On September 6th in Cincinnati, Snider singled in the 5th inning scoring Ed Kranepool putting the Mets up 4-1. In the 7th inning his sac fly scored the young Kranepool again, helping the Mets in a 5-3 win.

In his next start on September 11th, he singled off the Giants Jack Sanford driving in his last Mets run (career RBI #1316) coming in New York at the Polo Grounds.  

Duke Snider Night: On September 12th, the Mets honored & showered him with gifts on Duke Snider Night at the Polo Grounds. 27,839 fans came out to see the Mets lose to the Giants 7-0.

On the 1963 season Snider hit 14 HRs with 45 RBIs (both third best on the team behind Frank Thomas & Jim Hickman). He batted .243, collected 86 hits with eight doubles, three triples & 44 runs. He struck out 74 times, drew 56 walks & a posted a .345 on base % with a .746 OPS.




After the season, he asked the Mets to trade him to a contender to finish off his career. At the start of the 1964 season, the Mets were in Philadelphia & announced that before a deal could be worked out with the Dodgers, they sold his contact to his longtime rivals, The San Francisco Giants.

Post Mets Career: Snider still had four children to support & accepted the deal. He lived in an apartment in the Bay Area & travelled back to his wife Beverly & the children as often as he could. It was a much easier commute that being in New York.


In 1964 Duke batted .210 with 4 HRs & 17 RBIs playing in 91 games for the fourth place Giants. On October 3rd, Snider singled in the last at bat of his career.

Retirement: Snider had owned an avocado ranch & bowling alley both of which he had to give up. He still needed to work to support his family. He managed in the Dodgers minor leagues from 1965-1968. 

He then joined his old Dodger GM pal Buzzie Bavasi in the Padres organization. In the first year of the Padres baseball 1969, he was the team's broadcaster & then batting instructor thru 1972. In 1973 he became a broadcaster with the Montreal Expos.

Snider was always on hand for New York Mets Old Tiers Days that was filled with former Brooklyn & New York Giants' players. 

After being snubbed by the writers whom he had a difficult relationship with, he was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Mets History: (1977) The Felix Millan / Ed Ott Brawl In Pittsburgh

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Fictional Mets Infielder Chico Escuela ( of SNL) Visits Mets Spring Training (1979)

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

The History of Yogi Berra & Yoo-Hoo