Duke Snider passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Growing up in Southern California, “the Duke” got his nickname from his father when he came back from a baseball game with a bit of a strut. Snider was signed into the Dodgers minor league system right out of high school, and made his ML debut the same year as Jackie Robinson. Along with Jackie, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella (all Hall of Famers) and Gil Hodges the Dodgers won 6 NL Pennants for Brooklyn during his tenure.
The “Duke of Flatbush” was known for playing stickball in the streets with kids in Brooklyn during his early days with the Dodgers. Throughout the early 50′s, New York had three historically great center fielders – the debate raged as to who was the best out of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke”. While Mays and Mantle are in the very upper pantheon with Ty Cobb as the greatest centerfielders of all-time, Duke is in certainly in the next tier with Joe DiMaggio, Tris Speaker and Ken Griffey Jr.
The Dodgers sadly moved out of Brooklyn after the 1957 season – though it was return to Los Angeles for Snider. There the Duke won one more World Series title in 1959. Snider went back to the New York in 1963 where he was briefly reunited with teammate Hodges, and finished his career with the Giants in 1964.
Snider has cards in a couple of insert sets in Topps Series 1. He’s in the Topps 60 set and has a “Lost Cards” from 1953 Topps – that year he was only featured in the Bowman set. The Topps 60 set has some relic and autograph versions as well. Here’s hoping the Dodgers do some great things to honor “the Duke” this year.