By In 100 Greatest, Baseball

No. 70: Duke Snider

There’s a fun Twilight Zone episode where a degenerate gambler dies and enters his own afterlife. He awakens in a beautiful hotel, surrounded by gorgeous women and with an unlimited amount of money to spend however he likes. He is puzzled by this — he knows that he lived a rotten life, and he’s sure there has been some angelic mistake.

“No mistake,” his guide says.

So, almost immediately, he starts gambling with his money. And he finds that he wins every time. He pulls a slot machine, money pours out. He plays blackjack, and it’s 21 every time. He rolls dice and life is a golden road of sevens. He cannot believe his good fortune. He’s sure there’s s mistake but the guide says, no, this is his afterlife.

Only after a few days, he realizes something: He cannot lose. When he hits on 19, he gets a deuce. When he tries some ridiculous odds at the roulette wheel, it always comes through. The money soon means nothing And he’s bored out of his mind. There’s no thrill, no risk, no surprise, no danger, none of the things that marked his life. He goes back to the guide and says, “This is a terrible mistake. I don’t belong here. I’m a bad guy. I don’t belong in heaven.”

And the guide says: “This isn’t heaven.”

* * *

In 1952, Duke Snider hit four home runs in the World Series. He was the first man since Lou Gehrig to do so. In Game 6, his Brooklyn Dodgers were a game away from clinching their first World Series ever — against the hated Yankees no less — and Snider tried to singlehandedly take over. In the sixth inning of a scoreless game, Snider crashed a long home run against Vic Raschi. In that moment, everyone in Brooklyn could almost feel victory.

But the Yankees were great. Yogi Berra homered. Raschi himself singled in a run. A young Mickey Mantle blasted a home run of his own. The Yankees led 3-1 in the eighth when Snider came up again. And he homered again. There was hope in Brooklyn, hope that maybe Snider would come up one more time. He didn’t. The Dodgers lost again.

But here’s the the thing: While Duke Snider was hitting those home runs — even with the huge crowds and deafening cheers and baseball glory — you know what he was thinking? He said he was thinking about being an avocado farmer. The idea of a normal life, raising avocados in his home state of California, that’s what filled his mind. The ballplayer’s life had left him cold and bored and even a little bitter.

“I dreamed of being a big leaguer once,” he told Roger Kahn as quoted in “The Boys of Summer.” “But that’s not it for me any more. … If it wasn’t for money, I’d be just as happy if I never played a game of ball again.”

* * *

Edwin Snider was four years old when his father, seeing the way he strutted, called him Duke. Few nicknames have fit better. Snider had a regal quality about him more or less from the day he was born and through his California childhood.

Duke Snider was an extraordinary athlete. His could throw a football 70-yards in the air, and he could dunk a basketball, and he probably threw a mid-90s fastball though there were no radar guns to confirm it. A high school friend wrote letters to the Long Beach Press-Telegram about the almost superhuman player at Compton High School, and the newspaper featured heavy coverage of the Duke. The friend, incidentally, was Pete Rozelle, who would go on to become one of the great PR men of the day and then the groundbreaking commissioner of the NFL.

Snider went to a Dodgers tryout camp when he was 17 years old and was so clearly a star in waiting that he was signed immediately. The story goes that the Pirates later offered him $15,000 to back out of the Dodgers deal but he would not. Everything seemed a dream. He was going to Brooklyn to become a star.

And, immediately, he realized it was no dream. This was during World War II, and the Dodgers trained in Bear Mountain, New York. It was damp and cold, and Snider had not brought a coat, might not have even owned one. Branch Rickey ran a strict camp, lots of running, and Snider did not like that either. He grumbled. He refused. He complained.

Then he went to Newport News, Va. and continued his petulance. He kicked water buckets. He broke bats. He ignored signs. He moaned about the town. Even so, he led the Piedmont League in home runs and doubles. He went to war for a year, When he came back, he continued his great hitting and self-loathing.

Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Duke Snider debuted two days later by pulling a single off Boston’s Si Johnson. Duke was 20 years old and already this odd blend of confidence and resentment. He was born with athletic grace, a unique ability to make the difficult look easy, and the impossible look possible. He knew that. At the same time, nothing he ever did could satisfy, and he raged against the expectations. Strikeouts made him crazy. Looking foolish — like he did when he lunged at bad pitches — crushed his spirits. Rickey had called his legs “steel springs,” but he cautiously approached ground balls for fear they would skip by and humiliate him.

The Duke would go inside himself. He confounded teammates (and sportswriters), who envied his gifts and tired of his belly-aching. In 1951, he asked to be traded. In 1952, he was benched for loafing on a fly ball. Pee Wee Reese told him to grow up and be a man.

Perhaps the best thing that Snider did in those early years was learn the strike zone. Discipline did not come naturally to him. In 89 plate appearances his rookie year, he walked just three times. The next year, he walked only 12 times in 172 plate appearances. The story goes that Rickey in particular took on the challenge of making him more patient at the plate. He used Snider’s fear of embarrassment as a motivation — he said, again and again, that if Snider would just stop swinging at those bad pitches, he would stop looking bad. Snider had always worked hard, of course, but he was such a miraculous athlete he never had really STRUGGLED with something the way he struggled with mastering the strike zone. But, eventually, he got it.

And you can see how strike zone mastery transformed him as a hitter. From 1949 to 1952, his walks increased slowly — he averaged about one walk every 11 plate appearances. He hit .298/.363/..507 with a 129 OPS+, certainly good numbers.

But then, in 1953, he walks jumped. In 1955, they jumped again. From 1953 to 1957, he walked once every seven or so at-bats. And for those five years, he was legendary. He hit .318/.407/.618, hit 40 home runs each season, averaged 116 runs and 117 RBIs. He was a full-blooded superstar and easily could have been the league MVP in 1953, 1955 or 1956. He didn’t win any of them. He sometimes thought this was because the writers didn’t like him or respect him. He might not have been entirely wrong.

Duke Snider is the only player to hit four home runs in two separate World Series. You know the noble effort of 1952. In 1955, he was the hero. He hit two home runs in Game 5, which put the Dodgers on the brink of winning. This time, the team closed the deal in seven games — the only championship ever for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Snider continued to amaze and infuriate for longer than anyone expected. There were writers who never had a good thing to say about him, and writers who were fiercely loyal to him, and they kept the Snider argument hot and in the papers raging continuously. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Snider made some statements about being excited about going home to California which did not exactly endear him to the Brooklyn crowd. He then said his quotes were taken out context. It didn’t really matter. Some loved him. Some despised him. He couldn’t change that.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Duke Snider’s career is that he didn’t quit a lot earlier than he did. After age 30, he never got 500 plate appearances in a season. He was hurt a lot, and he was all but useless against left-handed pitching — managers simply stopped hitting him against lefties. But he kept going. He played for the 1963 Mets for a year. He went to play in San Francisco for a year. He did manage to get to 400 homers and 2,000 hits, which might have been a goal. It still took 11 years for the BBWAA to vote him into the Hall of Fame.

