Carl Erskine Recalls Duke Snider
By Ted Reed
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Carl Erskine, among the last living members of the iconic Brooklyn Dodger teams of the 1950s, remembers Duke Snider as "a player who brought royalty to Brooklyn" and also as "a brother."
Snider and Erskine were born three months apart in 1926. Snider joined the Dodgers in 1947, and Erskine joined in 1948. Both bounced between the majors and the minors in their earliest years. On the Dodgers, they were roommates for ten years.
Snider "had this class about him, just like Joe DiMaggio did," Erskine recalled on Sunday, the day Snider died at 84. "He had a grace, whether he was hitting or making a catch. And he had the greatest name for Brooklyn, 'Duke.' It was Mickey Mantle uptown with the Yankees, Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds and Duke at Ebbets Field." Snider was often referred to as "the Duke of Flatbush."
"Ebbets Field was small, so Duke didn't have the space to run down hard-hit balls, and he didn't get a lot of credit for his fielding," Erskine said. "He made some fantastic catches, but he got overshadowed, at least during his playing days. As time passed, people saw that he played on a half dozen National League championship teams, and they recognized that he had a tremendous career."
The song Talkin' Baseball, with the famous line about "Willie, Mickey and The Duke," was released in 1981 and underscored the similar merits of the three New York center fielders. Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Of the six key regular players on the Brooklyn Dodger teams of the 1950s, Snider was the last to die. Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Carl Furillo all preceded him in death. Two of the most famous pitchers from the team, Erskine and Don Newcombe, survive. Together, the players won six of 10 National League pennants from 1947 to 1956. Moreover, they went to the last day of the season in both 1950 and 1951, losing pennant-deciding games to the Phillies and Giants, respectively.