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Remembering the Greatness of Duke Snider 5

Posted on February 27, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Duke Snider was a key part of the Boys of Summer.

One of the few remaining ties to the glory days of the Brooklyn Dodgers is gone with the death on Sunday of Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider at the age of 84.

Snider made his major league debut two days after his famous teammate Jackie Robinson on April 17, 1947  and over the next decade teamed with Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and others to form the famous “Boys of Summer.”

The Dodgers made six World Series appearances between 1947 and 1956 and in 1955 finally claimed the World Series title with a seven game series win over their regular nemesis the New York Yankees.

It was during that 1955 season that Snider reached his plateau as the leading slugger for the Dodgers. He finished second in the MVP voting while hitting .309 with 42 home runs and a career-high 136 RBI.

During the World Series, Snider hit .320 with four home runs and seven RBI. In six career World Series appearances, Snider hit .286 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI.

Baseball during the Golden Era of the 1950s was still a time when our heroes could be immortalized without fear that a drug scandal was on the horizon.

Known as the “Duke of Flatbush”, Snider was forever paired with fellow New York centerfielders of the 1950s Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in the “Talkin’ Baseball” refrain of “Willie, Mickey and the Duke.”

Because he was arguably the third best of the three greats, Snider often was overlooked and his numbers cast aside. It took him an amazing 11 years before he received enough votes to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry →

Don Larsen’s Perfect Game: My Uncle’s Tall Tale 3

Posted on October 08, 2010 by Andrew Jeromski

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen arrived in the clubhouse, and much to his alleged surprise, found a baseball tucked into one of his shined cleats. Placed there by pitching coach Jim Turner, the ball was the signal that Larsen would be the starting pitcher that afternoon–game five of the World Series.

Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history

What happened next was one of those magical moments in sports when the near-impossible, the utterly implausible is dragged into reality through little more than sheer force of will. Larsen set down 27 Brooklyn Dodgers in a row, and recorded the first perfect game and the first no-hitter in postseason history. His was the only such feat ever accomplished until 53 years and 363 days later, when Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy “Doc” Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in game one of the National League Divisional Series with an epic one-walk performance during a 4-0 win.

In the spirit of remembrance, I thought I would share with you a piece of family lore that concerns Larsen’s perfecto; but first, a little more background.

Charlie Manuel played for Billy Martin

Interestingly enough, when Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was a player, the only two managers he ever played for were Billy Martin (Min 69-72) and Walter Alston (LAD 74, 75), both of whom were present for Larsen’s perfect game. Alston, of course, as the Brooklyn Dodgers manager, and Martin as the Yankees starting second baseman that afternoon.

Larsen maintains to this day that he had no idea he was to start game five. The claim is a bit dubious simply because he was listed as the starter in most national newspapers that day, but former Yankee teammates like Bill “Moose” Skowron have backed his assertion.

“I still can’t believe the look he had on his face when he saw the ball,” said Skowron, “… shock or something.”

Larsen had performed poorly in game 2, lasting less than two innings and surrendering four runs on four walks, but his control didn’t desert him that way in game five. Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete his perfect game, a supremely economical performance.

“I had great control,” recalls Larsen, “I never had that kind of control in my life.”

“His stuff was good, good, good,” agreed hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra. “Anything I put down he put over.”

There were several close plays in the contest, and Larsen surely benefitted from luck to some extent, as must any pitcher who throws a perfect game.

Read the rest of this entry →

Great News For Baseball: Vin Scully Isn’t Done Yet 25

Posted on August 22, 2010 by Dean Hybl

After more than 60 years, Vin Scully still loves his job broadcasting baseball for the Dodgers.

When I heard this morning that Vin Scully had called a press conference for prior to today’s Los Angeles Dodgers game against the Cincinnati Reds, my heart sank. Could this be the end for the last of the legendary broadcasters from the golden era of baseball?

Fortunately, instead of announcing his retirement, Scully announced that he loves the game too much to walk away and will continue to broadcast at least through 2011.

