The Duke is dead.
In his time, he hit .295 and whalloped 407 home runs for his career with the Dodgers (East and West Coast versions). Through the years, he was an 8-time all star.
He was up there with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in a cheesey and overplayed song (that still waxed nostalgic to all that was good in the game) as sung by Terry Cashman. He wasn't either of them in popularity or ability, but by 1980, he eventually made it to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown in his 11th try. Talk about the pain of being overshadowed.
In this, he's the forgotten center fielder in what Ken Burns referred to as an era that was the Capitol of Baseball... a time when New York City had 3 teams. A time before baseball truly went national as 2 owners abandoned the city to take in the new attitude of California that was rapidly becoming hip to a new beat. If you need proof, he's not on the front of ESPN today and he's not even the featured picture in the section on baseball.
For a man that never was the MVP, he was the most powerful of all hitters in the 1950s crashing 326 homers and 1,031 RBIs. Of course, this was before Stanzanol and Deca Durabolin, so the numbers mean a little more.
The Duke was the teammate of Jackie Robinson. He played with Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Maury Wills, and Don Drysdale. He played with Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Frank Howard, Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine, and Tommy Lasorda.
He came of age with Jackie Robinson's 3rd game in the majors. From that point on, he was a key element in the drive to move from Dem Bums to World Series champions to Los Angeles.
As many of us come of age in baseball in 2011, we have to wonder what has become of the greats of the game past. I knew who Duke Snider was, but I didn't really ever feel for his stats because they were largely a star player instead of a great of the game. Even the stars of the game that I grew up with - Paul Molitor, Dale Murphy, Robin Yount, Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel, and Harold Baines - are forgotten as we only hang onto the best of the show, and even then, their accomplishments are made nothing in the light of shorter ball parks and PEDs. Of course, there are nutritionist, trainers, and other modern treatments like Tommy John Surgery that keeps our heroes' numbers improving, but alas...
A once great man has died today.
Our fathers and grandfathers will remember.