After retirement, he tried farming but it didn’t take. He coached for a while. He was caught avoiding his taxes on memorabilia sales and called it the worst mistake of his life. He co-wrote an autobiography and a book about beloved Dodgers through the years. He died in 2011 and it’s hard to tell, in the end, how he saw his turbulent career. There were a lot of thrills. There were a lot of frustrations. There was a lot of accomplishment. There was a lot of criticism.

“For unto whomever much has been given,” it is written in Luke, ‘of him shall be much required.” Or, as it is often paraphrased, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” Duke Snider was given what looked to many like unlimited baseball gifts. Duke Snider was also draped with expectations that no one could live up to. In the end, he was a fantastic baseball player in a fantastic city for a fantastic team. Best I can tell, I think Snider made his peace with it and figured, all in all, baseball was closer to heaven.

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74 Responses to No. 70: Duke Snider

  1. First, the typos:

    “loafing of a fly ball” s/b on

    “he wall but useless” s/b was all

    It’s worth noting that his five years in Los Angeles might have been perhaps the worst park change in all of baseball for a left handed hitter, from the cozy park in Brooklyn to the huge right field in the Coliseum and then the pitcher’s heaven in Dodger Stadium. His OPS in Ebbets Field was .999; in the Coliseum ..925, and at Dodger Stadium .838, even though his OPS+ in Brooklyn was 144, in Los Angeles 136, not nearly the drop.

    In 1953, 1955, and 1956, Snider led the pennant winning Dodgers in WAR (and most everything else) but some other Dodger won the MVP. So yes, there did seem to be some anti-Snider sentiment amongst at least the MVP voters. I have only vague memories of him, but my father sure liked him.

    • johnq11 says:

      Richard,

      Yeah it is an amazing drop off when Snider goes to L.A. I’ve often wondered how his career would have been remembered had he Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn. I’ve often wondered if he’d have been remembered so reverently had he played in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.

      What’s odd is that for such an iconic player it took him 11 tries to get into the HOF?? And that’s back during a time when they basically had a revolving door getting into the HOF.

      What’s also odd is that his team mate Gil Hodges consistently outperformed him in HOF voting during the 1970’s getting 50-60% of the vote. Meanwhile Snider was getting 17-41% of the vote from 1970-1976. For whatever reason Snider’s vote went up dramatically in 1977 to 55%, then to 67% passing Hodges in 1978 and then 71% in 1979 and finally election in 1980. Meanwhile Hodges peaked at 60% and then went down slightly and then rebounded to 60% and then dropped drastically to 49% in 1982. I’ve always contended that the voters are slightly schizophrenic.

      There were a few years in the early-mid 70’s where Marty Marion and Allie Reynolds consistently finishing higher than Snider. Phil Cavaretta and Johnny Vander Meer did better twice. And Tommy Henrich and Alvin Dark finished higher in Snider’s first chance.

    • invitro says:

      “In 1953, 1955, and 1956, Snider led the pennant winning Dodgers in WAR (and most everything else) but some other Dodger won the MVP. So yes, there did seem to be some anti-Snider sentiment amongst at least the MVP voters.”

      The winners were Campanella, Campanella, and Newcombe. Snider was 3rd, 2nd, and 10th.

      As Berra won in 1951, 1954, and 1955 (and was in the top four 7 years in a row!) I suppose it’s clear that writers of that time loved loved loved catchers. I am very interested in figuring out the thinking of that time. I haven’t yet, but would like to hear some analysis. I think it’s more that writers loved catchers than that writers were against Duke.

      Also, a lot of Snider’s value was in drawing walks, and walks were not just undervalued in that time, I believe they were flat out unknown — they had -zero- value to writers, other than not hurting the batting average.

      Well, heck, the 1953 vote is not hard to figure out, look:
      Snider: .336, 42, 126, CF
      Campanella: .312, 41, 142, C

      The 1955 vote is harder to figure:
      Snider: .309, 42, 136, CF
      Campanella: .318, 32, 107, C
      They each got eight first-place votes; Campy won by only five points.

      What a time that must have been to live in for a baseball fan.

    • Spencer says:

      Circle typo guy first!

  2. Cheers for the Twilight Zone reference! That episode is “A Nice Place to Visit” (April 15, 1960). The dialogue isn’t exact, but so what.

    Also of possible interest: I believe Duke Snider and Wally Moon are the only two baseball players who were mentioned in two (or more) Twilight Zone episodes. Both players were mentioned in “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” (with Burgess Meredith as the vacuum cleaner salesman in whom extraterrestrials take an interest) and “A Kind of a Stopwatch” (about the watch that stops time).

    • johnq11 says:

      Matt,

      It would be interesting to go back and look at all those old twilight zone episodes and see how many baseball references there were.

      I would think there were some current (1960’s) players mentioned in “The Mighty Casey.”

      I think there was a 1960 Pirates reference in the episode, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up.”

      There’s some baseball references in “On Thursday We Leave For Home.”

      • nightfly says:

        IIRC they specifically avoided mentioning real players in The Mighty Casey… I know for certain that they made Casey’s team fictional. The episode is interesting in a different sense that Casey, like Duke, turned out to be quite unhappy on the ballfield and moved on to greater things.

        Nothing better than Sebastian Cabot, though. “This IS The Other Place!” dundunDUN

  3. Michael Green says:

    When the Dodgers got to the Coliseum, Willie Mays said, “Duke, they took away your game.” According to Don Drysdale, Duke did adjust. But yes, his best days were behind him. And there’s no question that he suffered in the majors from being a spoiled child. Oddly, perhaps, given his sometimes spiky relationship with the media, he went on to a successful career of nearly 20 years as a broadcaster for the Padres and the Expos.

    By the way, the Duke of The Boys of Summer was not one that he and his wife entirely recognized, and they said so. How much Roger Kahn got exactly right can’t be known, but I do know from reading his other work that he has a way of writing it in such a way as to be more important to the story than the subject he is talking about. It’s a bit different from Red Smith saying that you should use description to make clear you were there.

    Also, Joe’s ranking of Snider suggests that the debate about the three center fielders in New York means that Snider was definitely the least of them. One wonders.

    • wordyduke says:

      The general feeling about the three center fielders is reflected in Snider’s 11-year wait. Mantle was enshrined in 1974 (1st year), Mays in 1979 (1st year), Snider in 1980. To the minds of some voters, it surely made sense that if Mays was not in (and still playing), Snider should wait.

