The Back of Duke Snider's Head

Monday, February 28, 2011

The report today of Duke Snider’s passing brings two small memories to mind, though most of his Hall-of-Fame career (1947-1964) was before my time and on the other side of the continent.
My Time with baseball started in 1959, the Dodgers’ second year out of Brooklyn. My Cub Scout den drove downtown to the Coliseum to watch the Dodgers host Cincinnati. I would have been nine, and I’m not even sure Snider played. I remember Pee Wee Reese, Wally Moon, and Gil Hodges. It was still the core of the team that had come from back east, and Snider was one of its most fabled players, but I hadn’t yet caught the fever. We sat in way-yonder center field seats where Snider would have been the nearest player in front of us, so maybe I spent nine innings staring at the back of his head. However, my two strongest memories are how far from the game we actually were, and how fast the Reds’ Vada Pinson could run from home to first on a single.

I didn’t really become a baseball fan until the Kaufax-Drysdale-Wills teams of the mid-60s. By then, the Dodgers had moved from the Coliseum to their own stadium, and Snider had moved to the Mets, Giants, and retirement. It was then I finally saw the Duke up close.

Off-season, Snider made his home in Fallbrook, California, rooted for the local high school athletic teams, farmed avocados, and attended the Methodist church. My own family had tried weekend avocado ranching near Fallbrook. My cousins attended high school there, and played baseball. They also attended the Methodist church, and I heard frequent mention of Duke Snider.

One Sunday, we made the trip to the Fallbrook church. My mother’s favorite, but long-retired pastor was making a guest appearance. As I took a seat, my cousin pointed at the man in front of me. “That’s Duke Snider,” he whispered. I spent the next hour looking at the back of the great man’s head. Afterwards, Snider got up and left and my mother pulled me up front to show me off to her pastor.

There you have it: a baseball great passes on to the ages and my two strongest memories are of the back of his head. Rest In Peace, Duke.

For another discussion of the Dodgers, go here.


Baseball to me has the most stars. Over the years I have met a few in different settings and they have all been good people. I think it is the humbling aspect of the game. What other profession or avocation can you fail 7 of 10 times and still be considered good? A hitter today in the big leagues with that success rate is a multi-millionaire.

Today's Times-Delta has a great Duke Snider story; I tried to link it, but couldn't. A great explanation why those players of old hold out interest and today's have difficulty.


Steve said...
March 1, 2011 at 8:07 PM  

Steve, I read the Times-Delta Story, and just now traced it to the New ork Times, where the original ran a picture of the house:

I never played baseball except in the street, but it was the pro sport I followed in junior high and high school. Later, my father-in-law had season tickets to the Dodgers and we went several times a season, but it was never the same as the teams in the 60's. Mostly I listened on the radio, but I listened to Vin Scully recount a lot of great baseball. The last game I attended was Little League and probably seven or eight years ago, but thinking back, baseball brought me a lot of great moments. You've been very fortunate to make it so much of your life.

Brian said...
March 1, 2011 at 9:06 PM  

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