2002-08-01 / Top Stories

"Da Duke" Is ‘Nighted’ At Baseball Gallery Opening

By Neil S. Friedman

"Da Duke" Is ‘Nighted’ At Baseball Gallery Opening

Duke Snider throws out the first pitch on the night he was honored at KeySpan Park.Duke Snider throws out the first pitch on the night he was honored at KeySpan Park.

By Neil S. Friedman

Nations have their kings and queens, plus a potpourri of other royalty. Jazz has Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Popular music has its "King of Pop" and "Queen of Soul," not to mention The King—Elvis Aron Presley, who HAS left the building.

But Brooklyn, New York, proudly boasts its own special royalty. The county of Kings once had a very popular Duke — who played centerfield for the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Flatbush and later, after the franchise deserted its fans, at Chavez Ravine outside of Los Angeles, California.

Last week, the Duke of Flatbush, known to veteran baseball fans as Duke Snider, returned to the borough where he became an idol to millions for "Duke Snider Night." The Hall of Famer was honored at the opening of the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery at Coney Island’s KeySpan Stadium, the home of the borough’s newest team-the Cyclones, a minor league Mets’ affiliate. It was the first time Snider had been back to Brooklyn for a professional baseball game since the final game at Ebbets Field on a mournful Saturday in 1957.


Snider shows off his new Cyclones jersey presented to him by team owner Fred Wilpon at last week’s ceremony.                Photos by Adam GellSnider shows off his new Cyclones jersey presented to him by team owner Fred Wilpon at last week’s ceremony. Photos by Adam Gell

Joining the 75-year-old Dodger great for the tribute were other former boys of summer - ex-teammates Johnny Podres, Ralph Branca, Gene Hermanski, Tommie Holmes and Al Gionfriddo. Snider is one of eleven surviving Dodgers from the 1955 championship team.

Hard-core sports fans know of the intense intracity rivalry that existed in New York City during the 1950s when three of the five boroughs had teams-the Dodgers in Brooklyn, the Yankees in the Bronx and the Giants in upper Manhattan. And each had an All-Star centerfielder, who is considered among the best that has ever played that position.

The trio was even paid tribute to in the Cashman and West song, "Talkin’ Baseball," which touts the popularity of Willie (Mays), Mickey (Mantle) and the Duke (Snider).

On a night the Cyclones honored the Dodgers’ legend, Brooklyn beat the Yankees to make the tribute complete. The Cyclones beat the Staten Island Yankees 5-0. Through July 25, the Cyclones were undefeated at home against the Yankees in their nine-game history at KeySpan Park, including the 2001 postseason.


When lefty Duke Snider played centerfield for the Dodgers, he wore number 4. Here, the Duke poses with the newest Brooklyn centerfielder, Ender Chavez, another lefty who wears number 4, of the Cyclones.When lefty Duke Snider played centerfield for the Dodgers, he wore number 4. Here, the Duke poses with the newest Brooklyn centerfielder, Ender Chavez, another lefty who wears number 4, of the Cyclones.

Before the game, Snider, who helped "Dem Bums" earn six pennants, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which was preceded by a video montage of some of Snider’s career highlights.

Edwin "Duke" Snider began his career with the Dodgers in 1947. During the years 1954-57 when Snider, Mantle and Mays were rivals, the Duke led the trio in home runs and RBIs. Though he never won the coveted Most Valuable Player Award, Snider was voted the Sporting News Player of the Year in 1955, the Brooklyn teams’ only championship season. At one time or another he was among the top three National Leaguers in batting slugging averages, hits, RBIS, and almost every other offensive category.

The Duke also holds the National League World Series home run and RBI records with 11 and 26, respectively. He is the only player to have hit four homers in two different World Series. He finished his 18-year career with 407 lifetime home runs, including five straight seasons with over 40 round trippers.

In his remarks at the gallery opening Snider fleetingly denounced today’s highly-paid, pampered ball players, saying that they are "more concerned about their individual statistics" than winning. Snider said that when he played he wasn’t concerned about his numbers. "For us," he explained, "it was all about getting to the World Series."

He also said, "Brooklyn was my baseball home. I had more fun here than you could ever imagine."

And he left millions of Brooklyn baseball fans with a wealth of cherished memories.

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