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Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Mantle’

Duke Snider’s Hall of Fame baseball career is ably defined by the statistics he compiled. However, it is his position as an ironic focal point in literature and song that have made his legacy even more enduring.

The book, of course, is Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer”, which is more a story about the individuals on the early-1950s Dodgers than the team itself. In many ways, Kahn’s book, with its focus on the 1952 and 1953 seasons (the years he covered the team for the New York Herald Tribune) and often melancholy tone, permanently stamped those great Brooklyn teams as a hard luck lot whose failures are trumpeted ahead of their successes.

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!” – Lyrics from Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball”

In 1981, songwriter Terry Cashman (known as Dennis Minogue when he was a pitcher in the Tigers’ farm system) wrote a baseball anthem that was called “Talkin’ Baseball”, but became better known by the thematic line that gave resonance to the song: “Willie, Mickey and the Duke”. Although Snider’s inclusion with the two immortals might seem like a nice tribute, the constant comparison was probably more of a curse. As great as Snider was during his career, the shadow cast by the two brighter stars in New York’s centerfield trinity was immense. As a result, Snider, like many of the teams for which he played, was often relegated to being an “also ran” just because he had the misfortune of playing the same position at the same time and in the same city as two of the game’s greatest players. Undoubtedly, that constant unfavorable comparison contributed to Snider having to wait 11 years before finally being inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Even though his career didn’t quite measure up to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, Snider still has a whole host of accomplishments that make him worthy of being mentioned along side those greats. His performance in the 1955 World Series is a shining example. In that series, Snider belted four homeruns, knocked in seven and had an OPS of 1.210, helping the Dodgers finally overcome the Yankees, the perpetual hurdle that prevented the franchise from winning the World Series in five prior attempts. It should also be pointed out that Snider’s 1955 series performance may not have even been his best. In the 1952 World Series, he also had four homers with one more RBI and a higher OPS of 1.215, but the Dodgers lost a tough game seven to the Yankees.

If the good burghers of Brooklyn are pinching themselves with unaccustomed violence this morning, they need do so no longer. It wasn’t a dream folks. Implausible though it may seem, the Dodgers won the world championship for the first time in their history yesterday. Honest, injun. It really did happen.” – Arthur Daley, New York Times, October 5, 1955

As my tribute to the Duke, his postseason numbers are presented alongside Mays and Mantle (including a head-to-head comparison with the latter). At least in this one respect, Snider didn’t take a backseat to his more acclaimed centerfield counterpart.

Willie and Mickey versus the Duke, Relative Postseason Performance

Player G PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Willie 25 99 12 1 10 0.247 0.323 0.337 0.660
Mickey 65 273 42 18 40 0.257 0.374 0.535 0.908
The Duke 36 149 21 11 26 0.286 0.351 0.594 0.945

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Snider versus Mantle, Head-to-Head

Year Player G PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1952 Mantle 7 32 5 2 3 0.345 0.406 0.655 1.061
1952 Snider 7 31 5 4 8 0.345 0.387 0.828 1.215
                     
1953 Mantle 6 27 3 2 7 0.208 0.296 0.458 0.755
1953 Snider 6 27 3 1 5 0.320 0.370 0.560 0.930
                     
1955 Mantle 3 10 1 1 1 0.200 0.200 0.500 0.700
1955 Snider 7 28 5 4 7 0.320 0.370 0.840 1.210
                     
1956 Mantle 7 30 6 3 4 0.250 0.400 0.667 1.067
1956 Snider 7 30 5 1 4 0.304 0.433 0.478 0.912

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

Usually, when one thinks of a podium in the Bronx, it’s there to say hello to a new million dollar acquisition. This time, however, the media hordes were assembled to say goodbye to one of the team’s all-time greats. That’s why, as Andy Pettitte answered questions about his decision to retire, the proceedings took on somewhat of a surreal feeling. After all, if Pettitte was healthy enough to pitch, capable of performing at a high level (his ERA+ of 130 was the fourth highest in his career), and greatly needed by the Yankees, why exactly was he walking away?

As expected, Pettitte’s reasons for retiring centered on his family. According to the lefty, his heart simply wasn’t into returning because the other aspects of his life were pulling on its strings. Considering that Pettitte’s heart has always been in the right place (although Yankees’ fans might not like where it is now), his reasoning was perfectly understandable. And yet, it is still hard to imagine a great player voluntary walking away from the game when he still has the ability to perform.

Andy Pettitte and wife Laura field questions at press conference announcing his retirement (Photo: Getty Images).

At the beginning of the proceedings, Jason Zillo, the Yankees director of media relations, made an interesting comment about Pettitte’s press conference being a unique event in his 15-year tenure with the team (which is almost as long as Pettitte’s). In fact, the validity of the comment extends well beyond Zillo’s time in the Bronx. Despite having scores of superstar players who spent the bulk of their careers with the team, the Yankees have not hosted many press conferences to announce the retirement of a legendary figure.

Since 1901, the Yankees have had 22 position players (minimum 1,000 games) and 10 pitchers (minimum 200 games started or 400 games) compile a WAR greater than 30 during their time in pinstripes. However, from that illustrious group, only three have had a formal press conference to say goodbye on their own terms: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and now Andy Pettitte.

When the Yankees faced the Dodgers in the 1952 World Series, Joe DiMaggio was sitting in the bleachers instead of playing centerfield (Photo: Life)

Like Pettitte, DiMaggio had been hinting at retirement for some time before eventually making his final decision. During the course of his injury plagued career, Joltin’ Joe would often hint at walking away, but he finally formalized his intentions during the spring of 1951. Despite the dramatic announcement, not too many people expected DiMaggio to actually retire, and the doubts lingered even after he had a subpar year by his standards (OPS+ of 115 in 482 plate appearances). However, after winning the World Series against the cross-town Giants, DiMaggio again told reporters that he probably wouldn’t be back in 1952. Most people still shrugged off the statement, and even Yankees’ owner Dan Topping didn’t seem convinced, telling DiMaggio, “you might feel differently a month from now”. Almost 60 years later, Cashman would be telling Pettitte the same thing.

When baseball is no longer fun, it is no longer a game and so I’ve played my last game of ball.” – Joe DiMaggio, quoted by UP at his retirement press conference, December 11, 1951

As things turned out, DiMaggio was serious. On December 11, 1951, Joltin’ Joe assembled the media and officially retired from the game, much the same way that Pettitte did this morning. At the time, however, such an event was unheard of. “The press conference in which Joe announced his retirement was without precedent in size and confusion,” stated The Sporting News’ Dan Daniel. “The writers were far outnumbered by the newsreel, radio and TV specialists. The sandwiches, coffee and cheese cake had to be replenished thrice.”

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