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Duke Snider and Rick Monday

May 31, 2020
                         Duke Snider and Rick Monday

We are operating in a kind of no-man’s land here, in which whatever we publish now may be lost when the site moves to its new host, but as of now I am continuing to publish, and making room for you to continue to comment.


            You have probably never noticed, I am guessing, the profound similarities between Duke Snider and Rick Monday.  How I came to notice this is not really relevant, but I’ll share it with you anyway. 

            My process of building a file of Game Logs actually started with a comparison of Norm Cash and Orlando Cepeda, both of whom played in the years 1958 to 1974.  While they were active, Orlando Cepeda was universally regarded as a bigger star than Norm Cash, although sabermetric analysis suggests that Cash may actually have had more value to his team over his career, and I was doing something with that; I don’t remember what.   Then I noticed that Felipe Alou also played the years 1958 to 1974, and then I started adding other players to the file who played within the years 1958 to 1974—that is, they started no earlier than 1958 and ended their careers by 1974.  This brought in Frank Howard (1958-1973) and Johnny Callison (1958-1973) and Bob Allison (1958-1970), because you can’t do Callison without Allison.   Then I brought in Maury Wills (1959-1972) and Matty Alou (1960-1974) and some other players.  

            Then, because I wanted to do Vada Pinson, I expanded it to 1958-1975, and then, because I wanted to bring in one of the favorite players from my youth, Tito Francona, I moved it back to 1956-1975, but for some reason I did that in stages; 1957-1975, 1957-1976, 1956-1976.  Once I got to 1956-1976 it was legal to do Tito Francona.   Occasionally I would do random players just because I liked them or was interested in them or needed their data for a study, so I did Ichiro and Amos Otis, totally outside the parameters, and I did Earl Averill and Dolph Camilli long before their years were covered by the rules of the process.   But after 1956-1976 I made it 1956-1977, 1955-1977, 1955-1978, 1954-1978, etc.  It’s now up to 1925 to 2007; I can add the data for anybody who played not before 1925 and not after 2007.

            Well, not ANYBODY. When I got to 1956-1976, I realized that I shouldn’t do Frank Robinson next, or I would lose interest in the process once I had all of the superstars included; everybody else would look dull next to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  I wanted to keep the biggest stars still ahead of me so that the process would remain interesting, so I banned myself from including the 10 best players who were eligible to be included based on the years, best players ranked by Baseball Reference WAR.   After a while I increased the Top 10 to Top 20, then Top 25; as of now I don’t allow myself to do the 50 best players in the time period, although I have done a handful of the 50 best players from that era, just because I wanted to—Clemente and Kaline and Eddie Mathews and Paul Molitor and Reggie Jackson.   I think that’s all.  

            Whenever I get a minute to do this. . . .it is hard to say whether it is work or play. . . but whenever I get an hour to spend on this, I’ll (1) stretch the eligibility years by one more year, and (2) do the game log for the 51st best player in the eligible time period.  Usually, when you add a year, somebody new comes into the top 50, so somebody new drops out of the top 50, thus becomes the player I do next.  At one point this wasn’t really ideal, as the player who dropped out of the top 50 would be somebody like Don Money, Dick Groat, George Scott or Ken McMullen, who I wasn’t really that interested in, although I would usually find something interesting in the Game Logs, but with the passage of time the quality of the players who dropped out of the top 50 got better and better.   The system started dropping out an occasional Hall of Famer a long time ago, and now it is dropping out high-quality Hall of Famers.   The last four players who dropped out of the Top 50 were Willie McCovey, Andre Dawson, Buddy Bell and Duke Snider.  There are also a significant number of Hall of Famers who were never in the Top 50 or who dropped out but skipped down to #52, and thus are still there, somewhere on the list but not done yet and also not in the Top 50.  This includes Dave Winfield, Jackie Robinson, Bill Dickey, Billy Herman, Mickey Cochrane, Tony Lazzeri and many more. 

            Anyway, this keeps the work interesting, but to ensure that it is MORE interesting, and to ensure that I don’t get to the Top 50 too quickly and thus ruin the process, I started pairing the player who dropped out with someone who played for the Kansas City A’s of my youth—hopefully a player who had some similar skills, but pitched at a much lower level.   Thus, when I did Willie Davis, I also did Jose Tartabull, and when I did Ken Boyer, I also did Ed Charles.   When I did Yogi Berra, I also did Billy Bryan, and when I did Harmon Killebrew, I also did Norm Siebern.   It is also helpful to create perspective on the star players by including in the Game Logs a certain number of very ordinary players. 

