7th in JAWS (66.5 Career/50.0 Peak/58.2 JAWS)
Teams: Dodgers 1947–62 • Mets 1963 • Giants 1964
Stats: .295/.380/.540 • 140 OPS+ • 2,116 H • 407 HR • 99 SB
Rankings: 9x top 10 HR • 8x All-Star • 7x top 10 WAR • 7x top 10 OPS+ • 5x top 5 SLG • 4x top 5 AVG • 4x top 3 OBP
Voting: BBWAA 1980 (11th, 86.5%)
“He played center field as if he owned it. Duke ran up walls, dived in the grass and never even seemed to get his uniform dirty. He was so good, he played the position in New York at the same time as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and some people weren’t sure who was best.” — Jim Murray
Though Snider’s career numbers fall well short of those of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, it must be remembered that he was about five years older than both, debuting earlier (1947, compared to 1951 for the other two) and reaching stardom earlier (his first All-Star berth was 1950, compared to 1952 for Mantle and 1954 for Mays), so he was the standard by which the other two were measured — though the specter of the incomparable Joe DiMaggio loomed beyond all three.
Snider was well into his peak by the time Mays and Mantle both made cases that they’d surpassed him, the former with his 51-homer 1955 season, the latter with his Triple Crown 1956 campaign (52 homers, 130 RBI, and a monster .353/.464/.705 line). Snider began to decline significantly after his age 32 season (1959), playing in just 486 games and hitting 53 homers over his final five seasons. Mantle wound up playing 258 more games than Snider, and while his post age 32 career was similarly brief (518 games), he hit 82 homers in that span. Mays played 10 seasons and 1,301 games after his age 32 season, racking up 254 homers in that span and winding up with 849 games more than Snider.
…Terry Cashman’s famous song, “Talkin’ Baseball,” which immortalizes the triumvirate, wasn’t written until 1981, and it was released during that summer’s players’ strike.