Hall of Fame Military Spotlight Series: Duke Snider
Edwin “Duke” Snider was a young talent on the baseball diamond and a committed Soldier in the U.S. Navy. He is recognized for his upstanding personality and his dedication to his country, exemplifying the values of Bob Feller.
Snider stood out at a young age for his efforts on the baseball diamond, catching the eye of the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was still in high school. He played for several Dodgers affiliate teams before attending a pre-induction military physical exam in LA, exactly one month after his eighteenth birthday. In his autobiography, The Duke of Flatbush, he wrote that at his exam “a guy handed me some papers I didn’t want to know about and screamed ‘Navy!’ in my face at the top of his lungs. I was headed for the high seas. I wondered why they took me if they thought I was deaf.”
He served as a fireman in the third class on the submarine tender USS Sperry at Guam. He found ways to keep his service light though, using baseball as an escape. He used to make bets that he could throw a baseball the length of the submarines that arrived at Guam, winning his crewmates $300 with a guarantee that he would receive $50. He was on dishwashing detail on the submarine and reflected on that position in his autobiography: “There was a porthole behind the sink and any time we came across a chipped glass or dish that wouldn’t come clean in less than a second we fired the sucker into the Pacific Ocean.”
Snider’s father was also serving in the Navy at the same time, but faced more combat as he played an integral part of the island invasions in the Pacific. Snider recalled his own brush with potential combat and how it scared him more than any World Series game he would go on to play in. He said, “There was one close call when it looked as if I was going to find myself in combat after all. I was on watch duty on the number one 5-inch gun when we sighted an unidentified ship ahead. The command came down from the bridge to load the gun with a star shell that would be fired if the ship did not respond to our signal requesting identification.” While Snider did not have to end up firing, that experience stuck with him from the war.
He was then stationed at Long Beach Army Air Base in California before being discharged. Snider was offered a contract with the Pirates but turned it down in favor for his previous commitment to the Dodgers. He ended up playing several seasons before being called up to the Dodgers team.
He retired in 1964, after a successful playing career in which he was an eight-time All-Star and played in six World Series. He scouted for the Dodgers and the Padres, before becoming an extremely successful play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Expos. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. Snider had a long and successful baseball playing career, while also demonstrating valor throughout his military service. He is an ideal example of what it means to act with valor and commitment that the Foundation supports.