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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Willie, Mickey & the Duke. 1954-1957.

Photo of Willie MaysPhoto of Mickey MantlePhoto of Duke Snider

That's all it was, just those four years when all three were star center fielders in New York.

Willie Mays Born: May 61931 in Westfield, ALDebut: May 25, 1951

Mickey Mantle Born: October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, OKDebut: April 17, 1951

Duke Snider Born: September 191926Debut: April 17, 1947

Snider was five years older, although still only 30 for almost all of the 1957 season, Duke's last big one and the last in Brooklyn for the Dodgers.  They and the New York Giants would move to California for the 1958 season.

Mantle and Mays were rookies in 1951, Mays half a year older and more accomplished but not yet a star.  Mays spent most of 1952 and all of 1953 in the U.S. Army, along with other players.

"Talkin' Baseball (Mickey, Willie & the Duke)" is, of course, the title of a nostalgic song written about them by Terry Cashman in 1981.  This post will not dwell on that nor any nostalgia but will present data to frame the accomplishments of these three Hall of Fame players.

There were still only eight teams in each league and New York players dominated MVP voting.


Snider was never voted MVP but of the eight winners in those four years seven were from the three New York teams.  Mantle and Mays were joined by Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe, who also won the first Cy Young award.  Only Hank Aaron broke through.  Campanella was also MVP in 1951 and 1953 and Berra also in 1951.  Mantle would win again in 1962 and Mays in 1965 but Willie's was in San Francisco.

Duke Snider died at 84. Monday, February 28, 2011

Duke Snider in his three best seasons had OPS+ (On Base Plus Slugging adjusted for year and park):

1953 NL  165 (3rd) MVP 3 behind teammate Roy CampanellaEddie Mathews (47 HR)
1954 NL  171 (3rd) MVP 4 behind Willie Mays (led NL BA .345; Giants won pennant), Ted Kluszewski (49 HR), Johnny Antonelli (Giant 21-7)
1955 NL  169 (3rd) MVP 2 behind teammate Roy Campanella

In 1956 Snider led NL:
HR 43
BB 99
OBP .399
SLG .598
OPS .997
OPS + 155
IBB 26
MVP 10 behind Don Newcombe (Brooklyn), Sal MaglieHank AaronWarren SpahnJim Gilliam (Brooklyn)Roy McMillanFrank RobinsonPee Wee Reese (Brooklyn)Stan Musial.  Three Brooklyn teammates finished ahead of Snider.  Go figure.  Snider's BA was .292 and that probably cost him in the MVP voting but maybe the writers were angry at Duke.  This vote is absurd.  From the NY Times obit:

But a year after the tirade against the fans, Snider was chided by some sportswriters as being ungrateful for his good fortune when he collaborated with Kahn for a May 1956 article in Collier’s titled “I Play Baseball for Money — Not Fun.”

All city: New York 1947-1957 summary. Thursday, June 19, 2014

For 1954-1957 I had Mays, Mays, Mantle, Mantle.  I had Snider in 1951 and 1953.  Mantle in 1952.


BOLD indicates leading the league.  In 1955 Mays tied Johnny Mize for the Giants record.  In 1956 Snider broke his own Dodger record of 42, which he held with Gil Hodges.  In 1961 Mantle hit 54, second to the 61 of teammate Roger Maris.  In 1965 Mays hit 52.



In his entire career Mays never led in RBI.  Mantle and Snider led just once each.

Mantle, of course, had the triple crown in 1956, leading both leagues in BA, RBI, HR.


Wow.  Too bad OPS+ was unknown back then.  Mays led three more times in San Francisco.  Snider led just that one time.  Mantle also led every year from 1958 through 1964 except 1963 when he did not qualify because he suffered a broken foot.

Mantle and Mays continue to amaze. Monday, November 12, 2012

... in 1955 Mickey Mantle led the American League (AL) in both triples (3B) and home runs (HR)...

cross town rival Willie Mays had done the same thing in 1955 with the New York Giants: 13 3B, 51 HR...

I thought what a coincidence: two players doing something unusual and they did it it in the same year ... playing the same defensive position ... in the same city.  Then I tried to find how many other players had done it.

Since 1903 I found one: Jim Bottomley who led the National League in 1928 with 20 3B, 31 HR.  Only one other batter in the modern era and Mickey and Willie had those other coincidences to add to the special nature of their accomplishments.


Duke Snider's Brooklyn teammates protected him from southpaws. Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ebbets Field: best season home run rate. Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Home runs hit in Roosevelt Stadium 1956-1957. Monday, April 21, 2014

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