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There Was A Time

 

For a very brief shining moment in New York City, four of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game were playing for New York teams.

All of them had nicknames. One was “The Yankee Clipper”, another was known as the “Commerce Comet”. Then there was the “Duke of Flatbush”, and “The Say-Hey Kid.”

Three were young, and one was entering his last season. All would end up in the Hall of Fame. And between them they played on 19 World Series Championship Teams.

They hit a combined 1964 home runs. They patrolled center field with grace and speed, they set records, a couple will never be broken, and they exhibited some of the best baseball that has ever been seen.

They were as different as they could be. One was from a small town in Oklahoma, another from a small town in Alabama. One was from Compton, California, and the other was the son of Italian immigrants who made their home in a small town in Northern California, Martinez.

Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Willie Mays. I was privileged enough to see three of them play. I missed DiMaggio. But I have seen a lot of films and everything he did looked so effortless.

These four players are one of the reasons I am so old school when it comes to certain aspects of major league baseball.

Mays was a true 5-tool player. He was from a small town in Alabama. He would make it to the major leagues in 1951. Prior to that, he played for the Baltimore Black Barons when he was 17 in 1948. After a tough start to the season, Mays went down to Minneapolis, and when recalled, he had a nice rookie season with a .274/20/68 line, good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors.

Mantle, The Commerce Comet from Oklahoma, stepped into a legends spikes. DiMaggio was in his last season as a Yankee. He was 36 years old and slowing down. The long seasons were finally taking their toll. He would hit only .263 in 51. Only the second time in his 13 year career that he batted under .300.

Everyone always talks about the 5 years that Ted Williams missed because of two wars. DiMaggio missed three of his prime years in WWII. He went in when he was 27 years old, and came back when he was 31. If you take what he averaged over his career and multiply it three times, he would have had 102 more homers, (463), 429 more RBI’s, (1966) and 621 more hits, (2835). Impressive.

Mantle joined the Yankees at the tender age of 19. With him came huge expectations. He was supposed to be the next Babe Ruth. In some ways, this prevented him from being just Mickey Mantle. And Mickey Mantle was a special talent.

Power from both sides of the plate, speed, the ability to run down pitchers’ mistakes with grace and ease. He also was a 5-tool player. His rookie campaign was decent, he played in 96 games, but he really blossomed the next season in 1952.

He hit .311, made his first All-Star team and was third in the MVP voting. What is amazing is that he did this with a knee that hurt him constantly.

In game 2 of the 1951 World Series against the Giants, Mantle was playing right field. DiMaggio was in center. Willie Mays ripped a ball into right-center field and Mantle and DiMaggio raced after the ball. DiMaggio called for it and made the catch, Mantle, attempting to avoid Joe, tripped over an exposed drain pipe  and tore up his knee.

He would never play another pain free game in his career. But he was on his way. He would garner 3 MVP awards during his 18 year career with the Yankees. Numerous injuries kept him from playing more than he did. Subpar years the last four seasons he played, lowered his career average below .300. But he still slugged 536 homers and drove in 1509.

He also slugged 18 home runs in World Series play. All of the postseason stats are grouped together now. But Mantle still has the most World Series home run record.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the Dodgers had their own fleet footed sure handed center fielder. Edwin Donald Snider, better known as Duke. The Compton California native made it to Brooklyn in 1947. He was 20 years old. His first couple of seasons, Snider struggled to make consistent contact and had little knowledge of the strike zone.

To fix this, Branch Rickey made his young outfielder stand in the batters box and call pitches without swinging a bat. This exercise would soon pay off as Duke became one of the more feared hitters in the National League.

And he was surrounded by talent. Snider usually  hit 3rd in the lineup behind Pee Wee Reese, and  whoever was hitting second. Jackie hit cleanup and was followed by Campy, Hodges and Furillo. He was the only left handed threat in the lineup.

Duke helped the Dodgers to 7 pennants. Six of those in Brooklyn. And they won only in 1955. Duke hit four homers in a World Series twice. Still the only player ever to do that. Duke also had five seasons, 1953-57 with 40 or more homers. The only Dodger hitter to ever accomplish that.

Duke finished with 407 homers. He still is the Dodger career leader with 389. Second is Gil Hodges with 361. Far more than LA leader Eric Karros who hit 270.

A couple of things kept Duke from getting closer to 500. One, the team moved out of friendly Ebbets Field to the cavernous LA Coliseum. And in 1958, Duke injured his elbow trying to throw a baseball out of the Coliseum. He also started having knee troubles that cut into his playing time.

Mays, DiMaggio and Mantle, were all elected to the Hall on their first ballot. Duke was voted in on his 11th try. Which kind of tells me that he was underappreciated by the writers of the time. He was clearly one of the best of his era. So there they are, the four New York outfielders who set records and thrilled fans for a long long time.

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Jeff Dominique

I guess that leash for Trayce Thompson got a lot longer. Have a night Trayce.

