In the 1950s, there were three center fielders who vied for the title of "best in show" - Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and the Duke. Over time, the Mick and Mays have transcended the Duke in the memories of fans, but it was Snider at the height of his career who was the 1950s home run champ, with 326 in that decade. In the four years (1954-1957) that Mays, Mantle, and Snider starred simultaneously in New York in full-time capacities, it was Snider who led the three in homers and RBI.
Now, playing Ebbetts Field helped - he hit 224 HR at home and 183 on the road - but the smooth-fielding, power-hitting center fielder led his club to six pennants and played at his best during World Series play. He hit .320 in the 1955 Series which the Dodgers won in 7 over the Yankees; .304 in the '56 Series, which the Dodgers lost in 7 to the Yankees; .320 in the 1953 Series which the Dodgers lost in 6 against the Yankees' and .345 in the 1952 World Series, also a 7-game loss against the Yankees. His 11 World Series round-trippers and 26 RBIs are the most ever by a National Leaguer.
Although Snider did not hit lefthanders well, he was protected from facing them often by the Dodgers' lineup, which was heavily weighted with righthanded hitters Reese, Robinson, Hodges, Campanella, and Furillo. With those five Boys of Summer, Snider participated in five World Series from 1949 to 1956. He made his sixth and final Series appearance in 1959, setting World Series home run and RBI records of 11 and 26. He hit four homers in each of the 1952 and 1955 Series, and is the only man to accomplish that feat twice.
The strong, intense, left-handed hitter with the majestic swing batted .295 in 18 seasons and slugged 407 homers, stringing together five straight years in which he hit 40 or more. He is the Dodgers' all-time home run leader.
"The field was even greener than my boy's mind had pictured it. In later years, friends of ours
visited Ireland and said the grass there was plenty green all right, but that not even the
Emerald Isle itself was as green as the grass that grew in Ebbets Field."
- Duke Snider
"We wept, Brooklyn was a lovely place to hit. If you got a ball in the air, you had a chance to get it out.
When they tore down Ebbets Field, they tore down a little piece of me."
- Duke Snider
"Snider, Mantle and Mays. You could get a fat lip in any saloon by starting an argument as to which was best.
One point was beyond argument, though. Willie was by all odds the most exciting."
- Red Smith
Picture from National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
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