Snider remembers great '55 season
Dodgers legend chats about championship team
Duke Snider, the biggest bat in the Brooklyn Dodgers' potent lineup of the 1950s, shared memories about the 1955 season and talked about his teammates on the championship team during a live Web chat on Tuesday.
jjr928: Hi Duke. Who in today's game do you like to watch play?
Duke Snider: Well, I don't get the opportunity to watch too many players play. I enjoy watching Mark Loretta with the Padres play. I think that he goes about his business about as well as anybody can. He plays the game hard and he's fundamentally sound and comes to the ballpark ready to play every day. That's what you look for. There are a lot of them in the league that way. One of the better hitters that I enjoy watching is Albert Pujols. He plays the game exceptionally well.
jjr928: What are your fondest recollections of the 1955 team? Does anything in particular stand out?
Snider: Actually, the fondest memories would be, of course, winning that final game against the Yankees, but the whole season was a fun season. There wasn't much pressure on us because we got off to a 22-2 start and doing that, basically, all we had to do was play at .500 ball or better to win the pennant. We clinched the pennant on Sept. 7 or thereabouts, the earliest it's ever been clinched.
Leah_Setaghian: Which teammate(s) did you learn the most from?
Snider: I think quite a few of my teammates I learned a lot from. Jackie Robinson would be one and Pee Wee Reese another. I think the way Gil Hodges played the game and got himself ready to play each game, it was a help to me. The way he handled certain situations. We had Carl Furillo, his competitiveness rubbed off. We had a lineup every year that was the same because you didn't go from team to team like they do now. We had one-year contracts and we stuck around because we were happy to be where we were.
Base_Ball_4: What was going through your head when you were inducted into the Hall of Fame with the Dodgers?
Snider: I was very happy and felt very fortunate to have been a part of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers organization. It was a treat to be a member of that team because we all got along and we had a good time together. We had some fine seasons. Some, we didn't win, but we still had very interesting seasons and a lot of fun. I remember quite a bit about the induction ceremonies. Al Kaline and I were inducted that day and he gave his acceptance speech first and it's quite an emotional thing. Sometimes, in the acceptance speeches, guys will break down a little bit. Al was talking about his mother and father and he broke down a little bit and I got tears in my eyes. I figured, if I'm like this when Al's talking about his Mom and Dad, what's going to happen to me? But fortunately I was able to get through it without showing too much of my emotions. The neat thing about it was Pete Rozelle was there with Commissioner (Bowie) Kuhn. Pete and I were teammates and schoolmates and he brought two of my former coaches back, one of them being his uncle Joe. It was really just a happy occasion with my whole family there. It was something to cherish. There were more important things that happened to me, as far as baseball was concerned, like the championships in 1955 and 1959, and many things happened that were more memorable than the Hall of Fame, but that was like the frosting on the cake.
Leah_Setaghian: Which of your teammates were you closest to?
Snider: I think we had a closeness, as far as our team was concerned, we had a very close-knit group, but there were a couple guys that I palled around with. I roomed with Carl Erskine for almost 10 years, since we had roommates back then. I ran around with Pee Wee quite a bit, riding to and from the ballpark with him. He helped me immensely in terms of becoming a better person and player. I could go down the line and talk about quite a few guys that I'd become good friends with and I'm still good friends with a few of them that are still around. It was a team. It wasn't a bunch of individuals going out and playing a game. I think one of the most interesting aspects, I asked Mr. McCourt why he took the names off the back of the uniforms and he said, "If you remember correctly, in Brooklyn, the name that was important was the name on the front of the uniform and that's what we're trying to instill in our fans here in Los Angeles." People knew who we were and knew what our numbers were, but of course we were together for a long time.
Base_Ball_4: Did you have any pregame rituals?
Snider: No, not really. We were pretty standard. We got to the ballpark early and sat around the clubhouse, talked baseball and would talk about the starting pitcher that was pitching against us that particular day. Then we stuck around the clubhouse after the game was over for several hours and talked about the game and tried to help ourselves improve. The camaraderie was there. As far as superstitions, I might have worn the same sweatshirt or something like that a couple days in a row if I had a good day, or if Bev made a steak dinner for me and I hit a home run, she'd run down to the butcher shop and get another steak for the next day. It was just looking forward to getting to the ballpark, putting a uniform on and going out to try and beat somebody.
Base_Ball_2: Is there a current player on the Dodgers, or on any other team, that reminds you of yourself?
