02/27/11 7:37 PM EST
Dodgers remember Duke for grace on, off field
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"When all the names that made Dodger history are listed -- and I hope I'm on that list -- Duke Snider will be right there at the top with all the greats that made the Dodgers such a spectacular organization that it is today," said Don Newcombe, a teammate of Snider in Brooklyn and special advisor to Dodgers owner and chairman Frank McCourt. "In my memory bank, he saved me many times with spectacular plays in the outfield and at the plate. He was a great player, a great teammate, a great man. My thoughts are with his family."
Snider, who hit 407 home runs in his career, led the league with 43 in 1956 and was the National League MVP runner-up in 1955, when the Dodgers won their first World Series. The eight-time All-Star played on six pennant-winning teams and hit 11 World Series home runs.
"Duke Snider was a great human being, an extraordinary Hall of Fame player and an integral part of Dodger history, winning the World Series in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a release. "He was a key player during a special era in baseball, joining Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle to form New York City's unparalleled triumvirate of center fielders -- Willie, Mickey and The Duke. Then the Los Angeles native went home and helped usher in a new part of baseball history with great class.
"I have many fond memories of watching Duke play, and I will be forever grateful for getting to know him well in the ensuing years. I extend my deepest condolences to Duke's family, friends and all the Dodger fans."
"Duke was one of the truly legendary Dodgers who made his mark first in Brooklyn and then in his hometown, Los Angeles," said McCourt. "I had the pleasure of spending time with him on several occasions and he was a truly wonderful man. I'm so glad that we were able to keep him as an active part of the Dodger family over the past several years. The entire Dodger organization is deeply saddened by his loss and our heartfelt thoughts are with Beverly and his family."
Snider remains the Dodgers' franchise leader with 389 home runs and 1,271 RBIs.
"He was an extremely gifted talent and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," said Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully. "When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and 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. He's joining a great Dodger team that has moved on and I extend my sympathies to his entire family, especially to Bev."
Snider played the first 11 seasons in Brooklyn and the final five in Los Angeles. He played one season each with the Mets and Giants, retiring after the 1964 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980 on his 11th ballot. His uniform No. 4 was retired by the Dodgers that year. After Snider's death was announced, his name and uniform number appeared on the bulletin board in the middle of the Dodgers' clubhouse at Camelback Ranch-Glendale.
"I was Duke's teammate and looked up to him with respect," said Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda. "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."
After his playing career was over, Snider was a Minor League manager for the Dodgers and later a broadcaster with Montreal and a hitting instructor.
"As the years went by, I got to know him more and more," said Billy DeLury, longtime Dodgers traveling secretary who started working for the Dodgers in 1951. "And I spent a lot of time with him at our fantasy camps in Vero Beach. He was a class guy. He always had time for people, to sign autographs. He'll be missed, especially in Brooklyn where he was loved."
"We shed a tear in Cooperstown for the man affectionately tabbed by his fans, 'The Duke of Flatbush,'" said Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "There was no one classier or more easygoing than Duke Snider. He was nationally renowned for his smooth fielding and powerful bat -- as evidenced by hitting more home runs in the 1950s than anyone else. He is still today revered by Brooklynites everywhere for patrolling center field in Ebbets Field with grace and dignity, leading the underdog Dodgers to five pennants and their only World Series title in New York, in 1955. Above it all, he was a fan favorite for his style of play, personality, accessibility, and fondness for playing stickball with kids in the streets of Brooklyn."
Current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly met Snider two years ago when the Dodgers legend was invited to address top farmhands at the Dodgers Winter Development Camp.
"Obviously, he was a huge part of Dodgers history," said Mattingly. "He seemed like a great guy and he'll be missed."
Said general manager Ned Colletti: "An iconic player. At the Winter Development Program two years ago, the kids sometimes don't know what the history is and who the people are. When Duke came in the room, everybody knew who he was. That much baseball history, it struck everybody. This about New York with the three best center fielders in the game -- Willie, Mickey and the Duke."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.