Saturday, August 8, 2015

Meet the Brewers #6: Russ Snyder

Welcome back to the "Meet the Brewers" series! Since the last time, when I wrote about Danny Walton, I purchased the 4th and final book of the 25th Commemorative set of the Brewers from 1994 (and into 1995, thanks to the Selig-inspired strike in 1994).  So, for the next several hundred Brewers, I should have at least one card for them so long as Miller and the Brewers found a photo and put a card in the books for the player.

This next Brewer, Russ Snyder, is Brewer #6 by virtue of the fact that he batted second for the Brewers in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 1970 season in Milwaukee.  Snyder was the starting centerfielder for the Brewers that April 7th, and it was a game for Snyder to forget. He went 0-for-4, struck out twice, and, to top things off, committed an error in the top of the fourth inning to allow Jim Spencer to lead of the inning on second base.  The Angels went on to score 4 runs that inning to go from 4-0 to 8-0.  

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Russ Snyder had many, many better days than that Opening Day. He was the oldest Brewer on that first team -- at least until Tito Francona joined the team on June 14. Snyder grew up in tiny Oak, Nebraska, two hours drive (today) from Lincoln and about four hours drive from Kansas City.  Oak had a population of 131 in 1950, three years before Snyder signed with the New York Yankees before the 1953 season.  

Snyder toiled in the Yankees farm system until 1959, when he was traded to the Yankees' Triple-A team in the American League, the Kansas City Athletics. He split 1959 between the A's Triple-A team and the A's, and his debut made such an impression that at least one journalist gave him a vote for Rookie of the Year for his 243 at bats of .313/.367/.420 (19 BB, 3 HR, 6 SB).   

Despite the accolades and the good season in 1959, Snyder did not stay in Kansas City long. Much as the Brewers turned over their players regularly right after they moved to Milwaukee, the Athletics traded people in and out regularly. Snyder did not get called back up to the Yankees though, instead finding himself in Baltimore -- traded with future Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog for four players (thanks to one player being stamped "return to sender" in April of 1961).  And it is in Baltimore that Snyder is most remembered -- and fondly, at that.

With Baltimore from 1961 through 1967, Snyder played semi-regularly as the Orioles fourth outfielder/pinch hitter/pinch runner.  In 1966, he played a key role in helping the Orioles to win the American League and the World Series.  As an interview with Snyder in 2013 in The Baltimore Sun detailed. Snyder made two key defensive plays that year.  

The first came on September 22 against the Kansas City A's. Jim Palmer was trying to finish off the pennant-clinching game, but with two outs, he'd allowed two runners to reach base (a single and a walk). Dick Green, the A's second baseman, hit a line drive to left-center that Snyder made a diving catch on to win the game 6-1.  

The second was in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Don Drysdale and Dave McNally squared off against one another, but neither of them made it past the third inning. However, Snyder helped keep McNally in the game in the bottom of the second inning when he snagged a John Roseboro liner with runners on first and second. After that out, McNally settled down and retired Dick Stuart and Maury Wills to keep the score at 4-1. The Orioles went on to win 5-2 and swept the World Series.

1994 Miller Genuine Draft Commemorative Set
After the 1967 season, Snyder was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a five-player trade that saw Luis Aparicio return to Chicago.  He was traded again -- to Cleveland -- midway through the 1968 season.  After a year and a half in Cleveland, he found himself with the Brewers.

The 1970 season was Snyder's only season in a Brewers uniform, and it was his last as a major leaguer.  He played in 124 games and came to bat 301 times, hitting .232/.270/.315. He was released in March of 1971 and returned to southern Nebraska where he grew up...or close, at least. He lives in the big city in Nuckolls County -- Nelson.  Population: 471.

I have the two Russ Snyder cards I've displayed here, and I am missing one big one for sure: his 1971 Topps card.  It is card number 653, putting it right at the beginning of the difficult-to-find Seventh Series and, to top it off, is one of the 66 short prints from that series. I have never seen one of these at a card show, though they are available on eBay.

4 comments:

  1. So far, I've noticed that the Brewers, Orioles and Dodgers all have oddball, comprehensive sets like that. I kinda wish the Cubs did too; but I guess that'd make my collecting goal moot. Excellent wrap up!

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    1. That Cubs set would be absolutely huge and the early years would be a bear to put together, I'm sure!

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  2. I just picked up the Brewers McDonalds set.. It has a bunch of guys I collect. Harper,Krauss,Pattin, Bolin, Kennedy and Jackie Moore.

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    1. Yeah, the Brewers seemed to be Boston's version of the Kansas City A's for the Yankees in the early 1970s -- lots of trades back and forth with one another.

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