The Duke of Flushing

I never covered Duke Snider. The Dodgers had gone West long before I had a BBWAA card and access to a big league clubhouse. But I had learned to make two subway transfers to get from the Bronx to Flatbush when tokens still cost 15 cents, all quite unbeknownst to my parents. So the Duke hardly was unfamiliar to my eyes before O’Malley’s betrayal.

I didn’t meet Duke until he was working Expos telecasts in the 70’s and I was covering the Mets in Montreal. Years later, after getting to know him a bit — he was quite the gentleman — I posed some questions to him, including this one: “What was your best day as a member of the Mets?” He had played with them in 1963, after his skills had waned and well before they became a reasonable facsimile of big league team.

He immediately spoke of a Mets game played on this date at the late and unlamented Polo Grounds. The Duke had hit two home runs, No. 393 and 394 in his career, and driven in the Mets’ three runs. But — no surprise here — the Mets had lost. Still, it was a rewarding day for their No. 3 hitter and left fielder for he had done the damage against the Giants.

Snider had spent his 16 Dodgers seasons hating the Giants, so much so that he claimed the Dodgers had a group aversion to Halloween because the colors of the day of ghosts and goblins matched those of the Giants. Those feelings hadn’t faded much by the time he hit two off starter Jack Fisher.

He never had another multi-home run game in his career. “But at least my last big day came against them,” he said.

Snider had two more three-RBI games that year, the second in San Francisco.

He hit one more homer in San Francisco the following year after he had left the Mets.  He was a member of the Giants, wearing black and orange, July 4 when he hit a two-run home run off Jim Bunning. “I remember it,” Snider said some 20 years later. “That was the last one of my career.” He paused and smiled. “But it was for the Giants. We don’t talk much about that one.”

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