Sometimes the great ones hang on too long and don’t know when it is time to walk away, but that couldn’t be further from the case for Scully. All you have to do is listen to a Scully broadcast to know that this is a man who truly loves what he does and that nobody does it better.

Just two nights ago, I listened mesmerized for more than an hour as Scully didn’t as much “call” the game between the Dodgers and Reds as he did tell the story of the game.

Unlike most broadcast booths that now include two people and include announcers who spend more time utilizing graphics and talking to each other instead of the audience, Scully works alone and I imagine broadcasts on television today much in the same way he did when he first started announcing games on the radio for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950.

When listening to Scully you can almost close your eyes and let his voice guide you through the game in a manner atypical of most modern television announcers. As he probably did 60 years ago, during the first game of a series Scully typically spells out the names of those players with unusual last names on the opposing team. Though fans today can simply go to the internet to find the live game box score, Scully still has one foot in an era when young boys sat at the radio scoring along with the broadcast. Read the rest of this entry →

Bobby Thomson’s Greatest Moment Will Live Forever 2

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Bobby Thomson raced around the bases and into baseball immortality with his pennant-winning home run in 1951.

One hundred and seventy five players in baseball history have hit more home runs than the 264 blasted by Bobby Thomson during his 15-year major league career. However, it is arguable that no one has ever hit a more memorable homer than his “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that lifted the New York Giants into the 1951 World Series.

Thomson passed away Monday at the age of 86 after a long illness, but his home run in the ninth inning of the final game of a three-game playoff between the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers will live on forever.

The 1951 National League playoff race was to its generation what the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox race was to fans 27 years later. The Dodgers led the Giants by 13 games on August 11th, only to watch the lead disintegrate over the final seven weeks as Brooklyn went 26-22 in their final 48 regular season games.

At the same time, the New York Giants went 37-7 after August 11th to catch the Dodgers and force a three-game playoff. Read the rest of this entry →

Why Isn’t Gil Hodges In The Baseball Hall of Fame? 10

Posted on July 24, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Few players are more deserving of Hall of Fame selection than Gil Hodges.

With a new class set for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, it provides another opportunity to ask the question of why baseball legend Gil Hodges does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.

It is very likely that many longtime baseball fans (and perhaps even some Hall of Fame voters) just assume that Hodges took his rightful place in Cooperstown decades ago. Because he passed away in 1972, Hodges’ omission does not receive the same annual publicity as that of other deserving candidates who are still living.

One of the famed “Boys of Summer” that led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six World Series appearances between 1947 and 1956, Hodges was the starting first baseman in an infield that included Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson at second base and Pee Wee Reese at shortstop.

Along with Duke Snider, Hodges served as a steady power threat and run producer for the Dodgers. Hodges drove in more than 100 runs for seven straight years between 1949 and 1955, including a career-high 130 RBIs in 1954. His 1,001 RBIs in the 1950s were the most in the National League during the decade.

Hodges eclipsed the 30 home run mark six times, including blasting 40 home runs in 1951 and 42 in 1954. He also scored more than 100 runs three times and had a season batting average above .300 twice.

A member of seven World Series teams during his entire tenure with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1947 (he did make a brief appearance for the Dodgers in 1943, but because of military service didn’t return to the majors until 1947) through 1961, Hodges often saved his best for the postseason. Read the rest of this entry →

Jackie Robinson Paved the Way 3

Posted on April 15, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947.

Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947.

It was 63 years ago today that Jackie Robinson played his first game as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The future Hall of Famer didn’t get a hit that afternoon, but his mere presence forever changed professional baseball and American society.

During his rookie season, Robinson hit .297 and was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

Despite being 28 years old at the time of his major league debut, Robinson played 10 seasons for the Dodgers and helped them reach the World Series six times and claim the World Series title in 1955. He had a career batting average of .311 and was named the NL MVP in 1949.

In honor of Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball, we are including several Youtube videos that celebrate his greatness both as a baseball player and as the man who paved the way for baseball to truly become the American pastime.

Read the rest of this entry →

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