Duke Snider: Edwin Donald Snider (The Silver Fox)
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 190 lb.
Born: September 19, 1926 in Los Angeles, CA
Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1943
Debut: April 17, 1947
Final Game: October 3, 1964
Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 1980 (333/385 ballots).
Snider played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1947-62), New York Mets (1963) and San Francisco Giants (1964).
Hear this special audio segment highlighting Duke Snyder’s career:
Snyder was spotted by one of Branch Ricky’s birddog scouts in the early 1940, and was signed to a baseball contract right out of high school. He played for the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1944 and for Newport News in the Piedmont League in the same year. Snider served in the military in 1945 and came back to play for Fort Worth in 1946 and for St. Paul in 1947. He very played well, and earned a shot with the Brooklyn Dodgers later that year. He started the next season in 1948 with Montreal and after tearing up that league with a .327 batting average, he was called up to Brooklyn for a permanent spot during the middle of the season.
In 1949 Snider really started playing well, hitting 23 home runs with 92 runs batted in, he helped the Dodgers break into the World Series. Snider also saw his average go up from .244 to a .292 and then .321 in 1950. But when it slipped to .277 in 1951 and the Dodgers squandered a 13-game lead to lose the NL pennant to the New York Giants, Snider received heavy media criticism and requested a trade.
“I went to Walter O’Malley and told him I couldn’t take the pressure,” Snider was quoted in the September 1955 issue of Sport Magazine. “I told him I’d just as soon be traded. I told him I figured I could do the Dodgers no good.”
From 1947 to 1956, Brooklyn did very well in the National League. They benefited greatly from a large network of minor league teams created by Branch Rickey in the early 40’s. From that network of teams, a bunch of young talented players began to appear at the same time. Those guys were Snider, Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Ralph Blanca , Clem Labine, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Jim Gilliam.
By 1949, Snider matured and became the triggerman in a power-laden lineup which boasted the likes of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Hodges, Campanella and Furillo. They were often compared favorably with 2 other NY center fielders, Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays , he was the reigning “Duke” of Flatbush. He usually batting third in the line-up, Snider earned his sobriquet by putting up some tremendous offensive numbers on the board. Snider hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons 1953-57 and averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average between 1953-1956. He led the league in runs scored, home runs and RBIs in separate seasons. He appeared in six post-seasons with the Dodgers (1949, 1952-53, 1955-56, 1959), facing the New York Yankees in the first five and the Chicago White Sox in the final. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and 1959.
Snider’s career took a dip when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Snider had an aching knee and a 440-foot right field fence at the Coliseum, Snider hit only 15 home runs in 1958 as he entered a decline phase of his career. Injuries and age would eventually play a role in reducing Snider to part-time status by 1961. In 1962, when the Dodgers led the National League for most of the season only to find themselves tied with the hated Giants at the end of the season, it was Snider and 3rd base coach Leo Durocher who reportedly pleaded with Manager Walter Alston to bring Hall of Famer pitcher Don Drysdale into the 9th inning of the 3rd and deciding play-off game. Instead, Alston brought in Stan Williams in relief of a tiring Eddie Roebuck. A 4-2 lead turned into a 6-4 loss as the Giants won the pennant. For his trouble, Snider was sold to the Mets. It is said that his roommate, Don Drysdale, broke down and cried when he got the news of Snider’s trading.
When Snider joined the Mets, he discovered that his familiar number 4 was being worn by Charlie Neil, who refused to give it up. So Duke wore number 11 during the first half of the season, then switched back to 4 after Neal was traded. He proved to be a sentimental favorite among former Dodger fans who now rooted for the Mets, but after one season, he asked to be dealt to a contending team.
Snider was then sold to the Giants on Opening Day in 1964. Knowing that he had no chance of wearing number 4, which had been worn by Mel Ott and retired by the Giants, Snider took number 28. He retired at the end of that season. In his 18-year career, he batted .295 with 407 home runs and 1333 RBI in 2143 games. Snider went on to become a popular and respected play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Expos from 1973 to 1986.
Duke Snider was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
With the death of Johnny Podres in January 2008, Snider is the last living Brooklyn Dodger who was on the field for the final out of the 1955 World Series.