Baseball Hall of Fame member Duke Snider, who lived in Fallbrook for more than 50 years, passed away Feb. 27 at the Valle Vista convalescent home in Escondido. He was 84.
“Sad day for Fallbrook,” said Bob Lucy, who headed the Duke Snider-Upper Deck Home Run Derby which took place at Fallbrook High School’s baseball field from 2001 through 2006. “Just a really good man and a good friend of Fallbrook baseball.”
Snider spent 18 years in the major leagues but was also involved with local sports in Fallbrook. “He was just active with all the high school athletic teams,” said former Fallbrook High School baseball coach Bill Waite, who coached Snider’s younger son.
“I was saddened by the news of Duke’s passing,” said Jerry Gross, who announced San Diego Padres games with Snider from 1969 to 1971. “It’s a loss for baseball. It’s a loss for me as an individual.”
Edward Donald Snider, who was an only child, was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 1926, and attended Compton High School. Snider, who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and began his professional career in 1944.
Snider spent most of 1944 with the Newport News Dodgers of the Class B Piedmont League, batting .294 in 131 games. His 34 doubles and nine home runs led the Piedmont League, as did his 25 outfield assists. He also had two pinch-hitting appearances for the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm club in the International League in 1944.
After missing the 1945 season due to his service in the Navy, Snider played in 68 games for the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League in 1946. He started the 1947 season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his major league debut on April 17 of that year, and split time between Brooklyn and the Dodgers’ St. Paul Saints farm club in the American Association.
Although Snider did not play in the 1947 World Series, he married his wife, Bev, in October 1947.
Snider split 1948 between Brooklyn and Montreal. He hit 17 home runs in 77 games for the Royals while hitting his first five major league homers during his 53 games with Brooklyn. Snider’s Montreal teammates included Cliff Dapper, who would befriend Snider and eventually purchase avocado grove property in Fallbrook along with Snider.
Snider next returned to the minors in 1965 as a non-playing manager. In his 146 games with the Dodgers in 1949 he belted 23 home runs and batted .292, although in his 552 at-bats he struck out 92 times to lead the National League. Snider scored 100 runs while driving in 92. Snider also played in the 1949 World Series, batting .143 in five games.
Snider reduced his strikeouts in 1950 to 79 whiffs in 620 at-bats and had a .321 average. His 199 hits led the National League and included 31 doubles, 10 triples, and 31 home runs, and his 343 total bases also led all National League hitters. Snider scored 109 times in 1950 while driving in 107 runs and stealing 16 bases.
In 1951, Snider batted .277 with 29 home runs, and in 1952 he hit .303 while homering 21 times. The Dodgers returned to the World Series in 1952, and Snider matched what was then the World Series record by homering four times. Snider’s ten World Series hits in 1952 also included two doubles, and he drove in eight runs while batting .345 in the seven games.
In 1953, Snider led the National League with 132 runs scored, 370 total bases, and a .627 slugging percentage. He batted .336 for the season, and his 198 hits included 38 doubles, four triples, and 42 home runs. He drove in 126 runs and matched his career high of 16 stolen bases. In the 1953 World Series his eight hits included three doubles and a homer; he drove in five runs in six games and batted .320 against the New York Yankees.
In 1954, Snider led the National League with 378 total bases and also led the league by striking out 96 times while sharing the National League lead with 120 runs scored. He had a career-high .341 batting average and 199 hits which included 39 doubles, 10 triples, and 40 home runs. Snider drove in 130 runs during the 1954 season.
Snider once again improved upon his propensity to strike out, and in 1955 he had more walks than strikeouts for the first time in his career with 104 walks and 87 strikeouts. He batted .309 with 166 hits which included 34 doubles, six triples, and 42 home runs, and he led the National League with 126 runs scored and 136 runs batted in. The Sporting News named Snider as the major league player of the year for 1955.
The Dodgers’ only World Series win before leaving Brooklyn was in 1955, and Snider homered four times against the Yankees while driving in seven runs and bating .320 in seven games.
“He was the hero of Brooklyn,” said Cafe Des Artistes owner Mike Calvanese, who grew up in Brooklyn and became friends with the Snider family after they began frequenting his restaurant. “Early in my life he gave me great thrills as a sports hero.”
In 1956, Snider led the National League with 43 home runs, and he also led the league by drawing 99 walks. His .399 on-base percentage and .598 slugging average also led all National League hitters. He struck out 101 times while batting .292 and scored 112 runs while driving in 101. He had a .304 batting average in the 1956 World Series despite being a victim of Don Larsen’s perfect game, and one of his seven hits was a home run.
Dapper had a three-acre avocado grove in La Habra Heights which caused Snider to become interested in raising avocados. Dapper acted on advice to look into Fallbrook and learned about a 60-acre plot in the Sleeping Indian area. Duke and Beverly Snider purchased 30 acres and Cliff and Stanna Dapper bought 30 acres.
Dapper developed both groves. Snider sold his Sleeping Indian property in the mid-1960s while Dapper, who passed away Feb. 8, remained on his grove until moving to a skilled nursing facility after his wife’s death in October 2008.