            So when I did Duke Snider, I also did Rick Monday, and I was kind of amazed to discover what a good match it is, which is the premise of this article.  Obviously Monday was not at the same level as Duke, but he was pretty much the same player, just not at the same level.   Both were left-handed hitting center fielders and were good center fielders until an injury stopped them from playing center, although neither had the blazing speed of the best defensive center fielders.   Both were very graceful, and ran with long, even strides, like DiMaggio, although neither ran exactly like DiMaggio and neither was as fast as DiMaggio. 

            Duke was born in 1926 and played 1947 to 1964; Monday was born in late 1945 and played 1967 to 1984 plus a few games in late 1966, so 20 years apart.  Duke’s best years were 1953-1956; Monday’s were 1973-1976.  Both had injuries which made them bench players a little early. Monday played one more season (19-18) but fewer games (2143-1986) somewhat because he just wasn’t as good as Duke, so it was easier to take him out of the lineup, but also because his career-shaping injury took him out of the game for almost an entire season.  Duke began having back trouble in late season, 1957, and had serious knee problems beginning in 1958, after which he was never a full-time player; Monday tore his Achilles tendon, ending his season, on April 29, 1979. 

            But both were great bench players, truly great ones.  Frank Robinson was the NL MVP in 1961 while Duke Snider had only 233 at bats, but at bat to at bat, Snider was on the same level as Frank Robinson—not quite as good, but pretty close.  Mike Schmidt was the MVP in 1981, while Monday got only 130 at bats in the strike-shortened season, but at bat to at bat, Monday is almost even with Schmidt.    1961 Snider and 1981 Monday, both with the Dodgers; those are fantastic off-the-bench seasons. 

            Monday was a very good bench player in 1980 and 1982, not quite at the same level but still very good, and he wasn’t bad in 1983.   But Snider was just a fantastic bench player from 1958 to 1963.  In 1958, although injuries limited him to 327 at bats, he hit .312 with 15 homers, 58 RBI, OPS of .875, and that was in the Los Angeles Coliseum, where it was 440 feet to deep right field; his stats were much better on the road than they were in LA.   In 1959, getting only 370 at bats, he hit .308 with 23 homers, 88 RBI; he was mentioned in the MVP voting, 370 at bats he gets an MVP mention.

            In 1960, although he had only 235 at bats and hit only .243, it was a mighty powerful .243, with a secondary average of almost .500 and an OPS+ of 145.  His walks, home runs and other extra base hits were at about the same frequency as his big seasons in Brooklyn.  In 1961, as mentioned, he had one of the best bench seasons you can find.  In 1962, although he had only 158 at bats, his OPS+ was higher than it was in 1961. 

            In 1963 he went to the Mets.   The Mets forced him into the lineup sometimes when he probably shouldn’t have been there, and he was now 36 years old, 37 by season’s end; still, he wasn’t bad.  His OPS+ was still 115.   Duke Snider, 1958-1963, is actually one of the greatest bench players of all time.  In his career, he hit .266 as a pinch hitter—one of the better pinch hitting averages ever, for a guy with that many at bats—with an OPS of almost .800 as a pinch hitter, driving in 52 runs in his career.

            Monday wasn’t at that level; Monday hit .199 career as a pinch hitter—which a lot of players do—but Monday was still a really good bench player.  Anyway, back to the Monday/Snider matches.  Monday had 33.1 Baseball Reference WAR; Snider had almost exactly twice that, 66.0.  Although Snider of course was better than Monday, their ratios of extra base hits are similar, Monday 248-64-241, and Snider 358-85-407.   Their walk rates are similar, 924 walks for Monday, 971 for Snider.  Both had good walk rates; Snider walked 104 times in 1955 and led the league in walks with 99 in 1956.  Monday never had totals that high, but actually walked 9% more often per plate appearance than Snider did.  

            Monday stole 98 bases in his career; Snider, 99.  Neither had a good stolen base percentage.   Both had better-than-average GIDP rates; Monday, in part because he batted leadoff for several years, has an exceptional career GIDP rate, about one-half the norm. 

