Edwin Donald "Duke" Snider (born September 19, 1926 in Los Angeles, California), nicknamed "The Silver Fox" and "The Duke of Flatbush", is a former Major League baseball center fielder and left-handed batter who played with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1947-62), New York Mets (1963) and San Francisco Giants (1964).
During his career, he had a 50.7% completion rate, throwing for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns with a lifetime quarterback rating of 74.8. He was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1966 and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
Growing up in Southern California, Duke was a gifted all around athlete and strong armed quarterback at Compton High School who could reportedly throw the football 60 yards on the fly. Spotted by one of Branch Rickey's birddog scouts in the early 1940s, he was signed to a baseball contract out of high school. He played briefly for the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1944 (batting twice) and for Newport News in the Piedmont League in the same year. Serving in the military in 1945, he came back to play for Fort Worth in 1946 and for St. Paul in 1947. He played well, and earned a shot with the Brooklyn Dodgers later that year. He started the next season (1948) with Montreal and after tearing up that league with a .327 batting average, he was called up to Brooklyn for good during the middle of the season.
In 1949 he came into his own, hitting 23 home runs accompanied with 92 runs batted in, helping the Dodgers break into the World Series. Snider also saw his average rise from .244 to a respectable .292 and then .321 in 1950. But when it slipped to .277 in 1951 and the Dodgers squandered a 13-game lead to lose the NL pennant to the New York Giants, Snider received heavy media criticism and requested a trade.
"I went to Walter O'Malley and told him I couldn't take the pressure," Snider was quoted in the September 1955 issue of SPORT magazine. "I told him I'd just as soon be traded. I told him I figured I could do the Dodgers no good."
From 1947 to 1956, Brooklyn ruled the National League. They benefited greatly from a large network of minor league teams created by Branch Rickey in the early 40's. It is here when the system called the "Dodger Way" of teaching fundamentals took root. From that large network of teams, a number of young talented players began to blossom at the same time: Snider, Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Clem Labine, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Jim Gilliam.
By 1949, Snider, as he matured, became the triggerman in a power-laden lineup which boasted the likes of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Hodges, Campanella and Furillo. Often compared favorably with 2 other NY center fielders, Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, he was the reigning "Duke" of Flatbush. Usually batting third in the line-up, Snider earned his sobriquet by putting up some tremendous offensive numbers on the board: He hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons (1953-57) and averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average between 1953-1956. He led the league in runs scored, home runs and RBIs in separate seasons. He appeared in six post-seasons with the Dodgers (1949, 1952–53, 1955–56, 1959), facing the New York Yankees in the first five and the Chicago White Sox in the final. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and 1959.
Snider's career numbers took a dip when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Coupled with an aching knee and a 440-foot right field fence at the cavernous Coliseum, Snider hit only 15 home runs in 1958 as he entered the "decline" phase of his career. Injuries and age would eventually play a role in reducing Snider to part-time status by 1961. In 1962, when the Dodgers led the NL for most of the season only to find themselves tied with the hated Giants at the season's end, it was he and 3rd base coach Leo Durocher who reportedly pleaded with Manager Walter Alston to bring Hall of Famer pitcher (and Cy Young award winner that year) Don Drysdale into the 9th inning of the 3rd and deciding play-off game. Instead, Alston brought in Stan Williams in relief of a tiring Eddie Roebuck. A 4-2 lead turned into a 6-4 loss as the Giants rallied to win the pennant. For his trouble, Snider was sold to the Mets. It is said that his roommate, Don Drysdale, broke down and cried when he got the news of Snider's departure. When Snider joined the Mets, he discovered that his familiar number 4 was being worn by Charlie Neal, who refused to give it up. So Duke wore number 11 during the first half of the season, then switched back to 4 after Neal was traded. He proved to be a sentimental favorite among former Dodger fans who now rooted for the Mets, but after one season, he asked to be dealt to a contending team.
Snider was then sold to the Giants on Opening Day in 1964. Knowing that he had no chance of wearing number 4, which had been worn by Mel Ott and retired by the Giants, Snider took number 28. He retired at the end of the that season. In 18-year career, he batted .295 with 407 home runs and 1333 RBI in 2143 games. Snider went on to become a popular and respected play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Expos from 1973 to 1986.
Duke Snider was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 1995, Snider (along with Willie McCovey) pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges. According to the charges, he had failed to report income from sports card shows and memorabilia sales.
With the death of Johnny Podres in January 2008, Snider is the last living Brooklyn Dodger who was on the field for the final out of the 1955 World Series.
8-time All-Star (1950-56, 1963)
6-time Top 10 MVP
.540 slugging percentage (37th all-time)
.919 OPS (50th all-time)
3,865 total bases (87th all-time)
407 home runs (41st all-time)
1,333 RBI (77th all-time)
1,481 runs scored (74th all-time)
850 extra-base hits (65th all-time)
17.6 at-bats per home run (59th all-time)
Los Angeles Dodgers career leader in home runs (389), RBI (1,271), strikeouts (1,123) and extra-base hits (814)
Hold Los Angeles Dodgers Single-Season record for most Intentional Walks (26 in 1956)
Only player to hit four home runs (or more) in two different World Series (1952, 1955)
Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (1980)
In 1999, he ranked number 84 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team
One of only two major leaguers with over 1000 RBI during the 1950s. The other was his teammate, Gil Hodges