Year Inducted: 1980 (BBWAA, ballot #11, 333/385)
Let’s just get this legally mandated reference out of the way:
And get down to business here. Duke Snider was the third part of a trio of New York City based center fielders in the 1950’s, before the Giants and Dodgers moved to California. Mickey Mantle patrolled center in the Bronx, while in the NL the Giants had the great Willie Mays and the Dodgers had Snider. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, he was widely thought of as the lesser of the three, but still a great player in his own right.
Snider feasted a lot on NL pitching in his 18-year career, clubbing 407 home runs en route to slashing .295/.380/.540 with a wRC+ of 139. Along with all the home runs, he also hit 358 doubles and 85 triples in a career spent mostly in Dodger Blue. From 1949-1957, Snider hit no fewer than 21 home runs, scored at least 80 runs (1259 career) and drove in no fewer than 92 (1333 career). He did play at a time when the Dodgers were arguably the best team in the NL, but part of the reason they were was because Snider was patrolling center for them and anchoring a deep lineup that included fellow Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella, along with other good hitters like Gil Hodges. While he never had the base-running (99 steals in his career) nor the defense (-46 defensive runs in his career) that Mays did, he certainly could hold his own against Willie with the bat.
At least, that was true until 1957. He had surgery to help correct some knee pains in that offseason, then during Spring Training he was in a car accident (and the Dodgers have had rotten luck with those), hurting it again along with other various aches and pains. Over the next few seasons, Snider was still somewhat productive, but never could reach the heights from earlier in his career. When the 1960s began, Snider had become a part-time player, last playing in over 100 games in 1963 when he made a reunion visit with the Mets. Snider’s various knee and arm issues (he broke his elbow in 1961) severely limited his career totals and, like McCovey, may have robbed him of over 100 home runs. While with the Mets, Snider became the 6th man ever with 2000 or more hits and 400 or more home runs in a career, so it wasn’t all poor for him.
Like many recent entries, Snider’s case is one of peak value, more than career. His ailments robbed him of being a more inner circle Hall of Famer, similar to how Mays and Mantle are viewed. But, the career he did end up with was truly a great one.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/10/16-This Hall of Fame left fielder was part of the Pirates Family for many years, clubbing many home runs for them as well.