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Losing The Duke of Flatbush

Losing The Duke of Flatbush Don Wingfield / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

No 4 Duke Snider passed away this morning at the age of 84. Another pillar from the legendary team named “The Boys Of Summer” has left us, leaving a legacy of being one of the greatest center fielders the game has ever seen.

Hearing the news today while listening to the Mets game pretty much crushed me. I know I was never there to see The Duke play, nor did I ever meet the man, but if you’ve looked around this blog, you know I have a very special place in my heart for the Brooklyn Dodgers. As you can see on this post, the thumbnail is a jersey I own signed by Duke Snider and is one of my most cherished baseball treasures. My favorite player of all-time is Gil Hodges. I admire Robinson for his strength, Reese for his empathy, Campanella for his perseverance, and Snider for his grit and love of the game.

The Duke was inspiring. He played a position in a city where the other two teams boasted Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, casting a very huge shadow. Yet, he kept his own and established himself as not a follower, but a leader. His bat was one that helped the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only series win in 1955, produced 407 home runs and 2,116 hits. Snider was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and took his place in Cooperstown with the greats. For more of a stat break down, read this great article by Cliff Corcoran on SI.com.

To the fans of Brooklyn Duke Snider was a god. The amount of fans that adored The Duke was insurmountable. Kids all up and down Flatbush Ave played stickball pretending to be old number 4 and hitting the game winning home run. The Brooklyn Dodgers represented the working man’s team – and Duke was one of them. As he crossed the street to get to Ebbets the fans would wish him good luck and say hello just like they would anyone else in the neighborhood going to work.

Snider was part of an era where the game was pure. You played for the love of the game,not for the money. You played for the fans in the stands and to get to the promised land – to become part of baseball immortality. That has got to be the number one reason why I love that era in baseball. Unfortunately those days are long gone and another one of its candles has sadly burned out.

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