'The Duke of Flatbush' was Brooklyn favorite

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Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielder for the charmed "Boys of Summer" who helped the Dodgers bring their elusive and only World Series crown to Brooklyn, died Sunday. He was 84.

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Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider died on Sunday. He was 84. Snider led the Brooklyn Dodgers to the 1955 title.   AP Photo
AP Photo
Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider died on Sunday. He was 84. Snider led the Brooklyn Dodgers to the 1955 title.

Snider died at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif., said the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which announced the death on behalf of the family. The family said he died of natural causes.

"The Duke of Flatbush" hit .295 with 407 career home runs, played in the World Series six times and won two titles.

Snider's name that refrains in the ballpark favorite Talkin' Baseball .

"Willie, Mickey, and the Duke," the popular song goes.

Snider wore No. 4 in Dodger blue and was often regarded as the third-best center fielder in New York -- behind Willie Mays of the Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees -- during what many fans considered the city's golden era of baseball.

"The newspapers compared Willie, Mickey and I, and that was their thing," Snider said several years ago. "As a team, we competed with the Giants, and we faced the Yankees in the World Series. So we had a rivalry as a team, that was it. It was an honor to be compared to them, they were both great players."

Hall of Famer Willie McCovey called Snider one of his favorite players growing up.

"He's just a first-class guy, that's all," McCovey told The Associated Press by phone. "A great power hitter and center fielder. Mays, Mantle and Snider, in New York people used to compare the three."

Orlando Cepeda, also a Hall of Famer with the Giants, said Snider gave him one of his biggest thrills when he broke into the majors in 1958.

"When I came to first base, the opening game, he said to me, 'Orlando, good luck, good luck,' " Cepeda told the AP. "He was one of my idols. I almost fainted."

Snider hit at least 40 home runs in five consecutive seasons and led the NL in total bases three times.

Snider hit .309 with 42 home runs and a career-high 136 RBI in 1955. That October, he hit four homers, drove in seven runs and hit .320 as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in a seven-game World Series.

What they're saying

"Willie, Duke and Mickey. They were great players in one city, one town. Duke never got the credit of being the outfielder that Mays and Mantle were. First of all, it was a small ballpark, Ebbetts Field. But Duke was a great outfielder." -- former teammate Don Zimmer.

"Along with hundreds of thousands of other kids growing up in Brooklyn, Duke Snider was one of my idols. He really was one of us. As a 21-year-old rookie, he lived on my block and often would join us in games of stickball on his way home from his day job as the Dodgers center fielder. ... With news of his passing, I really stop and think, 'Where have all the years gone?' " -- White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf


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