Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Duke of Flatbush was also a family man

Brooklyn Dodger's Duke Snider in the 1950s.
The funeral for Hall of Famer and Dodger great Duke Snider was held on Saturday March 12, 2011 at 2 pm at Fallbrook Presbyterian Church in his hometown, Fallbrook, CA.  Duke was a warm and charismatic fellow who just happend to play baseball extremely well.  He was also a family man.

The following is an excerpt from his 1988 biography "The Duke of Flatbush" by Duke Snider with Bill Gilbert from Zebra Books published by Kensington Publishing Corp, New York, NY.  Here Duke talks about his wife Bev and how supportive she was in their early years.  This provides a wonderful glimpse into Duke the private man and his family.

Bev and I had Kevin now, and when we left for spring training at the beginning of the '50 season, Kevin was not even four months old. Traveling across the country from California to Florida and then up the East Coast from Florida to live in New York with an infant, and with teh father gone half the days from April to October, certainly made things different.

Kevin, 2 1/2 years old
If you've never driven 2,500 miles from California to Florida with a baby and no air-conditioning and it takes three days and three nights just to get through Texas - don't.  We made frequent stops for gas, changing diapers, and warming up a new bottle of baby formula.  After that, Bev had the long drive north from Vero Beach to Brooklyn, another 1,200 miles, this time alone except for the infant on the seat beside her.  I had to travel with the team.

For Bev this was the start of an entirely new kind of life, filled iwth automobile trips thousands of miles long with only the children for company, and the two-week stretches in Brooklyn alone with the kids while I was away on road trips in my own role as the family breadwinner.

A baseball player's wife makes a contribution to husband's career that never shows up in the statistics, but it's just as real as it would be if she hit some of those home runs herself.  She's helping with work at home, driving to Little League games and Girl Scouts.  She's the parent in the audience at the school play, and the shoulder that's always there when the kids need one to cry on.  And she provides the athlete with thte peace of mind which is essential to his performance on the field.  When he calls home during a road trip and she says, "Everything's fine," the player knows not to ask any questions beyond that.  The two-word response means now you can concentrate on the next game.

Bev was and still is a homemaker, and the family home was wherever I was playing.  She pulled a 15-foot trailer to New York in 1963, San Francisco in 1964, and Spokane in 1965, when I managed in the minor leagues after my playing career.  In 1972, while I was managing in Alexandria, Louisiana, wwe upgraded the vehicle to a 25-foot motor home.  By then there were only two children at home - Kurt and Dawna - and Kurt could help with the driving.  Bev loved the adventure and wanted to show the children a type of camping life as opposed to motel living.

Duke poses with his wife and
high school sweetheart Beverly Null,
and their daughter Pam
They made a game of things.  The children made one up in Brooklyn while going through the tunnels.  The guards would wave the cars on, and the children would wave too, just to see if the guards would wave back.  They decided those who did were Dodger fans.  Those who didn't were Yankee fans.  They carried this game over to the ride back to California.  They would wave at the truck drivers, hoping to get them to blow their horns.  The same standards applied: Those who did were Dodger fans.

Bev took over-the-counter stay-awake pills to keep from getting mesmerized by the road.  She would stay with the kids in the less expensive motels, and thought nother of parking overnight at a gas station when they were pulling the trailer and no campground was available.  The service-station attendants were always helpful when they saw her pulling the trailer and handling the children by herself.

The attendant at one station in Tuxedo Junction, New York, gave her the restroom key to use overnight, and had a police officer come by to make sure Bev and the children were okay.

If there were a Hall of Fame somewhere for baseball wives, Bev would belong in it.

Duke, you will forever be in our hearts.

1 comment:

robert caron said...

I was a big fan of Duke Snider and approximately 1953 (not sure of the year)somewhere around 14 years of age rode my bike from South Gate to Compton to see his home. Don't know if he still lived there.Then you could look up a persons name in the phone book and I did. Cut out box scores every chance I got and had a great scrapbook but no longer have it.