In the Dodgers’ final season in Brooklyn, Snider batted .274 with 40 home runs. He led the league by striking out 104 times while drawing 77 walks.
The Dodgers moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1958 season, and that ballpark’s dimensions favored right-handed hitters. Snider also hurt his elbow that year after attempting to throw a ball out of the Coliseum. In 106 games during 1958 Snider batted .312 but only hit 15 home runs.
Snider hit 23 home runs during 126 games with the Dodgers in 1959 and batted .308. In his final World Series he played four of the six games against the Chicago White Sox and homered once. Snider’s cumulative World Series statistics covering 36 games and six Octobers included 11 home runs, 26 runs batted in, and a .286 batting average.
Snider homered 14 times in 101 games during the 1960 season while batting .243. In 1961 a Bob Gibson pitch hit and broke Snider’s elbow, and his 85 games produced 16 homers and a .296 batting average.
Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 and Snider played 80 home and road games that year. He batted .278 while hitting five home runs.
Snider also opened a bowling alley in Fallbrook in the early 1960s. Duke Snider Lanes operated until the mid-1960s.
On April 1, 1963, Snider was sold to the New York Mets, who played in Polo Grounds that year. Snider’s return to New York saw him play in 129 games during the season. He batted .243 and hit 14 home runs.
The Giants obtained Snider on April 14, 1964, and he spent his final major league season in a San Francisco uniform. He batted .210 in 91 games and hit his final four home runs. Snider, who also served as the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce president in 1964, played his final game on Oct. 3 of that year and was released by the Giants three days later.
“He was a humble guy,” said Bob Leonard, who was the executive director of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce from 1994 to 2009. “It’s a terrible loss to our community to have both he and Mr. Dapper go so closely together.”
Snider played a total of 2,143 major league regular-season games. His final statistics included 407 home runs, 2,116 hits, 358 doubles, 1,259 runs scored, 1,333 runs batted in, 99 stolen bases, 971 walks, 1,237 strikeouts, 7,161 at-bats, 3,865 total bases, a .295 batting average, a .380 on-base percentage, and a .540 slugging average. In the field Snider had 4,099 putouts and 123 assists.
“He was extremely graceful in the outfield,” Calvanese said. “He was a fantastic hitter, but he was also an excellent fielder, one of the better ones.”
Snider’s career also included seven All-Star Game appearances, and he was selected a total of eight times.
Snider returned to the Dodgers organization as a scout in 1965, and during the season he became the manager of the Dodgers’ Spokane team in the Pacific Coast League. He managed the Tri-City Atoms to the 1966 Northwest League championship with a 57-27 record and the 1967 Albuquerque Dodgers to a 78-62 record and the Texas League pennant.
Snider was also a Dodgers’ scout in 1968, and when the Padres joined the majors for 1969 he became a Padres scout. Snider was also part of the Padres’ first radio broadcasting crew along with Gross and Frank Sims.
“It was a great thrill for me and a great joy,” Gross said of broadcasting with Snider.
Gross initially learned of Snider while listening to Brooklyn Dodgers games on the radio. “Duke was my idol as a youngster growing up in Rhode Island,” Gross said.
“Forty years later I was thrilled to become his radio partner,” Gross said. “It was kind of a dream come true for me.”
Snider was the KOGO analyst while Gross provided play-by-play announcing. “It was really an amazing story for me,” Gross said. “I used to wear his number in Legion ball and in high school.”
Snider wore uniform number 4 for the Dodgers. “Great player, great outfielder, great hitter,” Gross said. “His career was a great career.”
Gross was an announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1961 through 1967 before relocating to San Diego to become the announcer of the National Basketball Association’s San Diego Rockets. Gross doesn’t recall interviewing Snider during his pre-game or post-game shows for the Cardinals but remembers being on the field during Snider’s playing days. “It was always a thrill for me to see him on the field,” Gross said.
The Padres had records of 52-110, 63-99, and 61-100 during their first three seasons, and after the first year Snider wanted to broadcast from among the fans behind home plate. That occurred before the Padres’ administration ordered Snider and Gross to return to the broadcast booth.
“I thought he was an exceptional analyst,” Gross said. “I was never really able to utilize how good a storyteller he was.”
Snider returned to managing in 1972 with the Padres’ Texas League farm club in Alexandria, posting an 84-56 record and winning the Eastern Division.
After the 1971 season Bob Chandler replaced Snider while Jerry Coleman replaced Gross. Sims spent 1969 and 1970 as a Padres announcer before moving to the team’s front office.
“I think he enjoyed being with the Padres,” Gross said. “We had some good times and some bad times because the ballclub didn’t win too much.”
Snider was subsequently an announcer for the Montreal Expos, and his tenure with Montreal included spending 1974 and 1975 as the Expos’ batting instructor.
Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame requires selection by 75 percent of voting Baseball Writers of Association members (who may vote for up to ten candidates), and Snider did not receive that threshold during his first ten years of eligibility. In 1980 he received votes on 333 of the 385 ballots cast and was enshrined in Cooperstown that summer.
The Dodgers also retired Snider’s uniform number in 1980.
