This past Sunday, legendary Brooklyn Dodger Duke Snider passed away. I never saw him play — his playing days were done well before my time on this earth began — but he did make an impression on my life at an early age.
Looking back, I can’t remember every Christmas gift I ever received. However, I do remember one Christmas in particular, my favorite childhood Christmas; the year in which the gifts were not of toys and treats, but of baseball, history and dreams of becoming a major league baseball player.
At a certain point in my youth, baseball took the all-important leap from interest to passion, and quickly. Recognizing this, my parents did everything they could to surround be with gloves, bats, baseball cards and trips to the ballpark. I had a keen interest, in particular, as to the history of the game. I would often spend hours upon hours dreaming about playing alongside the legendary players of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees of the first half century. This particular Christmas was when I got my hands on some real baseball memorabilia. Duke Snider was part of that Christmas.
To this day his picture — mounted on a dark stained wooden plaque with his signature in blue ink scrolled across the white of his Dodgers uniform and “Duke Snider: The Duke of Flatbush” engraved below the photo — still hangs on my wall.
That plaque, those memories, the image of Duke Snider standing, peering out toward the unknown on some long-gone spring training field, his bat propping him up on his right side, all represent the beginnings for what is and will be a life long love affair with baseball.
I never saw Duke Snider play, but what he represented to the game of baseball, my childhood and who I am today, will not be forgotten.