    • Ian R. says:

      I don’t think anyone today would argue that Snider was anywhere close to equaling Mantle or Mays – nor would anyone today argue that Mantle was better than Mays. The three of them were, perhaps, comparable at their best, but Mantle was at his best for longer than Snider, and Mays for still longer than Mantle.

      • Tom Wright says:

        Don’t forget – DiMaggio also overlapped with Snider’s career. In other words, of the six (or so) center fielders in history who were better than Snider, three of them played at the same time and in the same city as Snider. Talk about a reputation being hurt by bad timing – he makes Tim Raines look downright fortunate.

      • John Gale says:

        This is a good way of putting it, and I think it’s analogous to the three-way hockey debate (with apologies to Gordie Howe) about whether Gretzky, Lemieux or Orr is the best player of all time. I would say Orr had six truly excellent seasons, maybe seven, but Lemiuex had at least 10 and Gretzky had at least 15. At their respective peaks, we can make an argument about which was the best (I’d still probably favor Gretzky, but it’s an extremely narrow advantage). But factoring in career length, it isn’t even close. Gretzky is the best (he has nearly 1000 more points than second-place Mark Messier on the all-time scoring list), followed by Lemieux and then Orr.

        • otistaylor89 says:

          You obviously never saw Bobby Orr play.

          • Patrick Bohn says:

            Considering Orr only played in 657 games, it’s not like there was a lot of opportunity to actually see him play.

            I’m joking, but the fact is, career longevity matters when we’re discussing a player’s overall impact. Orr was basically finished by the time he was 27. No one doubts he was one of the most talented, if not *the* most talented player, in NHL history. But there’s value in those 800+ additional games Gretzky played.

            If they played as long as Gretzky, I’m betting Orr, Lemieux, and even maybe a guy like Mike Bossy could be considered better. With Orr, it wouldn’t even be close. Bossy and Lemieux would have likely topped Gretzky’s goals record. Lemieux would probably made a run at the points record too.

          • nightfly says:

            True that, Patrick. Orr’s knees and Bossy’s back are two of the crueler sources of “what if” in hockey. At least they did get to demonstrate their brilliance for ten seasons. And even though Mario is something of a pill, he was a breathtaking player – all the more remarkable that he was able to perservere through so many injuries (and freakin’ Hodgkins) to play at an otherwordly level for so long.

            One interesting facet of the debate… if the three of them had been perfectly healthy, they would have been able to challenge some of Gretzky’s numbers – but would they have? Would a healthy but diminishing Orr or Bossy decide to hang it up at 35, preferring retirement to anything below their usual excellence? Would Lemieux have kept coming back if he had chosen to leave on his own terms, rather than be repeatedly forced out by his health? Or would they, like Gretzky (and Howe before him) had gone on for as long as they could contribute?

    • If you look ay Snyder in BBR, you can see his ability to hit didn’t drop off that much in LA. However, he went from averaging 150 games/yr in Brooklyn to more like 100 games/yr in LA, which started with his age 31 year. It’s the old age bugaboo. He couldn’t stay on the field. But when he played, his slash line numbers were still quite good. Obviously the counting stats suffered while missing 40-50 games/yr.

    • zkg says:

      Snider did say that The Boys of Summer “seemed to grope for the sad side” of the Dodgers’ lives. It’s still a very good book.

  4. John Gale says:

    Well, considering that the other two are Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, I don’t think there’s much shame in being the least among that group.

    • I would presume the order, from the current historical viewpoint, is rather obvious. There’s now way Mantle is rated higher than Mays.

      • wordyduke says:

        One way is by Mantle’s peak (1956-57) — e.g., two years of 11.3 Bb-ref WAR, and Mantle’s greater OB%. Beyond these things, no, you’re right, particularly because of length of career.

      • John Gale says:

        Yeah, I wouldn’t argue that, though I think he pretty clearly was a better hitter (career OPS+ of 172 compared to 156, and he had better peak seasons as well, with three years above 200–incredibly, the 221 OPS+ he put up in 1957 didn’t lead the league because Ted Williams put up 233), lower counting numbers aside. Actually let, me get back to that 1957 season: Imagine hitting .365/.512/.665 with the aforementioned 221 OPS+ and not leading the league in *any* of those categories. Anyway, Mays gives up nearly 40 points in career on-base percentage to Mantle, which is quite a bit.

        For the record, when Joe ranked his top 10 hitters* (I’d post the link, but it seems like that triggers some kind of automatic moderation requirement, and the last time I tried that, the comment was still awaiting moderation days later), he had Mantle 10th (behind Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Gehrig, Hornsby, Musial, Pujols, Foxx and Cobb) and Mays 12th. I think that’s actually underrating Mantle a bit. I’d rank him fifth or sixth (depending on how much we discount Bonds for PEDs), just behind Hornsby. But when we factor in defense and length of career, Mays comes out decisively on top.

        *One last note on Joe’s list: he rather inexplicably did not have Shoeless Joe Jackson, he of the career 170 OPS+ (seventh all time) and .356 batting average (third behind Cobb and Hornsby) among his top *twenty* hitters, nor was he mentioned among the 10 additional players who made honorable mention. A huge oversight.

  5. johnq11 says:

    I can’t see Snider as a #70. Great peak but lacks a bit in career value. He ranks 127th in career WAR, roughly the same in career value as Carlos Beltran, Dwight Evans, and Andre Dawson.

    Career + Peak, Mize, Santo, Vaughan and O. Smith were better players. Larry Walker as well, who probably didn’t make the list.

    Also, I think Joe is greatly underrated pitchers on this list.

    • Owen says:

      It’s entirely possible that we’re about to hit a wave of pitchers. You have to think that Clemens, Grove, Young, Maddux, Unit, Pedro, Koufax, Seaver, Gibson, Spahn, Alexander, Big Train, Mathewson, Paige, and Carlton are more or less locks for this list (plus perhaps Marichal and a couple others). That’s fifteen guys out of the remaining 69 spots, at a minimum.

      • johnq11 says:

        Owen,

        Yeah so that 14 pitchers right there, then you have Clarkson, Keefe, Feller, Niekro, Blyleven, Plank, Jenkins, Rusie, Galvin, Mussina, Walsh, Glavine, Welsch, Palmer, Ferrell, Halladay, Marichal, and Hubbell.

