Baseball

The Duke is dead at 84

To his mother, he was Ed. To everyone else, he was "The Duke of Flatbush" - revered by a borough of baseball fans and forever remembered in a song that romanticized a most golden era.

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.

Snider died at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif., according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which announced the death on behalf of the family. Snider had been ill for months.

Snider hit .295 with 407 career home runs, played in the World Series six times and won two titles.

But the eight-time All-Star was defined by much more than his stats – he was, after all, part of the love affair between Brooklyn and “Dem Bums” who lived in the local neighborhoods.

Ebbets Field was filled with stars such as Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges during that 1955 championship season. Yet it is Snider’s name that refrains in “Talkin’ Baseball.”

“Willie, Mickey, and the Duke,” goes the popular ballpark song, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

Snider wore No. 4 in Dodgers 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.

“Duke was a fine man, a terrific hitter and a great friend, even though he was a Dodger,” Mays said in a statement.

Mantle died in 1995 at age 63. Mays, now 79, threw out a ceremonial ball last fall before a playoff game in San Francisco.

“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,” former teammate Don Zimmer said. “But Duke was a great outfielder. He was a great player.”

Snider is the Dodgers’ franchise leader in home runs (389) and RBI (1,271). He led all major leaguers in the 1950s with 326 homers and 1,031 RBI.

SHORT HOPS

Indians Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller was honored Sunday before the Indians opened their exhibition season with a 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, Ariz. Feller died in December at the age of 92. Philadelphia Phillies All-Star second baseman Chase Utley has patella tendinitis in his right knee and missed his second straight game Sunday. Cleveland right fielder Shin-Soo Choo sat out the Indians’ spring opener to rest his left elbow, which flared up recently. Miguel Cabrera will be in the Detroit Tigers’ lineup for the first time this spring as a designated hitter in today’s exhibition game against the New York Yankees in Lakeland, Fla.

Greg Goossen, a former catcher who played six seasons in the majors, then dabbled as a boxing trainer and was a stand-in for actor Gene Hackman in more than a dozen films, was found dead Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 65. Goossen batted .309 in 52 games with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

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