Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Duke Snider Report from the Trenches of the Minor Leagues

After retiring from the game in 1964 Duke Snider rejoined the Dodgers franchise as a scout and manager in the minor leagues.  Tasked with leading the Class-A Tri-City Atoms of Pasco (but playing in Kennewick), Washington in 1966, he shares his utter dismay at the state of affairs with Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi in an letter featured in this post.  It is currently for sale through Heritage Auction.

In the letter Duke sends along his thoughts about a couple high-flying prospects he has and provides a report on the happenings at the clubs Class-AAA team in Spokane.

Hilariously, Snider calls out a player that he declares should be, "optioned out to a mental home for a couple of years."  Another player, Roy Gleason, is also mentioned but not in a good way.  Nevertheless, he promises to do everything he can for them.

Regardless of the difficulties, Duke Snider lead the Class-A team to a league leading 57-27 record.  He also turned around the fortunes of outfielder Roy Gleason.  Roy, who played in Los Angeles in 1963 and hit a double in his only at-bat, slashed .281/.410/.532/.942 for Snider.  Unfortunately, his progress on the field would be stifled the next year.  He would be drafted into the Army in 1967 during the Vietnam War - becomg the only ballplayer to have played in an MLB game, and be drafted and sent to the front lines during that conflict.  Gleason would eventually receive an Purple Heart in Vietnam.  BTW, he would be given an World Series ring for the 1963 season, but would lose it in Southeast Asia.

Below is the entirety of Duke Snider's letter:
June 18, 1966

It sure is hot up here!!  So far we have 14 boys up here, four pitchers.  This has the earmarks of being a rough assignment but I'll not complain and do the best I can.

Enclosed is my expense account ip to June 14.  (Roy) Gleason and (William) Parlier are here and as confused as ever.  I wonder why we keep these kind of boys.  We made a bad investment and we should walk away from it.  I will do all I can to help them.  They arrive late to the park today, a flat tire, one day Parlier wants to try pitching and the next he says he has a bad arm and has had it for three years and wants to see a doctor.  I believe he is straightened out on these matters now.  He should be optioned out to a mental home for a couple of years.

On my assignment to Spokane.  Jim Barbieri had a sure hand and did not play much but I sure like his approach to the ball and he has turned into a pretty good hitter.  He hustles good runs bases well and with the confidence he now has could help the big club.  I don't know how much as a pinch hitter but if he played some then he could keep his timing and then help pinch hitting too.  He does not give ground on left handers.  (Roy) Hartsfield would like to trade (Johnny) Werhas and (Mel) Carbo for someone with some speed.  He needs a first baseman.  He also would like to get rid of (William) Boehlert.  I am in accord with his feelings about these boys and feel it would help the club.  (Bill) Singer is still learning how to pitch and is away(s) yet.  (Lawrence) Staab has improved quite a bit.  (Tommy) Dean is going to hit OK in the big leagues in a couple of years.

You can be sure I'll do the best I can up here but we could use a few of those hot boys who are going to Ogden.  We need a first baseman real bad.

Guess that's about all for now.  Drop a line when you can it will be appreciated.  Damn it is hot up here.  I hope I did OK on the special assignment work prior ro this one.

See You Soon,

Duke Snider

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