        • John Gale says:

          By my count, there’s eight pitchers so far (Schilling, Rivera, Radbourn, Roberts, Rogan, Ryan, Perry and Williams) out of 31, about 26 percent. Another 15 would yield 23 out of the top 100, but the real number is likely to be a hit higher (for example, I’d be pretty stunned if Feller doesn’t make the cut–he *averaged* 9.3 WAR per season in 1939-1941 and 1946, and if he had put up another 8 WAR per season during the war years, he’d be looking at 95 career WAR).

          I know pitchers have a disproportionate impact on the games they pitch, but one fourth of the top 100 players being pitchers doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. I don’t view WAR as the be-all end-all, but Gary Carter is ranked 100th all time, and he’s 68th among position players. That means 32 pitchers are ahead of him (and Joe isn’t going strictly by WAR with these rankings).

          I would expect the final number of pitchers in the top 100 to be around 25-30 (for the record, Schilling is 26th in WAR among pitchers, and Joe has already added Rogan, Williams, Radbourn and Rivera and will add Paige–I don’t think it’s looking too good for Mussina right now), which I’m completely fine with.

          • Geoff says:

            Here’s what I think will be the remaining 69 players (alphabetically):

            Locks (64):
            Hank Aaron
            Pete Alexander
            Cap Anson
            Jeff Bagwell
            Ernie Banks
            Johnny Bench
            Bert Blyleven
            Wade Boggs
            Barry Bonds
            George Brett
            Rod Carew
            Steve Carlton
            Oscar Charleston
            Roger Clemens
            Roberto Clemente
            Ty Cobb
            Eddie Collins
            Joe DiMaggio
            Bob Feller
            Jimmy Foxx
            Lou Gehrig
            Charlie Gehringer
            Bob Gibson
            Josh Gibson
            Ken Griffey Jr.
            Lefty Grove
            Rickey Henderson
            Rogers Hornsby
            Chipper Jones
            Al Kaline
            Babe Ruth
            Randy Johnson
            Walter Johnson
            Al Kaline
            Nap Lajoie
            Greg Maddux
            Mickey Mantle
            Pedro Martinez
            Eddie Mathews
            Christy Mathewson
            Willie Mays
            Paul Molitor
            Joe Morgan
            Stan Musial
            Mel Ott
            Albert Pujols
            Kid Nichols
            Phil Niekro
            Mel Ott
            Satchel Paige
            Cal Ripken
            Frank Robinson
            Jackie Robinson
            Alex Rodriguez
            Pete Rose
            Mike Schmidt
            Tom Seaver
            Warren Spahn
            Tris Speaker
            Honus Wagner
            Ted Williams
            Carl Yastrzemski
            Cy Young
            Robin Yount

            Other possibilities (21):
            Roger Connor/Dan Brouthers/Ed Delehanty
            Gary Carter/Mike Piazza/Yogi Berra/Pudge Rodriguez/Roy Campanella
            Eddie Plank
            Tom Glavine/Mike Mussina/Fergie Jenkins/Sandy Koufax
            Bobby Grich
            Derek Jeter/Alan Trammel
            George Davis
            Frank Thomas/Jim Thome
            Tim Keefe/John Clarkson
            Reggie Jackson
            Pop Lloyd/Biz Mackey/Cristobal Torrienti/Mule Suttles

            Of these, I would take Carter, Piazza, Reggie, Fergie, and George Davis, but you could probably talk me out of most of these. A lot of this comes down to how you deal with the great, but not inner-circle, 19th century players. My feeling is that if they’re in the top 5 in JAWS/WAR at their position (e.g., Anson, Davis), they’re on the list, but if they’re a step below (e.g., Connor, Keefe) I’d prefer someone that played more recently. The most controversial choice here is probably the exclusion of Koufax. I could see him being ranked near the bottom of the list, but I can’t see any objective analysis that puts him in the top 69. The era/park adjustments just kill him.

            What troubles me most is how few catchers there are on the list…even with my choices you’d only have four catchers on the list, which seems light. Pudge was an overrated offensive player, but it would be tough to take Sandberg or Rivera over him if I was starting a team.

          • invitro says:

            I am sensitive to anti-Koufax stuff, but his peak was soooo high.

            Do you really think Berra won’t make it?

            My picks have Campanella, Berra, Lloyd, Oh, Koufax, and Jeter in place of Molitor, Nichols, Carter, Jenkins, Davis, and Gehringer.

        • buddaley says:

          If he is labeled a pitcher, Martin Dihigo might be on the list.

          • John Gale says:

            I think Brooks Robinson is a good bet to make it (65th in WAR and generally viewed as the greatest defensive third basemen ever, perhaps the best defensive player of any kind). He’s the one guy looking through the list that jumped out as not being on there.

          • Herb Smith says:

            Geoff,
            Great list. But it’s unsettling; there are MORE than 69 “locks.” That means that there are going to be some very upset people out there.

            And your list of 85 strong possibilities didn’t even include guys like Brooks Robinson, who has a few things going for him:

            1. Undisputedly, the greatest fielding 3rd baseman of all time.
            2. Very high career WAR (78.4), higher than many others already listed.
            3. AL MVP, World Series MVP, 18-time All-Star, two World Series wins
            4. Very popular; indeed, one of the very few truly *beloved* ballplayers
            5. Joe’s dad’s all-time favorite player

            And this is a guy who didn’t even MAKE your list of 85. Neither did Oh, who has got to be considered a lock, right?

            One thing: Joe BETTER not leave off Ferguson freaking Jenkins!

          • Spencer says:

            @geoff

            Call him a pitcher or hitter Martin Dihigo will most likely be on this list.

  6. Mike says:

    Snider and Carlos Beltran seem to be comparable. Look like not trying because so graceful and athletic; somewhat reticent relationship with the press; astounding post-season heroics.

    • Spencer says:

      @Herb Smith

      I can see Oh being left off the list, the competition he played against could be considered sub par…I think Joe leaves him off

  7. NormE says:

    In old Connie Mack Stadium, it might have been called Shibe Park at the time, in Philadelphia they used to point out Duke’s cleat marks in the outfield where he climbed the wall to rob a Philly of an extra base hit.
    The fans in Brooklyn gave their hearts to Pee Wee and Gil and Jackie, but they recognized that Duke was the most gifted.
    Thanks, Joe.

  8. I L says:

    Duke was a great broadcaster with the Expos, along with his partner, Ford C. Frick recipient Dave Van Horne. I have fond memories of his ending a descriptive phrase with “and that’s not too shabby.” His colour commentary was a joy to listen to.

    • My Dad sat next to the Duke on a plane ride. He described him as a fun guy who enjoyed chatting during the ride, and wasn’t the slightest bit arrogant or standoffish. To me, that’s always been somewhat at odds with his reputation. I suspect he didn’t filter his comments as he should have, and probably felt about the press about the same as a DiMaggio, Williams and probably many other stars (even if they sucked it up and answered every question). If the press doesn’t like you and/or you don’t feel obligated to answer their ridiculous questions, it will be reflected in how the writers portray you.

