Friday, March 4, 2011


8kppHQ2fHall of Famer Duke Snider died last Sunday.  The star center fielder for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers was a key member of Roger Kahn’s “Boys of Summer,” who beat the Yankees in the ’55 World Series.  He didn’t quite make it to his 84th summer. He led the Dodgers to two World Series wins, one in Brooklyn and one here in L.A.  To me, as a Californian, he was a symbol of the transition from my dad’s 16-team Eastern baseball to the Westward expansion that made for a truly national pastime.  My dad grew up in Cleveland, so here in California he had to follow his beloved Indians in 6-point type in the newspaper box scores.  I learned to love baseball from my dad’s tales of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig.  My dad…my very own father…was present in the bleachers to see the only World Series triple play unassisted by Bill Wambsganss, Cleveland second baseman in game 5 of the 1920 Series against Brooklyn.  (The Indians won.)  How could you not love a sport which rewards a little patience with such memories.  When Walter O’Malley blew up the Eastern baseball establishment, and fragments of it landed in San Francisco and L.A., then I had baseball too.  Koufax and Drysdale were not yet stars, but we had the Duke!  I saw him play in the Coliseum and at Dodger Stadium.  If he was not the best center fielder of all time, he was close to it.  He had the last home run in Ebbets Field and the first base hit in Dodger Stadium.  All of that, and we can also brag that he was a local boy, who also retired here.  The story goes that he advised rookies to “Learn to hate Halloween.”  Why?  “GIANT’S colors!”