February 27, 2011

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON:

Dodgers lose legend in 'Duke of Flatbush' (Ken Gurnick, 2/27/11, MLB.com)

Snider, who hit 407 home runs as the Dodgers' everyday center fielder, led the league with 43 in 1956 and was the National League Most Valuable Player runner-up in 1955, when the Dodgers won their first World Series. The eight-time all-Star played on six pennant-winning teams and hit 11 World Series home runs. [...]

He remains the Dodgers franchise leader with 389 home runs and 1,271 RBIs.

"He was an extremely gifted talent and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," said Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully. "When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays and, of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant. He's joining a great Dodger team that has moved on and I extend my sympathies to his entire family, especially to Bev."

Snider played his first 11 Dodgers seasons in Brooklyn and the final five in Los Angeles. He played one season each with the Mets and Giants, retiring after the 1964 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980 on his 11th ballot. His uniform No. 4 was retired by the Dodgers that year.


Duke Snider, Brooklyn Dodger Great, Dies at 84 (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, February 27, 2011, NY Times)
In the 1950s, the golden age of New York baseball, the World Series almost always meant red, white and blue bunting at Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds. October afternoons provided a national showcase for baseball’s premier center fielders — Snider of the Dodgers, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Willie Mays of the Giants.

“They used to run a box in the New York papers comparing me to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays,” Snider recalled on the eve of his 1980 induction into the Hall of Fame. “It was a great time for baseball.” [...]

Edwin Donald Snider was born on Sept. 19, 1926, in Los Angeles and was brought up in nearby Compton. His father, Ward, seeing him return proudly from his first day at school, at age 5, called him the Duke.

Snider signed with the Dodgers’ minor league system out of Compton Junior College in 1944 for a $750 bonus and debuted in Brooklyn on opening day 1947 with a pinch-hit single against the Boston Braves. But his arrival was hardly noticed. That was the day Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

Snider was envisioned as the successor in center field to Pete Reiser, but he was overanxious at the plate and frustrated by the curveball. Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager, and his aide George Sisler, once a great hitter with the St. Louis Browns, worked with Snider in spring training in 1948 to teach him the strike zone. Snider credited Rickey’s guidance for making him a Hall of Famer.

Snider flourished in 1949, his first full season with the Dodgers, when he batted .292 with 23 home runs and 92 R.B.I. The following year, a Duke Snider Fan Club was born.

But Snider’s moodiness affected his relationship with the fans. When he was booed by Dodgers fans in midsummer 1955 after a prolonged slump, he fumed. As he recalled in “The Duke of Flatbush” (Zebra Books, 1988), written with Bill Gilbert, he told the sportswriters: “The Brooklyn fans are the worst in the league. They don’t deserve a pennant.” The complaint made headlines.

Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ captain and Hall of Fame shortstop, teased Snider over his outbursts, and Snider later reflected how “Pee Wee taught me to control my emotions more.”


Hall of Fame Center Fielder Duke Snider Dies at 84 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, February 27, 2011)
For a team that kept preaching "Wait till next year" after World Series losses to the Yankees in 1953, '52, '49, '47 and '41, it was indeed next year. A generation later, long after they'd all grown old, those Dodgers were lauded as the "Boys of Summer" in Roger Kahn's book.

Born Edwin Donald Snider, he got his nickname at an early age. Noticing his son return home from a game with somewhat of a strut, Snider's dad said, "Here comes the Duke."

The name stuck. So did Snider, once he played his first game in the majors in 1947, two days after Jackie Robinson's historic debut.

A durable slugger with a strong arm, good instincts on the bases and a regal style, Snider hit the last home run at Ebbets Field in 1957.

Snider's swing gave the Dodgers a lefty presence on a team of mostly righties. He often launched shots over the short right-field wall at the Brooklyn bandbox, rewarding a waiting throng that gathered on Bedford Avenue.

"The Duke's up," fans in the upper deck would shout to those on the street.

A wild swinger, Snider was harnessed by Branch Rickey, who made him practice standing at home plate with a bat on his shoulder calling balls and strikes but forbidden to swing.


MORE:
-ESSAY: Duke Or Willie? A Vote For Snider: Brooklyn's most artful Dodger is hitting better than Mays and many baseball men consider him at least Willie's equal as an outfielder (Sports Illustrated, June 27, 1955)
Twilight Of The Bums: The great Brooklyn Dodgers are in their declining years. As an era ends, a clown is hired and strong hints are dropped about leaving Ebbets Field. The faithful may be about to give their last hurrah (Robert Creamer, 4/01/1957, Sports Illustrated)




Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke) @ Yahoo! Video


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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2011 5:25 PM
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