  9. Herb Smith says:

    I can certainly see why there was a debate in the 50’s about who was the best CFer in NYC. Snider came up a few years before the other two, and peaked earlier. For instance, he was an All-Star and a legit MVP candidate in 1950, a year before Mays and Mantle even debuted.

    Mantle was superb in ’52, but Snider was the best positional player in the NL in ’53. In ’54, the Duke was again superior to Mantle, but that’s the year that Willie had his first 10+ WAR year, won the MVP, and led the Giants to a World Series sweep.

    It must have been fun to be a baseball fan in New York in the 50’s. In 1955, the 3 CFers posted very similar WAR numbers. In fact, Mantle-Mays-Duke were 1-2-3 in MLB that year. And the Dodgers finally won the Series, with the Duke of Flatbush leading the way.

    In 1956, Mantle won the Triple Crown, while in the NL, Duke and Willie TIED for the league lead in WAR. Neither won the MVP though, and Mantle’s team bested Snider’s in the Series.

    By 1957, Snider started to fall behind. he was still one of the top ten players in the league, but Willie and the Mick were making history. (In fact, one can see why many considered Mantle superior to Mays for awhile; from their rookie seasons in 1951 until about 1963, Mantle WAS a more productive player. But Willie kept going.

  10. Chris M says:

    I don’t think Mantle gets nearly enough credit for how truly great of a hitter he was. All 5 players with a higher OPS+ than him (Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Gehrig, and Hornsby) played significant parts of their careers in eras that were much more offense friendly than the 50’s and especially the 60’s. Mantle’s slash lines don’t look quite as sexy, but he was a first tier hitter.

    It’s also important to remember that Mantle probably suffered the most devastating injury of any of the upper crust HOF’ers (if we don’t count Gehrig’s Disease as an injury, anyway), and he suffered it as a ROOKIE. I saw some research a few years ago that suggested that Mantle may have played the entire rest of his career with a partially torn ACL. Can you imagine the numbers he might have put up had Mays and DiMaggio not conspired to have him run into that water drain?

    I’m willing to agree that based on results, Mays was better than Mantle. But I think Babe Ruth is the only person who ever stepped onto a baseball field with as much natural talent as Mickey Mantle.

    • Chris M says:

      this was meant as a reply to the above convo about Willie, Mickey, and the Duke, but since it ended up down here, I may as well add a comment about Snider: As much as people talk about how disappointing he was in Los Angeles, his OPS+ was a still extremely impressive 136 (which was significantly higher than his OPS+ his first 5 seasons in Brooklyn). His playing time dropped drastically (I’m assuming it was injuries, but I don’t know that for sure), and he only once got 400+ AB’s there, but he was still a darn good hitter.

    • KHAZAD says:

      By it’s very nature, OPS+ compares you to the league environment you are in, and adjusts for the ballpark you play in as well. The fact that the players who had a higher OPS+ played in a different era means nothing.

      • Chris M says:

        I’m confused about which part of my comment makes you think I don’t understand that. I’m not arguing that he’s a better hitter than those guys, just that he’s in the same class. And because he played in a lower scoring era, his slash lines don’t look as good, despite his OPS+ being in the same range as Bonds, Gehrig and Hornsby.

        • invitro says:

          “I’m confused about which part of my comment makes you think I don’t understand that.”

          This part:

          “All 5 players with a higher OPS+ than him (Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Gehrig, and Hornsby) played significant parts of their careers in eras that were much more offense friendly than the 50′s and especially the 60′s.”

          🙂 It implies that Mantle’s OPS+ is worth more because of his era.

          • Chris M says:

            The very next sentence I say that is why his slash lines don’t look as good because of it. I’m not arguing that his OPS+ was better bc of his era, I’m arguing that Mantle was better than a lot of people give him credit for based on his slash lines (and his counting numbers to an extent), because of his era. I mentioned the other OPS+ leaders because they all played in great offensive eras and henceforth have much more impressive slash lines and counting numbers, but said that Mantle is in their same class. Reading is fundamental!

          • Wilbur says:

            I derived the same meaning when I first read it … clear writing is elemental, if not fundamental.

  11. Lawhamel says:

    This seems really high for The Duke, and seems to spell the end of some of the Negro Leaguers I had speculated about previously – Pop Lloyd, Cristobal Torriente, etc – and perhaps some of the deadballers (Roger Connor, Kid Nichols, e.g.). I am still hopeful that Joe recognizes Biz Mackie and Willie Wells with sufficient ranking, despite their unknowable stats, as Negro Leaguers. His somewhat low ranking of Joe Rogan and Joe Williams makes me nervous that some of these guys are going to be, understandably, left out.

    • invitro says:

      I think Lloyd will make it, based entirely on two bits of data: the order that Negro Leaguers went into the HoF, and Bill James’ ranking. Here is the data for the players that made it pre-2006 or were in James’ Top 100:

      1971 17 Satchel Paige
      1972 64 Buck Leonard
      1972 9 Josh Gibson
      1973 — Monte Irvin
      1974 76 Cool Papa Bell
      1975 — Judy Johnson
      1976 4 Oscar Charleston
      1977 27 Pop Lloyd
      1977 95 Martin Dihigo
      1987 — Ray Dandridge
      1995 — Leon Day
      1996 — Bill Foster
      1997 86 Willie Wells
      1998 — Bullet Rogan
      1999 52 Cyclone Joe Williams
      2000 25 Turkey Stearnes
      2001 — Hilton Smith
      2006 43 Mule Suttles
      2006 67 Christobal Torriente

      By putting 12 Negro Leaguers in his Top 100, James was by far the most generous of any ranker that I’ve run across.

      I’d like to know of other Top 100/200 lists that include Negro Leaguers.

      I’m curious what Joe does with the pre-1900 players. I predict Anson makes it, and no one else but Young & Old Hoss, but I’m just guessing.

      • Lawhamel says:

        Nice reply invitro. I had not cross-checked the Historical Abstract. Fun stuff. A couple of things jump out – how high Lloyd is and how low Wells is – at least based on what I have read about them. Not that Lloyd wasn’t great, but Wells seems ahead of his time in terms of power/speed/defense from the SS position.

        Also surprised at how high Turkey Stearnes is ranked. #25 is shockingly high to me. Can’t imagine him being ranked 25 and Monte Irvin be not ranked at all, in hindsight.

