Brooklyn Dodger great Duke Snider, who passed away this past weekend, played his Hall of Fame career in the shadow of two of the only center fielders in history who could be called better than him, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranks center fielders this way:
- Wille Mays
- Ty Cobb
- Mickey Mantle
- Tris Speaker
- Joe DiMaggio
- Duke Snider
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Kirby Puckett
- Bill Hamilton
- Jimmy Wynn
Just imagine, New York City once had three of the greatest center fielders who ever lived all playing at the same time, potentially all on the very same day. And if the Giants were playing the Dodgers… well, baseball fans got their money’s worth that day.
Snider made the trip West in 1958 when the Dodgers migrated to Los Angeles. He retired from baseball after the 1964 season. He was the first of the three great center fielders to retire… but he was the last of the three to be voted into the Hall of Fame. It took him 10 years on the ballot to get inducted. One of the great travesties of Hall of Fame voting. It was just Snider’s bad luck that he had to play at the same time in the same city with Mays and Mantle.
Roger Kahn in The Boys of Summer writes a wonderful profile of Snider. Of the prominent players of those great Brooklyn Dodger Teams (Jackie Robinson, PeeWee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Gil Hodges), Snider was the last living one. His passing is the end of an era, for New York baseball fans (real ones NOT Yankee fans), for all baseball fans.
requiescat in pace Duke Snider.