CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Heading T... (08/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Another Look: Do No Mo... (08/03)
Next Column >>
Another Look: The Unkn... (08/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Jordan... (08/10)

August 10, 2010

Another Look

Willie, Mickey, and the Duke

by Bob Hertzel

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

The universe wasn’t really very big then, pretty much a triangle from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium to Ebbets Field. The year was 1950. Or was it 1955 or 1956? Didn’t matter really; it was New York and this was the true Golden Age of baseball in the city.

Never has there been anything like it, never will there be. One city, three teams. Heaven on earth when you were 10 or 12 or 15 as I was growing up across the river from New York City in New Jersey.

The football Giants? The Knicks? The Rangers? They had little more significance than the Jets or the Mets, who weren’t even around. Baseball was king and in New York you found the kings of baseball.

It started really, the day Jackie Robinson burst through the color barrier, changing baseball forever. Before you could say, well, Jackie Robinson, there were Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe and then along came Willie Mays and Monte Irvin, and if the Yankees were late in joining the 20th century it wasn’t because they were in need of any more players.

There was nothing like a trip with your father to the Polo Grounds, to the Stadium—which was always just “the Stadium”—or to Ebbets Field. You went often because tickets were affordable, there was a game every day somewhere, and you had this sense, even though you didn’t know it, that you’d never see anything like it again.

And when you didn’t go, the game came into your living room. If you thought the players were good, this was the Golden Age of radio and baseball.

How good were the broadcasts? You had Russ Hodges on the Giants, Mel Allen on the Yankees, Red Barber on the Dodgers, that being before he went over to the Yankees. As Allen would say, "How about that?"

What’s that, you say, those guys have nothing on Vin Scully and he’s still going strong today? True, but he was the backup on the Dodger games in those days. And Ernie Harwell, the great Hall of Famer, he was on television the day Hodges called the Bobby Thomson “Shot Heard 'Round The World.”

Allen, Barber, Hodges, Scully, and Harwell—all on the air at once.

Of course, if for some reason you missed the game, you feared not because you could read all about it in the Daily News, the Mirror, the Times, the Herald-Tribune, the Journal-America, the Post—all of them daily papers with the best baseball writers who ever lived. Dick Young invented the art that is still followed today. Jimmy Cannon hit you between the eyes. Red Smith charmed you. Jimmy Breslin, Roger Kahn, Milton Gross, Leonard Koppett, Red Foley, Arthur Daley, Frank Graham, and Dan Daniel. Words never were so good.

Not that they could be bad. Go ahead, tell me about A-Rod and Jeter and Albert Pujols and I’ll agree that they match the skills of the players we had then. But what no one has ever had is so many great players gathered together in one city.

Terry Cashman didn’t invent Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. They lived and breathed and covered more real estate than Central Park as they patrolled center field in the city’s three major-league ballparks. All are in the Hall of Fame. Think about that for a moment, three of the greatest center fielders in baseball history in one city at one time.

Baseball is a game of numbers. Here are  some numbers: The three center fielders in New York in the 1950s played a combined 7,536 games, hit 1,603 home runs, drove in 4,745 runs and scored 4,998 runs in their careers, combining to win five Most Valuable Player awards.

Snider was elegant, Mantle awesome, Mays magnetic.

They were so good that one year, 1954, Snider hit .341, led the league with 120 runs scored, hit 40 homers, drove in 130 runs—and didn’t win the MVP award. Mays did with a league-leading .345 batting average, 119 runs scored, 41 home runs, and 110 runs batted in. Mantle that year? Just hit .300 with 129 runs scored, 27 homers, and 102 RBI.

How could you not have a love affair with baseball?

Snider, of course, was surrounded with greatness in Brooklyn. The 1951 Dodgers team that lost the National League playoff to the Giants had no fewer than five Hall of Famers on the roster—Snider, Campanella, Robinson, Newcombe, and Pee Wee Reese. By the time the team won its first World Series title in 1955, it had added another Hall of Fame player in a kid left-hander named Sandy Koufax and a Hall of Fame manager in Walter Alston.

The Giants in 1951 had Mays and Irvin, who would go to the Hall of Fame, while the Yankees had six Hall of Fame players in Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, playing his final year; Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Johnny Mize, to say nothing of Cooperstown-bound manager Casey Stengel.

Glory days? That’s 12 Hall of Famers playing in 1951 in one city! And to make it even better, these were great all-around players who could hit and field and were smart.

Did they give you moments to remember? So many, you can’t remember them all. Here are just a few:

  • Thomson’s pennant-winning home run for the Ginats off Ralph Branca in the 1951 playoffs against the Dodgers that capped the team coming form 13 ½ games behind to win the pennant.
  • Mays’ catch on Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series.
  • Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
  • Sandy Amoros’ 1955 World Series catch that robbed Berra and doubled Gil McDougald off first base.
  • Mantle’s 565-foot home run off Chuck Stobbs in Washington in 1953.
  • Robinson’s steal of home against the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

With all that in New York in the 1950s, who needed Pac Man or Super Mario? We had Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Bob Hertzel is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bob's other articles. You can contact Bob by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who

4 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Heading T... (08/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Another Look: Do No Mo... (08/03)
Next Column >>
Another Look: The Unkn... (08/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Jordan... (08/10)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: July 28, 2014
Fantasy Article The Stash List: 15th Edition
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Monday, July 2...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: July 29, 2014
BBQ State of Mind
Notes About Baseball: The Logistics of Human...
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Trading Ryan Howard For No...

MORE FROM AUGUST 10, 2010
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: An Afternoon in the ...
Checking the Numbers: '90s Nine, Meet the '0...
Premium Article Expanded Horizons: The Benefits of Roy Oswal...
Premium Article Under The Knife: Back Home Again in Indiana
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Jordan Brown

MORE BY BOB HERTZEL
2010-08-31 - Premium Article Another Look: Hitting Pitchers and Some Who ...
2010-08-24 - Premium Article Another Look: Lefty's Remarkable Streak
2010-08-17 - Another Look: The Unknown Comics
2010-08-10 - Premium Article Another Look: Willie, Mickey, and the Duke
2010-08-03 - Premium Article Another Look: Do No More
2010-07-27 - Another Look: Andy Van Slyke
2010-07-20 - Premium Article Another Look: George Steinbrenner
More...

MORE ANOTHER LOOK
2010-08-31 - Premium Article Another Look: Hitting Pitchers and Some Who ...
2010-08-24 - Premium Article Another Look: Lefty's Remarkable Streak
2010-08-17 - Another Look: The Unknown Comics
2010-08-10 - Premium Article Another Look: Willie, Mickey, and the Duke
2010-08-03 - Premium Article Another Look: Do No More
2010-07-27 - Another Look: Andy Van Slyke
2010-07-20 - Premium Article Another Look: George Steinbrenner
More...