Dionysus

3 is the magic number

Bumsrap

If the combined leashes of Thompson, Outman, Heyward, Peralta, and Taylor remain the same length then one of them, maybe more, now have shorter leashes.

Is Betts now the 4th outfielder?

As I remember, Duke was in 2 car accidents and hurt his knees in both. And, both might have happened after the team curfew. I was always a little mad about those accidents because they held him back from being better.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bumsrap
Bumsrap

Wet leather leash?

OhioDodger

Wow!! Awesome post Bear. Must have been a great time to be a baseball fan. Especially in NY.

Oldbear48

Thanks. I am thankful I got to see them play. Mays is still the player I saw that I consider the best player I have ever seen. Willie could do it all.

OhioDodger

Only saw Mays and Mantle on TV at the tail end of their careers. Too yound to have seen DiMaggio, Williams, and Musial.

Jeff Dominique

MiLB Summary:

The OKC Dodgers got a walk off win to even the series at 1 apiece against the Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle). Matt Andriese returned as a starter after more than 2 years, and while the game did not go as well as he hoped, he did grind it out to keep them in the game. In his 4.0 IP, he allowed 3 runs, 8 hits, 4 BB and 2K. 

With OKC up 4-3, Nick Robertson relieved Andriese and offered up a game tying HR to the first batter he faced, Mike Ford. But that was all. He retired the next 6 batters he faced, striking out 4.

Tayler Scott did not allow a run even while surrendering 3 hits and a BB in his 1.0 IP.

Adam Kolarek gave up the go ahead run in the 8th with 2 hits and 2 BB in his 1.0 IP.

OKC tied the game in the 8th, and Wander Suero relieved Kolarek and pitched 2.0 scoreless innings. With the score tied at 5 each in the 10th and a runner on 2nd. He worked around a BB and infield single to keep Tacoma from scoring.

Offensively, down 2-0 in the 3rd, OKC opened with a Bradley Zimmer single. Jahmai Jones drew a BB, and Patrick Mazeika moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd with a productive fielder’s choice out. Drew Avans got OKC on the board with a sac fly, and Michael Busch singled home Jones. Luke Williams hit his 2nd triple of the season to push Busch across to take a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the 4th with the scored tied at 3, Jahmai Jones, Patrick Mazeika, and Drew Avans hit three consecutive 2 out singles for a 4-3 lead.

Down 5-4 in the 8th, Bradley Zimmer hit his 2nd single on the night, stole 2nd and scored on a Mazeika single.

In the bottom of the 10th and Steven Duggar starting on 2nd, he moved to 3rd on a Ryan Ward ground out. After a Devin Mann K and intentional BB to Zimmer, Jahmai Jones got the 2-out walk off single to right

Final Score – OKC Dodgers 6 – Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle) 5

RC Dodger

Thanks for the OKC recap, Jeff.
Good to hear about the progress of the AAA players.These guys are so close to the MLB and many just need one break to make it. And given the talent in the Dodger organization, some will get their chance elsewhere.
I think OKC is playing in Las Vegas soon, so maybe I can catch a game there.
Also, enjoyed your story about your son playing against Texas A&M. He had quite a career in college baseball!

Jeff Dominique

Thank you. Andy started traveling on baseball teams at 15, so my wife and I have been very fortunate to see many parts of the country we may never have seen.

Oldbear48

First off let me say this. I appreciate the opportunity Jeff has given me of writing for his site. I consider it a privilege and I try to do stories you will all enjoy. This one was sort of a labor of love. As for last nights game. I was so elated to see Trayce have a game like that. As much crap as was said about him this spring, well, he just validated, if even only for a night, AF’s and the teams faith in him. And in the post game interview he was very humble about the whole thing. Fans who bitch and moan at players performances pay for the right to do so by their support of the team by buying tickets, and all the trimmings, but so many forget, or just seem to not care on just how hard the game is to play

There is a reason not many players crush three homers in a game and drive n 8. It ain’t that easy gang!! And Kersh’s post game interview told me all I needed to know about Thompson. He is one of the hardest workers on the team Kersh told reporters. Nuff Said.

Dionysus

Maybe the pitch clock favors Trayce.

Jeff Dominique

Trayce had a magical game. But those who castigated Trayce earlier will do so again when he goes into his next slump. Right now, Max is the favorite punching bag, but he will snap out of it, and everyone will love him again…until they don’t. Okay maybe not Bums. 😁

As fans we can only cheer the players when they do good, and chastise them when they do not. There is nothing we can do to change the outcome. It is extremely common to go from exhilaration to frustration and back again.

Me? I am always emotionally attached to the teams/players I cheer for. I am a 3/4 glass full fan. When they do not play well or lose, it takes me a while to get over it. I still have not gotten over 2017 (okay 1977 and 1978 as well). With my favorite players, when they come to bat, it is like watching my son at the plate. I am always invested in the outcome.

But there are others who watch with the gauge pointing on E. I have no problem with that. I acknowledge that is how they cope. Philadelphia booed Mike Schmidt. Okay they also booed Santa Claus. Boston fans will turn on a player two or three times a game.