Both of them graduated from High School in Los Angeles.  Both of them were discovered by Dodger scouts while playing in Los Angeles high schools; Tommy Lasorda for some reason is always credited with "discovering" Rick Monday.   Both of them were long-term broadcasters after their playing careers.  Both men were post-season heroes for the Dodgers.  Snider hit 4 home runs in the World Series in 1952, making him (I think) the third player ever to hit 4 homers in a series, after Ruth and Gehrig—and then hit 4 homers again 1955.  I believe that at the time he was second on the World Series home run list, with 11.  For some reason I can’t find exact confirmation.

            Monday hit only one home run in the post season, but it was a big one, a two-out home run in the 9th inning to beat Steve Rogers (2-1) in the 1981 NLCS. 

            Moving on to the more obscure stuff. . . World War II causes two troughs in the birth pattern of major league stars.   There were many, many major league stars born in the years 1918-1922 (Williams, DiMaggio, Feller, Musial) and many born in the years 1931-1934, but relatively few born in the years 1923-1930, because World War two interfered seriously in the early careers of those born in those years.  Also, there were many major league stars born in 1938-1939 and huge numbers born 1947-1951, but relatively few born in 1942-1945, because of the War.  Both Snider and Monday were born in the two periods in which, because of World War II, there were relatively few star players born.

            Both Snider and Monday had their biggest days in the majors against the Phillies.  Monday’s best major league game, by Game Score, was May 16, 1972, against the Phillies; he hit a single and three homers, driving in 5 runs.  His second-best individual game, April 17, 1976, was also against the Phillies.   For Snider, 3 of his 5 best games were against the Phillies—May 30, 1950 (4-for-4 with 3 homers), July 4, 1955 against the Phillies (2 homers, a single and a walk, leading to 5 RBI and 4 runs scored) and May 2, 1948 against the Phillies (4-for-5 with a triple, 2 homers and 4 RBI.)  Snider hit more home runs against Robin Roberts than any other one player has ever hit against one pitcher, but none of his three big games against the Phillies was against Robin Roberts.   Monday hit .349 against Tom Seaver (30 for 88), and hit more home runs against Seaver than any other batter (11). 

            They have similar names.   Both had one-syllable, four-letter first names ending with a "K" sound, Duke and Rick; Duke was actually a nickname, but it is the name universally used for him.  Both had two-syllable, six-letter last names pivoting off of a "D"; Sni-DER and Mon-DAY.

            The first major league team for both men moved to California while the player was still with the team.  Duke Snider came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and was still with the Dodgers when they moved to LA in 1958.  Monday came up with the Kansas City A’s, and was still with the A’s when they moved to Oakland in 1968.   After playing for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and LA, Snider played for two more teams in the majors—the Mets and Giants.  After playing for the A’s in Kansas City and Oakland, Monday played for two more teams in the majors—the Cubs and Dodgers.   There’s just . . .I don’t know.  A lot of parallels between the two.  It’s an unusually good match for two players who did not have careers of similar quality. 



COMMENTS (7 Comments, most recent shown first)

I believe by law you're required to at least mention the flag incident in any story about Rick Monday.
6:10 AM Jun 1st
A few years ago I was playing a little bit of APBA with the '81 season, and yes Monday has a devastating card.
8:49 PM May 31st
My Elementary School Principal announced the Rick Monday home run over the intercom. Plenty of tears.​
8:34 PM May 31st
In other words, Rick Monday the announcer is the West coast equivalent of Phil Rizzuto.
5:23 PM May 31st
love this stuff. thanks Bill
4:42 PM May 31st
It's often written that Snider benefited from being the only left-handed hitter in the Dodgers lineup, such that he rarely had to face a left-handed starting pitcher. After the Cubs traded Billy Williams, Rick Monday was for several years the only left-handed hitter in the Cubs lineup.
4:09 PM May 31st
You mentioned Rick Monday's long tenure as a broadcaster after his playing career. I've never met him, but although I like Monday the person; he has to be one of the worst radio announcers of all time. He's being doing Dodger games forever and he should be good at it. He has a great voice for radio, he's personable and articulate and he knows the game. He's terrible though because he does everything but call the game. I'll tune into a Dodger game sometimes as I'm driving and if Monday is doing the call, I'm lost. He almost never mentions the basics, inning, score, count, men on or not. He's telling stories from 1978. And, especially early in the season when because of roster moves and new players, it's even hard sometimes to know who the Dodgers are playing as he rarely mentions the opponent although he might mention a last name here and there.
1:19 PM May 31st
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