        Finally – and this may just be me – but the more I look into it, the more I am convinced at how underrated Biz Mackie is. Everyone ranks him the top D catcher in Negro League history (in a league that valued D at that position, with all the steals/small ball/etc) and there were lots of good D catchers (Frank Duncan, Luis Santop, Bruce Petway, etc). Campanella was his menthe, and always spoke of him in reverent tones.

        Anyway, this is all very interesting. . .

        • Lawhamel says:

          In a 1954 poll conducted by the Pittsburgh Courier, Mackey was voted the top Negro league catcher, ahead of Josh Gibson.

  12. Rudy Gamble says:

    One area where Snider was fortunate was that the Dodgers had a RH-heavy lineup during an era where managers adjusted their rotation to suit matchups. Snider had an astounding 7:1 ratio of PAS vs RHP/LHP. Eddie Mathews played in the same league/era and had a 7:2 ratio. BR doesn’t have full data on Musial but his ratio is closer to 2:1. Given Snider’s splits (eg, 33 HRs in 1170 PAs vs LHP), he would’ve fell well short of 400 HR/2000 hits if he faced LHP at a league-average rate.

    I don’t think this is the reason for his awful HOF vote totals (behind Enos Slaughter for a decade?!) but this should be noted when comparing to other players.

  13. AaronB says:

    Ok, Snider was a better player than Slaughter, but let’s not act like Slaughter’s vote totals were a crime. Slaughter had a career slash line of .300/.382/..453 for an OPS+ of 124. Slaughter lost 3 full years to the military. Based on how he’d done prior and the years after. Slaughter projects out to (conservatively) 2800 hits, 500 doubles, 160 triples, 200 HR’s, 1500 runs, 1500 RBI, & a bWAR of about 65, nearly identical to Snider’s.

    I also think that Mantle, at his peak, was a far better player than Mays. His blown out knee and personal demons shortened his career and thus cost him an overall better career than Mays. May’s grace and ability ultimately showed him to be a better player for the duration of his career and the one that is remembered as the better player today. a

  14. Rudy Gamble says:

    AaronB – agree on both points. Slaughter is still a marginal HOF at best while Snider had an incredible CF peak. Add in Snider played his prime in a bigger market than Slaughter (usually a boost) seems that writers had a bias against Snider.

  15. PS says:

    Can we retire the inaccurate notion that playing in a large market provides a significant edge in Hall of Fame voting?

    There are many factors that lead to deserving candidates being snubbed and undeserving candidates getting in. There isn’t much evidence that the size of the market they played in has had much impact.

    Gil Hodges, Steve Garvey, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Luis Tiant, David Cone, Keith Hernandez, Tommy John, Kevin Brown, Rick Reuschel, Bernie Williams, David Wells, John Franco, Harold Baines, Orel Hershiser, etc. did not exactly coast into the Hall of Fame.

    Duke Snider, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, etc. didn’t have the smoothest path to induction.

    Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, and Lee Smith haven’t had a ton of support.

    Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas are now on the ballot, and nobody is arguing that their candidacy hinges on their time in New York and Chicago.

    Voters aren’t going to line up to induct Carlos Beltran, Manny Ramirez, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi in the next several years just because of where they played.

    Smaller market players like Barry Larkin, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Kirby Puckett, Ralph Kiner, Roberto Alomar and Tony Perez somehow mustered up enough support to get inducted.

    This is not to say that everyone I have listed has an equal, or even comparable, Hall of Fame case. Some are overwhelmingly deserving, and some are not. The point is, the strength of their candidacy has little, if anything, to do with where they played.

    • invitro says:

      Well… I suppose the New York Giants have the most undeserved HoFers, right? If so, does this show up in studies of HoF voting by city/market size? I certainly agree with you though.

      • Doug says:

        I think the reason the Giants have the most undeserved HoFers has more to do with the fact that Frankie Frisch played for them, not with the fact that they played in a large market. I don’t think the NY Giants who were actually voted in by the writers were especially egregious; they just have a lot of really bad Veteran’s Committee inclusions, in large part because of Frisch’s committee’s inductions (and, to be fair, they also have some deserving VC inductions).

        The group of NY Giants (who played with the team for more than a couple seasons) voted in by the writers: Frisch, Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Hoyt Wilhelm. And obviously Mays played in NY for several years before the Giants moved. I don’t think that’s an especially bad group of players – I think Bill Terry is the only one who you could make an argument doesn’t belong.

        • invitro says:

          Oops… I should have thought only of the BBWAA voting of course. I’m curious now if the bad VC selections got a much higher BBWAA vote than they “deserved”. And I suppose Frisch’s influence was almost as much on ex-Cardinals as ex-Giants. But the bad VC picks continued at about the same rate after Frisch died… up to Mazeroski in 2001? Didn’t Bill Terry kind of take Frisch’s place after Frankie died in 1973? Yes, the VC has had lots of good selections, it just seems that their rate of good selections is quite a bit lower than should be considered professional or competent.

          Thanks for correcting me… of course I have no problem at all with any of the BBWAA’s NYG selections.

  16. Geoff says:

    I can’t seem to respond directly to the person who replied to my original post, so I’ll do so here. Including Molitor in my “locks” was just careless, and excluding Oh was an oversight. I think Oh is a lock and Molitor belongs in the Trammel/Jeter group of maybes. I also don’t think Brooks Robinson belongs, as I just don’t think there’s a real case for a guy with a 102 OPS+ among the 69 greatest players ever, even if he is the best defensive 3B ever. I don’t see anyone arguing for Keith Hernandez or Bill Mazeroski here.

    The big argument for Campanella is his three MVP’s, which are more a reflection of the voters of the time than they are of his greatness as a player. He debuted at 26, so you can give him extra credit for the first few years of his career (let’s call that 10 wins), but he was basically done when he had the accident, and even with the 10 wins he’d rank with the Joe Mauers and Thurman Munsons rather than at the top of the catchers list.

    As a Jewish kid from the UWS it pains me to say this, but Koufax is pretty clearly the most overrated player in baseball history. Sure, he was amazing at his peak, but when you make the proper adjustments his peak includes a pair of all-time great season, and a few other excellent ones. People generally think of him as having Pedro’s career, but he really had Johann Santana’s. I think he belongs in the HOF, but if he was going to be on this list he should have already been included.

