I had just tuned into a spring training game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers when Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner announced that Dodgers legend Duke Snider had passed away at the age of 84. He apparently died of natural causes.
In the 1950s, Snider was part of the triumvirate of centerfielders who shared the stage in New York along with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Now we’re talkin’ baseball with Willie, Mickey and The Duke.
While Snider was overshadowed by Mays and Mantle, Snider had quite a run with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He hit more homeruns in the 1950s that any other player. Snider hit at least 40 homeruns every season between 1953 and 1957. Unlike Mays and Mantle, Snider never won an MVP but came very close to winning the NL MVP in 1955 when he was narrowly beaten out by teammate Roy Campanella. That was the same year the Dodgers won their only World Series in Brooklyn.
Snider’s numbers began to decline once the Dodgers went out to Los Angeles. He would return to New York as a Met in 1963 before finishing his career back out west with the San Francisco Giants in 1964. Snider’s career totals are as follows: a .295 lifetime batting average, 2,116 hits, 407 homeruns and 1,333 RBIs along with eight NL All-Star appearances. He would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
Yet when I think of Snider I think of the man who did color commentary alongside Dave Van Horne for Montreal Expos games on the CBC. Snider and Van Horne may have been the most underrated baseball broadcasting duo ever. I hope Van Horne will give a kind word for The Duke when he receives the Ford C. Frick Award at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown next July.
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