How Duke Snider Burst My Bubble (and What I Learned about the Birds and the Bees)

http://raymondpronk.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/duke_snider_hitting.jpg?w=500&h=374

Will Rogers said “a difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”

But, as a child, I thought that there were certain things with which everyone would agree, where no difference of opinion was possible.

Like the idea that playing baseball was the best imaginable way to make a living and the dream of every red-blooded American male.

Duke Snider taught me otherwise. It was a hard lesson that I learned some time in the 1950s, simply by watching a TV interview of the gifted ball player.

It must have been about the time in 1956 when his infamous article in Collier’s magazine appeared: “I Play Baseball for Money — Not Fun,” co-written with Roger Kahn.

But I didn’t know anything about that. All I knew was that in the middle of the aforementioned interview, when the admiring TV personality questioned him, Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider said that he would rather be on his avocado farm in California than playing center field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

What! What did he say? And, by the way, what’s an avocado? Here was this handsome, power hitting, left-handed batsman, both graceful and swift, doing something I could only wish I might do; and what did he say?

How can a man I thought to be a hero, a member of the World Champion Dodgers, a teammate of Jackie Robinson, want to be a farmer? Heck, is a farmer and prefers it to playing ball. How is this possible?

As a little kid in Chicago in the ’50s, I had never actually seen a farm. I knew vegetables came out of cans and never thought very much about the people who actually grew them and put them into cans.

In fact, the only time that the question of farming ever came up in conversation around my house, was when I asked my dad where I came from.

Yes, the sex question.

My dad’s answer was simple. He said, “I planted the seed.”

I was badly thrown by the answer, led in the direction of corn and beans and all sorts of things that presumably were grown by farmers, along with small boys.

It took me years to recover from this misinformation and probably delayed my sexual development by a full decade.

Later in his life, Duke Snider admitted that his attitude wasn’t always the best. His New York Times obituary of February 28, 2011 quoted him as saying, “I had to learn that every day wasn’t a bed of roses, and that took some time. I would sulk. I’d have a pity party for myself.”

That summer afternoon of the televised interview I saw must have been one of those days.

I guess the Duke didn’t care for the “boos” he sometimes received, occasionally unfavorable newspaper commentary, the pressure, the travel, and the sheer grind of a long season.

But, I suppose there was a worthy lesson in Duke’s complaint to the local sportscaster.  In fact, there were a few lessons:

  • Make the most of every day.
  • Accept the up-and-down nature of life.
  • Remember that there might be a lot of people who only they wish they could be as well-situated as you are.
  • If you are a farmer, check carefully before turning on the threshing machine, lest you injure a baby boy.
  • And, maybe most important of all: be careful what you say. Kids are listening.

8 thoughts on “How Duke Snider Burst My Bubble (and What I Learned about the Birds and the Bees)

  1. During my brief period as an ardent baseball fan in the 1950’s, the Dodgers were my team and Duke Snider was one of my heroes. Today I still revere the Dodgers of that era for their pioneering role in breaking the color barrier in the major leagues, striking a blow for freedom and justice that is far more important than the game itself.

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    • drgeraldstein

      No question, Dan. The team was more remarkable for its impact on equality than the matter of wins and losses.

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  2. When we look back upon these legends and hold them in such incomparable, they-can-do-no-wrong regard, it is unimaginable that they could ever have been booed by their own fans. As you stated, to picture the large-framed man who was a gentle giant in both stature and baseball prowess, as a participant in a bench-clearing brawl or just not wanting to be at the park, is something that can’t be pictured.

    I wish that I could say that my difficult days were not visible to my colleagues or my family and that when they look back upon my life, they will see nothing but snapshots of a man with a smile who made his way through life with dignity, grace and poise. If you Google Image search on “Duke Snider Fights,” you won’t so much as find a photo of him not smiling while he wore Dodger blue.

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    • I guess the Duke knew when to smile! Yes, those closest to us know our dark side, no matter what others might think of us. You might want to look for another story I wrote about my contact with “Moose” Skowron. Thanks for your attention to my writing and your reflection on some of the same things I spend time thinking about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been perusing your blog thinking that you were a Dr. who is a baseball nut…but I see what your approach is: a continuation of helping others. I do appreciate how you interweave real life into what you do. This is very relatable.

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      • Much appreciated. There are lots of ways to help. I’m also fond of stories, both hearing them and telling them, so it all fits pretty well for me. I also try to make my space a civil one, partly since it is my nature, but also as something much needed these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If your goal is to have a civil space, leaving the politics out of it is highly recommended, though even talking about baseball can divide even the closest of families. 😉

        I should start telling some of my baseball stories (on my baseball blog: https://chevronsanddiamonds.wordpress.com/) just for conversation-starting.

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      • Now you’ve got me interested. I will take a look. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

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