Duke Snider's Passing Recalls a Hot Day with Mets at the Polo Grounds

SportsLifer@sportsliferCorrespondent IIFebruary 28, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  A picture of Duke Snider is displayed on the stadium scoreboard in honor of his life during the game bewteeen the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

With the passing of Duke Snider, now only Willie Mays survives from the great triumvirate that patrolled center field in New York in the 1950s—and the Boys of Summer are down a man.

In his New York Times obituary, Edwin Donald Snider’s career was summed up this way: “Playing for 18 seasons, he had 407 home runs, 2,116 hits, batted at least .300 seven times, had a lifetime batting average of .295 and was generally among the league leaders in runs batted in and runs scored.” He was renowned for his superb defensive play as well.

The Duke will always be known as a Dodger—he spent a combined 16 years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. But Snider was purchased by the Mets for $40,000 in 1963, played one season in New York and finished his career with the San Francisco Giants in 1964.

Through the information found on sources like Baseball Reference and Retrosheet, the  SportsLifer (in 1963 a SportsKid) was able to determine that he saw Snider play once, on a sticky, hot summer afternoon in New York.

The Duke was a Met then, batting cleanup and playing right field, when the Metropolitans hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at the old Polo Grounds in Manhattan.


Hickman’s Natural Cycle

That was the same game where Jim Hickman hit for the only natural cycle in Mets history, powering them to a 7-3 victory. Snider had a big day that afternoon as well, with three singles and a pair of RBI in four at-bats.

The Duke spent just one season with the Mets but collected both both his 400th homer and 2,000th hit in a Met uniform.

Clearly near the end, he hit just .243 in 1965 with 14 homers and 45 RBI. Several other players—some famous, some not so famous—appeared in that Mets-Cards game on August 7, 1963.

Stan Musial, playing in his final season, pinch-hit for Dal Maxvill in the eighth inning and grounded to first base.

Ernie Broglio started the game and was the losing pitcher for the Cardinals. The following June, he was traded to the Cubs for Lou Brock.


Broglio Traded for Brock

That trade would propel the Cards to a World Series victory over the Yankees in 1964. Bill White, Ken Boyer and Tim McCarver, mainstays on that 1964 club, all played in the Polo Grounds that day.

Broglio was relieved by Lew Burdette, who beat the Yankees three times to lead the Milwaukee Braves to a World Series win against the Yankees in 1957.

For the Mets, Tracy Stallard pitched a complete game and got the win. That’s right—the same Tracy Stallard who surrendered Roger Maris’ 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season.

The Mets lineup featured seven originals—including catcher Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman and Frank Thomas—along with rookie second baseman Ron Hunt. Hunt was once hit by 50 pitches in a single season and led the National League in HBPs for seven straight seasons.

You never know what you’re going to see when you go to the ballpark, right kid? The 9,977 fans who showed up at the Polo Grounds on August 7, 1963 saw a lot.