Hall of Famer Snider dies at 84

Baseball Hall of Famer Duke Snider died Sunday morning at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif.. He was 84.

Snider died of natural causes, his family said.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1980 after an 18-year major league career in which he hit 407 home runs.

"We shed a tear in Cooperstown for the man affectionately tabbed by his fans, ‘The Duke of Flatbush,’ " said the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Jeff Idelson, in a written statement. "There was no one classier or more easy going than Duke Snider.”

Snider made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and became the team’s everyday center fielder in 1949. He hit 20 home runs in nine straight seasons, through the 1957 campaign, including a league-best 43 in 1956. He was runner-up as National League Most Valuable Player in 1955, when he helped the Brooklyn to its only World Series victory.

He was born Edwin Donald Snider on Sept. 19, 1926, in Los Angeles. His father nicknamed him Duke at age 5. Snider was a three-sport standout — football, baseball and basketball — at Compton (Calif.) High School before he signed with the Dodgers at 17 in 1943. After a brief appearance in the low minor leagues, he entered the Navy.

Snider was a seven-time All-Star with the Dodgers and once with the Mets. He ranks as the Dodgers’ all-time leader in homers (389) and RBI (1,271). In the 1950s, he led all big-league players with 326 home runs and 1,032 RBI. He hit four homes in each of the 1952 and 1955 World Series.

Snider was part of the vaunted trio of New York center fielders in the 1950s, along with Willie Mays of the rival Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees. The three superstars were immortalized in song in Terry Cashman’s "Talkin’ Baseball" with the catchy chorus "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."