    In any case, here’s what I have…

    Here’s what I think will be the remaining 69 players (alphabetically):

    Locks (64):
    Hank Aaron
    Pete Alexander
    Cap Anson
    Jeff Bagwell
    Ernie Banks
    Johnny Bench
    Bert Blyleven
    Wade Boggs
    Barry Bonds
    George Brett
    Rod Carew
    Steve Carlton
    Oscar Charleston
    Roger Clemens
    Roberto Clemente
    Ty Cobb
    Eddie Collins
    Joe DiMaggio
    Bob Feller
    Jimmy Foxx
    Lou Gehrig
    Charlie Gehringer
    Bob Gibson
    Josh Gibson
    Ken Griffey Jr.
    Lefty Grove
    Rickey Henderson
    Rogers Hornsby
    Chipper Jones
    Al Kaline
    Babe Ruth
    Randy Johnson
    Walter Johnson
    Al Kaline
    Nap Lajoie
    Greg Maddux
    Mickey Mantle
    Pedro Martinez
    Eddie Mathews
    Christy Mathewson
    Willie Mays
    Joe Morgan
    Stan Musial
    Sadaharu Oh
    Mel Ott
    Albert Pujols
    Kid Nichols
    Phil Niekro
    Mel Ott
    Satchel Paige
    Cal Ripken
    Frank Robinson
    Jackie Robinson
    Alex Rodriguez
    Pete Rose
    Mike Schmidt
    Tom Seaver
    Warren Spahn
    Tris Speaker
    Honus Wagner
    Ted Williams
    Carl Yastrzemski
    Cy Young
    Robin Yount

    Other possibilities (22):
    Roger Connor/Dan Brouthers/Ed Delehanty
    Gary Carter/Mike Piazza/Yogi Berra/Pudge Rodriguez/Roy Campanella
    Eddie Plank
    Tom Glavine/Mike Mussina
    Fergie Jenkins/Sandy Koufax
    Derek Jeter/Alan Trammel/Paul Molitor/Bobby Grich
    George Davis
    Frank Thomas/Jim Thome
    Tim Keefe/John Clarkson
    Reggie Jackson
    Pop Lloyd/Biz Mackey/Cristobal Torriente/Mule Suttles

    My choices: Carter, Piazza, Jenkins, Reggie, Davis

  17. Alejo says:

    Some players are like that, they are just too good to not be otherworldly.

    Mickey Mantle and Carlos Beltrán come to mind and even, if you allow me, Junior. I mean, yeah, he was indeed an accomplished, fantastic player, but I always kind of expected him to be ultra-galactic, Ruth and Mays rolled together hitting 800 home runs. I think he was slightly despondent sometimes; and he was irrelevant in Cincinnati for so long (not his fault).

    During my childhood days there was a centerfielder in Venezuela winter ball, his name was Raul Perez Tovar. To watch him was to watch a ballerina fielding a fly ball. Effortless, elegant, fluid. He never made the majors and was a source of sadness for everyone.

  18. John Gale says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure I buy your argument about Brooks Robinson (and I’m not an Orioles fan or anything–I’m just looking at what the numbers tell me). WAR isn’t everything, but he’s in the top 69 (65th) there. Mazeroski is 592nd, with less than half (36.1) of Robinson’s 78.4 WAR. And Keith Hernandez is 177th, with 60.1 WAR. Nobody is arguing for them because their cases (especially Mazeroski’s) aren’t as good as Robinson’s is. As for Robinson’s 104 career OPS+, I don’t really see the problem, given that Ozzie Smith and his 87 OPS+ made it at No. 77. And Robinson is arguably the best defensive *player* of all time, not just at third base. Maybe you could argue that Robinson doesn’t belong in the top 70, but I would be pretty surprised if he isn’t in the top 100, so I would anticipate seeing him in the next 10 entries. We’ll see.

    • Geoff says:

      I wasn’t arguing that Hernandez and Mazeroski were comparable to Robinson, just making the point that “best defensive player at his position” is not, in and of itself, a valid argument for ranking a player that high. Robinson was obviously a great player, and I probably should have included him among my “other” players. Having him in the top-69 sounds like a reach to me when you factor in how little faith we actually have in retroactively applied defensive metrics and all of the negro league guys that need to be included, but you can certainly make that case. I do think he belongs in the top 100, so given that he hasn’t been listed yet you’re probably correct in saying that he’ll be making an appearance fairly soon.

  19. Herb Smith says:

    Geoff, I think that you and John Gale are getting caught up in either semantics, or poor analogies. The proper comparison for Brooks Robinson isn’t “I’m Keith Hernandez” or Maz.
    It’s Ozzie Smith. And the Wizard made Poz’s list.

    Besides, there are other strong reasons for including Brooksie, which I’ll repeat here:

    1. Undisputedly, the greatest fielding 3rd baseman of all time.
    2. Very high career WAR (78.4), higher than many others already listed.
    3. 1964 AL MVP, 1970 World Series MVP, 18-time All-Star, 2 World Series wins
    4. Very popular; indeed, one of the very few truly *beloved* ballplayers
    5. Joe’s dad’s all-time favorite player

    He’s a lock.

  20. Geoff says:

    Yeah, I’m already convinced that Brooks will be on the list. A few things, though:

    *Reasons #1 and #2 are double counting. The argument is that he has a very high WAR. Being the greatest defensive 3B doesn’t get him extra credit, as it already accounts for half the reason his WAR is so high.

    *I put very little stock in #3 for a host of reasons that I’m sure readers of this blog know. Brooks DID deserve the 1964 MVP award, which is a strong point in his favor, but WS MVP is a pretty weak point (it’s five games), as is the All-Star appearances and WS wins (he played for some great teams).

    *#4 is the same as the All-Star appearances…a nice footnote, but not really relevant when you’re goal is to make a list of the “best” players.

    *#5 is also shouldn’t be relevant, but it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be a small factor. On the other hand, Joe’s favorite player is Duane Kuiper, and I’m not really expecting to see him on the list.

    One other note: While we generally compare players to their peers (correctly), we do dock players from the early days of baseball because we know that it was a very different game and because the level of play wasn’t nearly as high. Otherwise, the list would be filled with guys like Davis, Clarkson, Keefe, etc. Brooks played more recently, of course, but the thing that troubles me about statements like “(u)ndisputedly, the greatest fielding 3rd baseman of all time” is that they’re obviously not true in an objective sense. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every available Brooks Robinson highlight dozens of times, and they’re just not *that* impressive when you use today’s standards to evaluate them. You see Robinson-esque (or better) plays routinely now, and Manny Machado probably makes a play a week that Robinson could never have dreamed of making. As I said, this a little unfair since players should be judged against their own eras, but when the evidence is staring you in the face it seems a little silly to completely ignore it.

    • Wilbur says:

      Undoubtedly the greatest fielding third baseman of all time? A lot of people in the 60’s thought Clete Boyer was at least the equal of Brooks with the glove. I must confess I’m unfamiliar with the metrics of Brook’s fielding compared to others.

      Giving Brooks this title doesn’t rankle me, at least not like calling Joe DiMaggio “The Greatest Living Player”. He was at no point in his life the greatest living player, and I thought it unbecoming of him to insist upon being introduced that way.