All four of Snider’s children graduated from Fallbrook High School. “Duke was another great supporter of Fallbrook baseball and all Fallbrook athletics,” Waite said.
“He was very down to earth,” Waite said. “I thought the world of him.”
“We were lucky to have somebody like Duke Snider here,” Calvanese said. “He did a lot for the area.”
The Fallbrook Baseball Booster Club’s primary fundraiser for the baseball program is a pre-season golf tournament. The home run derby provided some funds for Fallbrook High School’s baseball program but primarily recognized Snider.
“That was one of the best ideas that I’ve ever heard and been a part of,” said minor league player Josh Womack, who was a Crawford High School junior when he competed in the 2001 tournament. “We were so excited to give that a shot.”
An organizing committee met at Del Rey Avocado to plan tournament details. “Duke would always be involved in the planning sessions,” Lucy said.
“Duke was always interested in what kids were going to be there,” Lucy said. “He was very, very involved in it. It was just wonderful.”
Lucy’s younger son, Donny, was a Fallbrook High School senior in 2001. “He was always very encouraging to Donny,” Bob Lucy said.
When Bob Lucy was throwing batting practice to his son on the high school field, Snider went into the batting cage to provide tips to Donny Lucy on how to swing and step. “It was amazing to see him at his age have such a fluid, beautiful swing,” Bob Lucy said.
Donny Lucy followed his high school career with three seasons on the Stanford University baseball team. As a college sophomore he struck out nine times in a series against Fullerton State. “Duke wrote him a fantastic letter about hanging tough,” Bob Lucy said.
Snider reminded the younger Lucy about his own four-figure strikeout total. “He (Donny) really cherished that,” Bob Lucy said.
During the 2002 home run derby, Fallbrook High School’s baseball field was renamed Duke Snider Field. “It was such a special day,” Lucy said.
Snider was also involved with the golf tournament and banquet fundraiser. “He was unbelievably generous with his time,” Lucy said. “It was just a wonderful experience, and he was such a gentleman.”
If weather permits, Fallbrook High School’s baseball team will open the 2011 season Saturday at home against Temecula Valley High School. The players from both teams will all be wearing uniform number 4 as a tribute to Snider.
Duke and Bev Snider were married for 63 years. In addition to his widow, Snider is survived by his son Kevin of Hemet, his daughter Pam Chodola of Fallbrook, his son Kurt of Temecula, his daughter Dawna Amino of Campbell, and his ten grandchildren Brandon, Jessica, Hali, Markie, Jennifer, Jordan, Robert, Kaitlin, Brendon, and Brooklynn.
A memorial service for Snider will be held March 12 at the Fallbrook Presbyterian Church. The service will begin at 2 p.m.
Donations may be made in his memory to the Fallbrook Union High School baseball program in care of Fallbrook Baseball ASB.
Dodger of the 1950s, long-time Fallbrook resident and Hall of Fame recipient Edwin Donald Snider, better known as “Duke” Snider passed away this morning at the age of 84 in Escondido at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital.
While we have a wire service story posted below, we are writing a more personal special feature to be published this week in the Village News and the Valley News to honor “Duke” Snider who was a very special member of the Fallbrook community.
If you would like to have your remembrance or comments about Duke Snider considered for our story, please use the comment system below. Please use your real name and include contact phone number. This personal information will be deleted before the comment is published.
WIRE SERVICE STORY
LOS ANGELES – Dodger Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider, who led the team to two World Series championships in the 1950s, died today, the team announced. He was 84.
Snider, who was a long-time resident of Fallbrook, California, died this morning at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido.
”Duke was one of the truly legendary Dodgers who made his mark first in Brooklyn and then in his hometown, Los Angeles,” said Dodger Owner and Chairman Frank McCourt.
”I had the pleasure of spending time with him on several occasions and he was a truly wonderful man,” he said. ”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 (wife) Beverly and his family.”
Born Edwin Donald Snider in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 1926, Snider was among the game’s most feared hitters during his 16 seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1947-1962), playing on a pair of World Championship teams (1955 and 1959) and in six World Series overall.
The seven-time All-Star center fielder ranks as the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs (389) and runs batted in (1,271) and during the 1950s, he topped all Major Leaguers with 326 homers and 1,031 RBI. He slugged four home runs in both the 1952 and 1955 World Series.
Nicknamed ”Duke” by his father at age 5, he was a standout in football, baseball and basketball at Compton High School before signing with the Dodgers at age 17 in 1943. He briefly played in the minor league before entering the Navy.
Dodger Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda was Snider’s teammate.
”Duke was not only a great player but he was a great person, too,” LaSorda said. ”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.”
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and his Dodger uniform No. 4 was retired that year in Oldtimers Day ceremonies that featured Snider entering the ballpark from beyond the center field fence, accompanied by Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays, two other Hall of Fame outfielders of the same era.
Following his playing career, Snider returned to the Dodger organization as a minor league manager. He later joined the Montreal Expos as a broadcaster and batting coach.
Dodger Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully called Snider extremely gifted.
”His defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field,” Scully said.
”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,” he said. ”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.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Some additional information, stats, etc. can be found on the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Snider