February 27, 2011
Hall of Famer Duke Snider, a contemporary of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle who was the last prominent surviving member of the Brooklyn Dodgers' "Boys of Summer" teams of the 1950s, died Sunday at age 84.
The New York Daily News reported the news first. Snider had been in declining health in recent years because of diabetes.
With his passing, all the regulars — catcher Roy Campanella, first baseman Gil Hodges, second baseman Junior Gilliam, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, third baseman Billy Cox, right fielder Carl Furillo and Jackie Robinson -- of those star-crossed Dodger teams that won six National League pennants but just one World Series in Brooklyn from 1947-57 — are now gone. Of them, Robinson, Reese and Campanella are also enshrined in Cooperstown.
After growing up in Compton, Calif., Snider broke in with the Dodgers in 1947, moved with them to Los Angeles in 1958. He finished his career with single seasons with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. He batted .295/.380/.540, retiring after the 1964 season with 407 career home runs.
He was elected to Cooperstown in 1980.
Via the Twitter of Newsday's Ken Davidoff, a reaction from Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, who called many of Snider's ballgames in Brooklyn and L.A.:
"Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant."
In Snider's time, a debate raged in New York City: Who was the best center fielder in the majors? Snider, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle?
Terry Cashman's 1981 baseball ballad "(Talkin' Baseball) Willie, Mickey & 'The Duke'" immortalized the trio in song:
"If Cooperstown is calling, it's no fluke. They'll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke."
I always liked watching Duke Snider highlights because he often would be caught smiling like a Cheshire cat. It always made me think baseball made him happy. A lot of people know the feeling.
Rest in peace, Duke.
Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave