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Duke Snider 1926--2011

Hall of Fame centerfielder Duke Snider died Sunday at age 84 of natural causes in Escondido, Calif. An eight-time All-Star—and a key figure in Roger Kahn's heralded book The Boys of Summer—Snider (above) starred on six pennant winners and two World Series champions in his 16 years with the Dodgers, while hitting at least 40 home runs in five consecutive seasons, from 1953 to '57. Snider was a clutch lefthanded slugger who twice hit four homers in a Series, including in '55, when he led the Dodgers to their only championship in Brooklyn, batting .320 and adding seven RBIs in a seven-game win over the Yankees. (A year later he narrowly missed breaking up Don Larsen's perfect game in a Series loss to the Yankees when his near home run blast landed barely foul in the rightfield stands.) Often overshadowed in New York by fellow centerfielders Willie Mays of the Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees—in an era captured in Terry Cashman's '81 song, Talkin' Baseball—Snider masked any bitterness that he might have felt, even when, in '55, he lost the MVP award to teammate Roy Campanella, supposedly due to a voter's mistake.

Born Edwin Donald Snider, the unassuming Duke got his nickname from his father for a swagger he displayed at an early age. But the Duke, considered by many to be the greatest Dodger (he still leads the franchise with 389 homers and 1,271 RBIs), lost some of his strut when the team moved west to his hometown of Los Angeles in '58, as knee problems and a deep porch in right, 440 feet from home plate, slowed his production. Snider finished his career in '64 at age 38 after playing single seasons for the Mets, back in New York, and the Giants, in San Francisco. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in '80 and followed his playing career with stints as a minor league manager with the Dodgers and as a broadcaster in San Diego and Montreal, where he was also a hitting coach.