Top 100 Mets: #85, Duke Snider

Duke Snider had established himself as a New York baseball icon long before his arrival at the Polo Grounds in 1963. Elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, "The Duke of Flatbush" was the linchpin of the storied Brooklyn Dodgers offensive lineups of the 1950s. Although his stint with the Mets was short-lived, his impact on New York and his contributions to the sport warrant his selection as our eighty-fifth greatest Met. (Network free through New Year's Day! Happy Holidays!)

Edwin Donald Snider was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1944 and would make his debut with the team in 1947 with Jackie Robinson. He would proceed to hit forty or more homers for five consecutive seasons (1953-1957) before knocking the last home run ever hit at fabled Ebbets Field on September 22, 1957.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

1963

Mets

.243

354

86

14

45

44

0

56

74

.345

.401

It was his exploits in that band-box stadium that allowed Duke to make a name for himself, enjoying the friendly dimensions that were presented to a left-handed hitting slugger. When it was torn down, he felt the loss keenly.

"We wept, Brooklyn was a lovely place to hit," Snider said. "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."

During that moment in time, there was always much debate over who was the preeminent centerfielder roaming the outfields of New York, with Willie Mays patrolling the vast expanses of the Polo Ground for the Giants and Mickey Mantle flashing leather for the Yankees. It was a timeless debate that raged around many a hot stove in those 1950's winters.

For the most part, Duke Snider was brought back to New York for sentimental reasons, but those were darn good motives nonetheless. The Dodgers sold him to the Mets for $40,000 on the first day of April in 1963 and he would hit .243 with 14 homers and 45 RBI in 354 at bats that season.

D. Snider
HALL OF FAMER: Duke Snider was inducted into Cooperstown on August 3, 1980. (AP)

Even as his career began to wind down, opposing pitchers still feared him. He led the Mets in walks during that 1963 season (56) and also in intentional walks (9).

On Opening Day, Warren Spahn, our ninety-first greatest Met, would etch his name into the record books as the winningest lefthander of all-time. That 6-1 victory came against Casey Stengel's Mets, and Snider accounted for the lone run, a solo homer.

A little over a month later, in Dodger Stadium, Don Drysdale would beat the Mets 7-3 and permit just two hits. Both were home runs, one delivered from Duke himself and the other was from Tim Harkness.

The Silver Fox was also an underrated defensive presence, a quick and elegant fielder who also possessed an exceptional arm.

The San Francisco Giants would purchase Snider from the Mets in April of 1964 and he would be enshrined into Cooperstown on August 3, 1980 along with Tigers' slugger Al Kaline, Philadelphia's Chuck Klein, and Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey.

For a player of his legendary stature to be a part of Mets history, even for just one season, was a blessing.

"The sport to which I owe so much has undergone profound changes," Snider said a few years back, "but it's still baseball. Kids still imitate their heroes on playgrounds. Fans still ruin expensive suits going after foul balls that cost five dollars. Hitting streaks still make the network news and hot dogs still taste better at the ballpark than at home."

And Duke Snider is still a New York legend.

E-mail baseball analyst Christopher Guy at CGGuy86@yahoo.com


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