The Final Debate: Willie, Mickey or The Duke?


The debate may go on forever. Who was the best center fielder, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider? The answer, of course, depends on what borough you are from or what league you follow.

“Talkin Baseball,” Terry Cashman’s 1981 recording, revived the controversy. Thirty two-years later, maybe it is time to stir up the debate again.

For those who were born too late to remember these glory days of New York Baseball, the controversy began when the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants all played in the area.

The New York Giants had “The Say Hey Kid,” Willie Mays. His career accomplishments were monumental. Willie started right out of the box by winning the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951. He captured the Most Valuable Player award in 1954 and 1965. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year he was on the ballot. Plus, he is a member of the Major League Baseball All-Time Team.

Mickey Mantle-an unforgettable Yankee.Mickey Mantle-wiki

For the Brooklyn Dodgers, it was Duke Snider, “The Duke of Flatbush.” To go with his eight all-star selections, Snider is the only player to hit four homers in two different World Series, first in 1952 and then in 1955. In 1999, Sporting News ranked him number 84 on its 100 greatest players list.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

For the New York Yankees it was Mickey Mantle, “The Mick.” Mickey was a 20 time all-star. Yes, you read that right-20 times! He won the MVP three times and the Triple Crown in 1956. He made the Hall of Fame in 1974, on his first ballot, and was chosen for the Major League Baseball All-Century team.

So who was the best? In my view, the answer is revealed in one simple stat. It is the ultimate one, the major one, that defines all careers. It is more important than the MVP and the Hall of Fame, and any other honor that is earned or awarded.  Mays won the World Series once, in 1954. Snider won twice, in 1955 and 1959. Mantle won seven times, in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962.

That’s ten World Series champions.  That’s Willie, Mickey and The Duke.