It was a special night at Dodger Stadium celebrating the life and career of the late Hall of Famer Duke Snider with pre-game ceremonies honoring the franchise’s all-time home run leader and special presentations throughout the game including of course the special bobblehead doll giveaway. And I think The Duke who died this past February at the age of 84, would’ve enjoyed the likeness of his stance at the plate with that big smile on his face. The ballclub has already been wearing a memorial No. 4 patch on the right uniform sleeve this season to honor Snider’s memory and tonight a No. 4 was also embedded in the center field grass to mark the occasion.
40 members of the Snider family were on hand for the occasion with 3 of his siblings throwing out the first pitch alongside Duke’s wife of 63 years Bev and a few of his former teammates in Tom Lasorda and Don Newcombe, who I got the privilege to speak with before the game along with Dodgers Hall of Fame voice Vin Scully.
The Dodgers also wore their special Brooklyn hats tonight as ‘The Duke of Flatbush’ played the first 11 years of his career in New York before playing his final five seasons with the club in Los Angeles. Snider’s Hall of Fame plaque was also on hand all the way from Cooperstown and it was brought into the press box for a short time to allow us media types a chance to see it up close, so it was fun to get a picture with it.
Scattered throughout the announced (but well short of) crowd of over 46,000 fans were Snider uniforms and along with some Koufax’s and Drysdale’s made it a night of nostalgia for sure.
There were also a few well-produced videos celebrating Snider’s great career shown before and during the game and they brought back some personal memories as I was one of only a few in the pressbox who actually saw Duke play here at the Ravine and at the old Coliseum…sure make me feel old-what do I care!…
Vin Scully with Ted Sobel:
Tom Lasorda with Ted Sobel:
Don Newcombe with Ted Sobel:
Oh and by the way, there was also a ballgame played as the league leading Phillies behind another one of their stellar pitchers Cliff Lee outdueled Ted Lilly for a 2-1 win and it was Lee’s 2nd homer of his career in the 7th inning that was the difference. Ironically on that pitch, I was playing with my camera focusing on Matt Kemp in centerfield (where Snider used to roam) and the number 4 showing in the grass in front of Matt when Lee belted one into the right field field pavilion. And as you can see in the picture below, Kemp never moved just watching over his shoulder as the ball carried over the fence–not exactly how ‘The Duke’ would’ve envisioned this game to go, but you just know that he would’ve been proud to be celebrated in the fashion that they did tonight.