On a more personal note, my son was a collegiate All American, Big West Player of the Year, is in the University of Nevada Hall of Fame (twice) still has records standing after 25 years. So he was a pretty good baseball player at UNR. But I cannot count the number of times I had to get up and leave my seat because fans were all over him if he made an error or struck out at the wrong time.

In his final year at UNR, they had a Texas trip that included Texas A&M. Aggie fans were notorious for their “ragging” on players…viciously. My son knew I could handle it, but he was not so sure about his Mother. He told her that the fans were going to say some awful things to him every time he came up. I think he was in the top 3 in the country in HRs, so he was well known to college baseball fans. In his first AB he hit a little tapper back to the pitcher who threw him out. The stands went ape s*** crazy, saying things to him that would make a sailor blush.

If anyone has seen the Texas A&M baseball stadium, there is a huge wall in dead center field (I think 410 feet away). It was at least Green Monster size. On his 2nd AB, on the first pitch, he unloaded and the ball was still going up as it cleared the CF wall by plenty. They estimated it to be more than 500 feet. The fans in the stands got up and gave him a standing “O” as he rounded the bases. One of their fans sitting in front of us told his buddies…”Now that is how you shut up a stadium”. They did not say one word to him the rest of the game.

It makes no difference to me how fans react, as long as they do.

OhioDodger

1977 and 1978 still burn my ass.

Sam Oyed

Can someone explain Mookie’s double? From what I understand, it was a home run but overturned and changed to a double because of fan interference.

To be a home run it would have to be clear of the playing field. So how does fan interference come into play? If it was still in the playing field wouldn’t fan interference make it an out?

OhioDodger

I guess Trayce has quieted the “Doubting Thompsons” for awhile.

Badger

Saw Duke play at the Coliseum. He hit one into the darkness in right field. Also met him at his restaurant/bar in Fallbrook. He was friendly, but mostly quiet. DiMaggio sat right behind me at the ‘59 World Series game. He was very nice, smiled and signed my ticket. I’ve told that story a few times. The two home runs I saw Mantle hit in Kansas City are still the two loudest bat to ball contact sounds I ever heard, and I’ve heard thousands. I saw Mays a few times, the last time was at Don Drysdale’s golf tournament in Palm Springs. He was rude and refused to sign my program, A guy standing behind me said “offer him $50 and I bet he’ll sign it”. It got a few laughs from people but Mays gave him a stare.

Last edited 10 months ago by Badger
Bumsrap

Might San Diego State replace UCLA and USC in the PAC 12?

Jeff Dominique

They are being considered (with Fresno State and University of Nevada at Reno). San Jose State might have been considered, but the Pac 12 already has two Bay Area teams. San Jose State would not add any additional TV exposure as would San Diego State and Fresno State. Both could pick up LA TV market shares.

The Big 12 is also looking to add teams with Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC. San Diego State is being considered there as well. As are Arizona and Arizona State.

Bobby

We (Fresno St) feel we’re more likely to get a Big 12 invite than a Pac 10/11/12/whatever invite.

I’m quite confident our rival San Diego St will be invited to the Pac, especially after what they’re on the verge of doing. I also think if UNLV had their sports act together, they’d be a natural Pac fit with SDSU. But UNLV sucks at most sports and the Pac already uses Vegas as their destination city, so they don’t really need UNLV

Bumsrap

Cal State Fullerton usually has a good baseball team. My preference would be for Cal Poly Pomona to get an invite, after all they are competitive in Rose Parade float building.

I will be pulling for SD State.

Jeff Dominique

Betts – 2B
Freeman – 1B
Smith – C
JDM – DH
Peralta – LF
Babe Ruth (Thompson) – RF
Outman – CF
Taylor – 3B
Rojas – SS
Syndergaard – P

Thompson back out there after last night’s game.

I guess at Vargas’ age he needs a day off after three games? That is what a .750 OBP will get you. 😍

Dionysus

I like the lineup.

Jeff Dominique

I saw this and had to share.

Bobby

Makes me even more mad about Game 5 in Houston in 2017. Kersh had zero swings and misses at his breaking stuff due to the cheating trashros.

Jeff Dominique

More than anything else, that game changed it all. After owning Houston for Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, not one swing and miss at a curveball in Game 5.

Bumsrap

I guess it would be hard to take the trophy away from Houston but maybe at least make it a co-championship.

OhioDodger

Would have been very easy to take it away. Manfred just didn’t have the balls.

Dionysus

Exactly right

Bluto

Kershaw’s quixotic quest to keep his career WHIP under 1 is awesome

Bumsrap

The meaning of QUIXOTIC is foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.

Bluto

I know.

Jeff Dominique

After last night he is exactly at 1.000.

Bumsrap

A Hall Of Fame type stat.

Bumsrap

The Dodgers have the pitching and I still want them to get one more bat.

Syndergaard was good today.

OhioDodger

Another pathetic performance from the offense. KT3 is a mess.

Dionysus

Loop pl ol

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