Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hall of Famer Duke Snider, 84, dies

Tony Jackson
February 27, 2011

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Duke Snider, the longtime center fielder for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, died on Sunday morning following an undisclosed illness, both the Dodgers and the Baseball Hall of Fame have announced. He was 84.

Snider was the Dodgers' primary center fielder from 1947-62 and generally is considered one of the greatest among a long line of superb players who have worn the Dodgers uniform during the franchise's long, storied history. An eight-time All-Star, he still ranks as the franchise's all-time leader in home runs (389) and runs batted in (1,271). He led all major leaguers in the decade of the 1950s with 326 homers and 1,031 RBIs, and he hit four home runs in each of the 1952 and 1955 World Series.

Snider hit .320 with four homers and seven RBIs in the seven-game victory over the New York Yankees in the '55 World Series, giving the Dodgers their first world championship and the only one they would win in Brooklyn before moving three years later to Los Angeles.

"He was an extremely gifted talent, and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," Vin Scully, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame broadcaster, said in a statement issued by the club. "When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of [fellow Hall of Famers Joe] DiMaggio and [Willie] 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."

Edwin Donald Snider, who was given the nickname "Duke" by his father when he was 5, was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 1926. He played football, baseball and basketball at Compton High School before being signed by the Dodgers in 1943. In 16 years with the Dodgers, he batted .300 with a .385 on-base percentage and scored 1,199 runs.

Snider was sold to the New York Mets before the 1963 season, then to the San Francisco Giants a year later before he retired after 1964 with a career average of .295 with 407 home runs and 1,333 RBIs.

"I was Duke's teammate and looked up to him with respect," said Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who was a young pitcher with the club during Snider's best seasons in Brooklyn. "Duke was not only a great player, but he was a great person, too. He loved his family and loved the Dodgers. He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character.

"He was my teammate and friend, and I will really miss him."

Snider died at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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