    • Herb Smith says:

      I hate to admit it, but you’re correct on most of these points. Even the “greatest fielder ever to play the hot corner” is actually quite disputable; as Wilbur mentions below, even in his OWN PRIME, many considered the Yankees’ Boyer to be equal or superior to Brooks.

      Heck, maybe Brooks doesn’t make it. His longtime teammate Jim Palmer is another borderline candidate; because of his great fame, most folks aren’t aware of the fact that he’s up there with Koufax as far as being greatly, greatly helped by circumstances (his era, pitching for good/great teams, pitching in front of perhaps the best defense in history).

      At one point, Palmer had Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger on the left side of his infield, Bobby Grich at 2nd, and paul Blair in CF. I mean, come on.

  21. Chad Meisgeier says:

    Another great story, but the top 100 is so elite, that I have trouble including Duke.

    For my No. 70, I would suggest Jim Palmer (and I know that most would argue that is too low).

  22. Lawhamel says:

    Since we are into the 60’s with no Brooks, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him. I put him at #100 on my list and, while I think Ozzie Smith is the right comp – we saw The Wizard a long time ago on this list. BTW, I do not think Yount, Molitor, Phil Niekro or Bert Blyleven are locks. And I don’t think we’ll see Tim Keefe or George Davis, either. Fergie Jenkins is a tough pass, but not sure we will see him either.

  23. Geoff says:

    I feel good about Yount and Blyleven, and I already modified my take on Molitor, but there no friggin way Niekro gets left off this list. It surprised me, but he has the 33rd highest WAR of all time. He also deserved the Cy Young in ’78 and ’79. The reasons people don’t think of him as an all-time great are that he pitched for shitty teams and he was a knuckleballer, neither of which is likely to be lost on Joe. Niekro is basically the anti-Koufax. If you asked 1,000 baseball fans who was better, I think 999 of them would take Koufax, which is probably the wrong answer.

    • Wilbur says:

      It’s interesting: Koufax or Niekro?

      I believe you have have to rank them – and every other pair of players – separately. One ranking is by peak level. Koufax is the clear winner. The other is by career value. Niekro would win here.

      Unless one keeps these separate, you end up with a slurry of indistinct value, without anything approaching a satisfactory answer.

  24. Geoff says:

    I’m probably going to make some enemies by harping on this, but your post actually highlights the fundamental misperceptions of Koufax’s (and Niekro’s) career. I suspect you could get most serious fans to admit that if you compare their entire careers, Niekro has a case as a better pitcher, but that all of them would say that Koufax was obviously better at his peak. Here’s the problem: Koufax’s peak just isn’t *that* remarkable (or conversely, Niekro’s peak *was* pretty remarkable) once you make the proper adjustments, at least outside of his two best seasons. Here’s a little comparison to illustrate…

    Best Season
    Sandy: 10.7 WAR
    Phil: 10.0 WAR

    Best 2 Seasons
    Sandy: 21.0 WAR
    Phil: 18.9 WAR

    Best 3 Seasons
    Sandy: 29.1 WAR
    Phil: 26.7 WAR

    Best 4 Seasons
    Sandy: 36.5 WAR
    Phil: 34.3 WAR

    Best 5 Seasons:
    Sandy: 42.2 WAR
    Phil: 41.0 WAR

    Best 6 Seasons
    Sandy: 46.6 WAR
    Phil: 47.6 WAR

    Since that accounts for 95% of Koufax’s career value, Niekro obviously pulls away if you continue this exercise. It’s also worth mentioning that those six best seasons for Niekro were consecutive, so basically his 1974-1979 run was arguably MORE impressive than 1961-1966 Koufax. I suppose if you define peak incredibly narrowly (i.e., best two or three best seasons), you can argue that Koufax was better, but that’s a pretty big reach.

    It occurs to me as I do this that if Niekro had won one fewer game in 1985 and retired following that (age-46) season, he would have finished just shy of 300 and we’d have had the exact same fight we went through with Blyleven before he was finally inducted to the HOF. Amazing what a difference an extra 349 IP with an 84 ERA+ made to his candidacy. As it was, it still took five (!) years for him to get in.

  25. Steve says:

    “He played for the 1963 Mets for a year.”

    No man could have done more.

  26. Two points about Snider:

    1. Apparently he should have been CO-MVP with Campanella in 1955. He lost by five points but one writer had Campanella on his ballot twice — in first place and sixth place — and actually meant to put Snider first, which would have made it a tie. In the event, they tossed out the first place vote.

    2. Snider benefitted hugely from the fact that he was the only left-hand hitter in a lineup of right-handed power. Coming up behind him were Robinson, Campanella, Hodges, and Furillo. Right-handers would pitch around him, and there weren’t many top-drawer southpaws in the 1950s NL. Warren Spahn was the best of them but the Braves wouldn’t pitch him against the Dodgers. His record against them from 1953-56 was something like 0-3, and this was in an eight-team league when a pitcher might face another team eight times a year.

  27. Dave Poalillo says:

    I lived in New Jersey till I was 8 years old. I loved the Dodgers and idolized The Duke. I had a book published in 2010 called Growing Up A Dodger and talked about the years 1949 to 1957. Everybody always talks about how The Duke was lucky he played in Ebbets Field with the short right field screen. The home runs he hit did not travel just 297 feet, they went onto Bedford Avenue some 400 feet. Mays in the Polo Grounds hit to a left field of just 250 feet, Mantle hit to the short porch in Yankee Stadium just 297 feet but with a low wall. Every home run hitter had an advantage in each park they played in. Saying Snider could not hit lefties he hit a home run in the 3rd deck in Yankee Stadium off of Lefty Whitey Ford in the 1955 World Series and to straight away centerfield in the 1956 World Series off of lefty Tommy Burn. And you cannot refute the fact that he hit more home runs and had more rbis than anyone in the 1950s. Thats more than Mays, Mantle, Musial, Williams, Aaron etc etc. So I am sick and tired of people questioning his abilities. It took the writers 10 years to elect him to the Hall Of Fame. Duke even said in his book that he could not understand how he got more votes each year. He wasn’t playing any more so how did they judge.I can tell you thats why he wasn’t an MVP. The writers didn’t like him. He could have been MVP in 1953-1956 in any of those years. 40+ homers, 100+ rbis and 300+ batting average. Do you see what some of the hitters now who become MVP are hitting? Most not even close to The Duke. And some of you guys writing here spell his name Snyder. It’s Snider not Snyder. Do you spell Mickeys name Mantel? I hope this clears up some of the things said about The Duke. And don’t even put Carlos Beltrans name in the same sentence with him!

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