Snider: It's very difficult to compare players playing the game today and playing the game years ago. I think Jim Edmonds plays center field somewhat like how I played center field, and I like to watch him play it. He gets a good jump on the ball and has good hands and knows what to do. He's in the game all the time. I enjoy watching him play on defense. He's a good hitter, too, but I like the way he plays center field. I like the way Barry Bonds hits. If the game is on TV and the Giants were on, I would always make sure I was around the television if he was going to play. He had and has such a beautiful swing and knows his strike zone, knows his pitchers exceptionally well and doesn't get fooled very often. It's fun to watch him hit. But overall, the game's changed quite a bit, with different bats, gloves, fields and all that. There's a pretty good difference between the eras in baseball.
jjr928: Who were your baseball idols growing up?
Snider: I just finished reading a book, "The Luckiest," about Lou Gehrig and learned a lot about him that I didn't know. We didn't have Major League Baseball in Southern California where I was growing up, but I saw a lot of Pacific Coast League players play. Gehrig was the one that I tried to keep up with most in the newspapers because of his consecutive-game streak and the way he played the game. I would get The Sporting News and read up on him. I was amazed, reading his book, about his physical build. He had tremendous thighs, about as big as some people's waists, from what the book says. He made some movies where he played as "Tarzan" and he was quite a guy. He put up some numbers that were unreal and played the game the way it was supposed to be played, day in and day out.
Base_Ball_2: Who were the toughest pitchers for you to hit?
Snider: Well, the toughest pitchers for me to hit were, at times, guys that I really didn't figure out as well as I did others or didn't see the ball as well when they threw it. Didn't pick up their pitches quite as quickly as you did against some of the others. I think the greatest pitcher I ever saw pitch was Sandy Koufax and fortunately I was his teammate. But one of the tougher pitchers I faced late in my career was Juan Marichal. He had four quality pitches from three different angles, which is like 12 different pitches. You couldn't zero in on what he was going to throw you or from where. There are other guys that got me out quite regularly, but Marichal wasn't a picnic to hit against and I've heard some Hall of Fame hitters say the same thing, so that's the guy I'd put on top after Koufax.
Base_Ball_4: What is the biggest difference between the players of your era and those that are playing today?
Snider: I think the difference is the money situation and five-year contracts and what-have-you. We had to do it every year in order to get a raise and some guys get a five-year contract now and don't turn it on until the fifth year. The game is somewhat the same, but money and the equipment and the playing conditions have gotten much better, there's no question about that. I never wanted to be a millionaire. I wanted to live like one. But the game's the same. You give it all you've got every day and play as a team, not as individuals. Individual numbers seem to be much more important now because of the money situation.
Base_Ball_3: What was your reaction to the New York fans' debate? Who was the best: Duke Snider, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle?
Snider: I think it was a media hype more than anything. The afternoon papers were comparing Mantle, Mays and myself and as I mentioned, I would have to say that I was very honored to be considered in that debate. But, the team aspect was the thing that we were concerned about. Not how many hits I got, Mantle got or Mays got. We had a lot of fun kidding each other. I had Mickey sign a picture and he said, "Duke, you were the greatest until I came along," We had a lot of fun. I've gotten to know Willie really well and he and I are buddies, too.
Jonathan_Ruiz: Did you listen to music before a game? If so, what kind?
Snider: No, we had a radio that was on our game station in Brooklyn that was on before the game and a lot of times there was music on, but we weren't particularly a music group. We had a record player in our dressing room in Brooklyn, too, and we'd play it every once in a while. We were more or less getting ourselves mentally prepared for the ballgame.
Philip_Lawton: Of all the great players on the Dodger teams of the era, who stands out as the most clutch, most dependable?
Snider: That's very difficult to single out one particular player. I'd have to break it into different categories. The most competitive would be Jackie Robinson. The most fun to be around probably would be Roy Campanella because he had a great sense of humor and he always had that quaint thing to say. The guy that I looked up to the most would be Pee Wee, because he was our captain and would help anybody out. You talk to anybody on one of those clubs and they'll be able to tell him how he helped them become a better player or a better person. Another guy that just handled the game of baseball that handled the game exceptionally well would be Gil Hodges. He was a trooper and he led by example. I don't know why he's not in the Hall of Fame. I feel that my peers aren't doing their homework and haven't voted him in yet.
Moderator: That's all we have time for today, but thank you all for taking part in today's chat. Be sure to come see Duke Snider and several of his 1955 teammates at this Sunday's game. Prior to first pitch, there will be a ceremony on the field honoring the 50th anniversary of this great world championship team.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.