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.” And 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 RBIs 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 RBIs. 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, Tracey 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 sever 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 8/7/63 saw a lot.
The SportsLifer countdown of momentous events attended continues this week with the fourth installment, numbers 11-20. Baseball dominates the top 50 more than any other sport, and this segment includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.
We’ll conclude next week with the SportsLifer Top Ten. Don’t miss it.
And readers, it would be great to hear your own lists.
20. Yankees hit 8 home runs to equal team record for one game, beat White Sox 16-3, Yankee Stadium, 2007
19. Yankees and Tigers play to 3-3, 19-inning tie, second game of twi-night doubleheader, 1968
18. Rockies outscore Dodgers 16-15, 10 home runs, Eric Young steals 6 bases, Coors Field, 1996
17. Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk brawl at home plate, Red Sox edge Yankees 3-2, Fenway Park, 1973
16. El Duque Hernandez tames Padres 9-3, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada homer, game 2, 1998 World Series
15. Roger Clemens beats Cardinals 5-2 for 300th win, also gets 4,000th career strikeout, 2003
14. Follow Tiger Woods, others, at first round of U.S. Open Golf tournament, Winged Foot, 2006
13. Dolphins defeat Patriots 16-13 in overtime at Miami’s Orange Bowl on night John Lennon is shot, 1980
12. Outfielder Jim Hickman hits for natural cycle for Mets who defeat Cardinals 7-3 at Polo Grounds, 1963
11. Giants’ Barry Bonds hits home run #756, breaks Hank Aaron’s record, San Francisco, 2007
Ran a press conference on IBM scouting technology called “Advance Scout” at NBA All-Star game in Oakland, 2000
First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.
Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.
Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.
The cycle and the no-hitter are strange baseball companions, like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, “The Odd Couple.”
Throughout baseball history, there have been 276 occurrences (30 before the turn of the 20th Century where batters have hit for the cycle — single, double, triple, home run — in the same game.
Over the same period, there have been 255 no-hitters (42 before the turn of the century). Of those no-hitters, only 17 were perfect games, 15 since 1900. Cy Young and Sandy Koufax are in this exclusive club
A natural cycle — single, double, triple and home run in order — is even more unusual than a perfect game. Only 14 batters in major league history have gone for the natural cycle, including Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri, (right) Charlie Gehringer and Billy Williams
Lazzeri is the only player ever to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam on June 3, 1932. However, this achievement was overshadowed by his popular Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig, who picked that same day to become the first player in the American League to hit four home runs in the same game. But the headlines the next day went to New York Giants manager John McGraw, who decided to announce his retirement after a 31-year career.
Personal Note: I’ve been lucky enough to witness both a natural cycle and a perfect game. Jim Hickman (left) did the honors for the Mets in 1963 in a game against the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. And Yankees left-hander David Wells threw a perfect game against the Twins in 1998, 27 men up, 27 men down, baseball immortality.