My Dad often called me Duke. However, it wasn’t after Duke Snider. He was more of a Yankee and Mickey Mantle fan. It was just an off shoot of my first name Doug.
Bill James had Snider as the sixth greatest Center Fielder, however at this time Ken Griffey’s career was only half way done and Mike Trout’s hadn’t started. So, I have no problem putting Snider 8th in Center Field. After Carlos Beltran in 9th it starts to get a little foggy.
There is a song, called Willie, Mickey and the Duke. It’s a great song, that goes nostalgic on three great center fielders playing in New York city through out the 1950s. This was when life in America and baseball was “innocent” and life was great unless you started to dig. And you don’t have to dig far. Any way it was great for New York to have three such great players at one time playing the same position and playing in the same city. Hey 60 years later I have them all ranked in the eight greatest Centerfielders in MLB history.
What gets me is some writers saying everyone argues about Mays and Mantle being greater, but Duke Snider hit the most homeruns and history and must be in the discussion. Well that is true. Snider his more homeruns then either Mays or Mantle in the 1950s and it isn’t that close. Snider hit 326, Mantle 280 and Mays 250.
Well that proves it Snider was greater than both of them. Not really. When we start looking closer, we get different answers. First of all, Mantle and Mays didn’t play in the majors until 1951. That was because they were still working their way to the majors. Mantle was 18 in 1950 and Mays was 19. Snider was 23 and was in his fourth major league season. He hit 31 that year. A nice head start.
Snider was great in the 1950s. From 1953 to 1957 he hit 40 or more home runs each year. That was 5 years in a row.
Let’s take Mantle and Mays one at a time. Mantle had only 9 years compared to Sniders 10. Snider average 32.6 homeruns per year and Mantle averaged 31.1 per year. It’s closer but Snider still had the most home per year. However, when I looked at his statistics it tied for his best 10-year streak. Snider hit 23 homeruns in both 1949 and 1959. In fact, Snider never his 20 homeruns in a season outside the 11-year period from 1949 to 1959. If we take Mantle’s next year, he hit 40. That gave him 320 homeruns for his first 10-year period. That gives him 32 homeruns a year as compared to 32.6 homers for Snider. However, if you think about Mantle being a 19-year-old rookie in 1951 we can see what Mantle did his 10 years in the 20s. Mantle had a great year in 1961 hitting 54 homeruns, 43 more than the 13 he hit in 1951. That gave him a total of 361 or an average of 36.1 a fair amount ahead of Snider’s 32.6 homers per year. Both players played 18 years Mantle had 14 years he hit 20 or more homers and Snider had 11. I have to go with Mantle here.
Well someone might say. Mays hit only 250 homeruns in the 1950s, so Snider was superior. However, Mays case is even easier than Mantle. After his first season, Mays had to go into the Army for a couple of years. It happened in those days. He played a couple of months in 1952 and not at all in 1953. So, I calculated Mays played 7.4 seasons in the 1950s. That comes to 33.8 homeruns a year for Mays. Also, in his early 30s in the early 1960s Mays had a five-year period where he hit 226 homeruns. So, Mays didn’t peak in the 1950s. In addition, Mays played 22 years and had 20 or more homeruns 17 times.