Los Angeles Dodgers hall of fame pitcher Duke Snyder wipes a tear as he listens to Jeff Kent #12 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the major league record-holder for home runs by a second baseman announcing his retirement after 17seasons in Major League Baseball at a press conference on January 22, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Snyder died this morning at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido.
“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 Synder'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 Snyder 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.