Center of attention

Duke Snider remembered as the engine that drove the Dodgers

February 27, 2011
Duke Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Hall of Fame press release

Watch Duke's 1980 Induction Speech

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – In the 1950s, three future Hall of Famers played center field for New York ball clubs: Willie Mays for the Giants, Mickey Mantle for the Yankees and Duke Snider for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Never has there been more talent at one position in one city. And never was a player more a part of a town than the powerful Snider was for Brooklyn.

Snider passed away Sunday at the age of 84. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.

"Duke Snider was beloved by a nation of Dodgers fans, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, across generations and around the world," said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "His wonderful legacy as one of the greatest outfielders of the 1950s will always be celebrated by us in Cooperstown. Our hearts go out to Beverly and their family at what we know must be a sad and difficult time." 

"The Duke of Flatbush" was born in California on Sept. 19, 1926, but his baseball home was New York. He led all major leaguers in home runs and RBI in the 1950s. He was a major contributor to six pennant-winning teams and won two World Championships with the Dodgers – in Brooklyn in 1955 and in Los Angeles in 1959.

"We shed a tear in Cooperstown for the man affectionately tabbed by his fans, 'The Duke of Flatbush.' There was no one classier or more easy-going than Duke Snider," said Jeff Idelson, the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "He was nationally renowned for his smooth fielding and powerful bat – as evidenced by hitting more home runs in the 1950s than anyone else. He is still today revered by Brooklynites everywhere for patrolling center field in Ebbets Field with grace and dignity, leading the underdog Dodgers to six pennants and their only World Series title in New York in 1955."

Snider was named to eight All-Star Games and was named the Major League Player of the Year in 1955 by the Sporting News. He finished first in the National League in hits, runs, on-base percentage, RBIs, extra base hits, home runs, total bases and intentional walks in at least one season his career.

He was also an outstanding outfielder.

"The greatest catch I ever saw was one made by Snider in 1954, when he climbed the wall of Connie Mack Stadium like a mountain goat to take an extra base hit away from Willie Jones of the Phillies," teammate Pee Wee Reese once said.

Snider hit 40 or more home runs in each of the last five seasons the Dodgers played at Ebbets Field before spending five more years with the team in Los Angeles. He collected the first hit in Dodger Stadium and was named captain in 1962, his last season as a Dodger.

Snider finished his career with a .295 batting average, 2,116 hits, 407 home runs and 1,333 RBI, playing for the Dodgers (1947-62), Mets (1963) and Giants (1964). He also totaled 11 home runs and 26 RBI in World Series play.

"Duke was a fine man, a terrific hitter and a great friend -- even though he was a Dodger," said Hall of Famer Willie Mays. "It was great playing centerfield in New York in the 1950s along with Mickey and Duke. I have wonderful memories of that. Duke and I played on some All-Star teams together and even on the same Giants team the last year he played and today I feel that I have lost a dear friend. He was a hero to the fans in Brooklyn and a great Dodger."

Snider scouted for the Dodgers and Padres following his career and managed in the minor leagues. He went on to become a beloved broadcaster for the Montreal Expos.

Snider is survived by his wife Bev, whom he married in 1947; children Kevin, Kurt, Pam Chodola and Dawna Amino; and 10 grandchildren.

A private memorial service for Duke Snider will be held on March 12. Snider, a 1980 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, passed away on Sunday at the age of 84.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Fallbrook Union High School Baseball Program, c/o Fallbrook Baseball ASB, 2234 S. Stage Coach Lane, Fallbrook, CA 92028.

The Snider family extends its gratitude and appreciation for support during this time of remembrance of Duke. 

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum