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Willie, Mickey and The Duke — Mantle Wins This Battle

SportsLiferCorrespondent IIMay 29, 2010

Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle was New York’s best center fielder in the mid 50s.

Baseball was king in New York in the early and mid 50s, before the Dodgers and Giants bolted for the West Coast.

In the eight years between 1949 and 1956, New York teams kept a stranglehold on the World Series. During that stretch, the Yankees won six World Series, the Dodgers and Giants one apiece. The Yankees won the American League pennant in 1957, before the departure of the Dodgers and Giants to California following the season.

From Manhattan to the Bronx to Brooklyn, from Westchester to Long Island to Jersey and beyond,fans argued the merits of their favorites throughout that golden era. And the most intense debates centered around New York’s three All-Star and future Hall of Fame center fielders — Willie Mays of the Giants, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Dodgers. Willie, Mickey, and the Duke

Who was the best?

If you’re talking about best all-time, Mays, fourth all-time with 660 home runs, gets my vote. LINK. But who was the best during the days when Willie, Mickey and the Duke roamed the pastures of the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, and Ebbets Field.

First, the criteria. Snider was five years older than Mays and Mantle, both of whom were rookies in 1951 and did not play full seasons. Due to military service, Mays missed all but 34 games in 1952 and the entire 1953 season.

So we’ll skip those years, and use these four seasons — 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 — for the comparison. In those four seasons, Willie, Mickey and the Duke combined for three MVPs, home run, RBI and batting championships including a Triple Crown, overall league leadership in 37 major categories, six pennants and three World Championships. Wow.

Here’s the breakdown:

Mays: 41 HR; 110 RBI, .345 BA. Led league in batting, triples (13), slugging (.667) and OPS (1.078). National League MVP, Giants beat Indians in World Series, 4-0, sparked by Mays Miracle Catch, above right, in Game one.
Mantle: 27 HR, 102 RBI, .300 BA. Led league with 129 runs. 15th in American League MVP balloting.
Snider: 40 HR, 130 RBI, .341 BA. Led league with 120 runs, 378 total bases. 4th in ML MVP.

Edge: Mays

Mays: 51 HR, 127 RBI, .319 BA. Led league in triples (13), home runs, slugging (.659), OPS (1.059) and total bases (382). 4th in NL MVP.
Mantle: 37 HR, 99 RBI, .306 BA. Led league in triples (11), home runs, walks (113), slugging (.611), OPS (1.042), 5th in AL MVP. Won AL pennant, lost to Brooklyn 4-3 in World Series
Snider: 42 HR, 136 RBI, .309 BA. Led league in runs (126) and RBIs. 2nd in NL MVP. Snider hits four homers, Dodgers beat Yankees in World Series 4-3 to win Brooklyn’s first and only championship.

Edge: Snider

Mays: 36 HR, 84 RBI, .296 BA. Led league in stolen bases (40). 17th in NL MVP.
Mantle: 52 HR, 130 RBI, .353 BA. Won Triple Crown, also led league in runs (132), slugging (.705), OPS (1.169) and total bases (376). AL MVP. Mantle homers three times, Yankees beat Dodgers, 4-3, to win World Series.
Snider: 43 HR, 99 RBI, .292 BA. Led league in HR, RBI, slugging (.598), OPS (.997). 10th in MVP. Won NL pennant, lost to Yankees 4-3 in World Series.

Edge: Mantle

Mays: 35 HR, 97 RBI, .333 BA. Led league in triples (20), stolen bases (38), slugging (.626). 4th in NL MVP
Mantle: 34 HR, 94 RBI, .365 BA. Led league in runs (121), walks (146). AL MVP. Yankees won AL pennant, lost to Braves 4-3 in World Series
Snider: 40 HR, 92 RBI, .274 BA. 18th in NL MVP, left.

Edge: Mantle

Clearly, Mantle gets the edge with his Triple Crown 1956 campaign, and American League MVPs in both 1956 and 1957.

Mays gets the nod in 1954, when he returned from the military, won the batting title, and was named National League MVP.

And Snider takes 1955 after leading the league in RBIs and finishing second to teammate Roy Campanella in the MVP race.

Three great centerfielders, four amazing years. Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

Talkin’ Baseball

By Terry Cashman

Now my old friend, The Bachelor,
Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid.
And Cookie played hooky,
To go and see the Duke.
And me, I always loved Willie Mays,
Those were the days!

Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
It was Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
I’m talkin’ Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Say Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)

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