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Ryne Duren: 1929-2011

Jan 7, 2011, 2:41 PM EDT

ryne duren yankees

Ryne Duren, a three-time All-Star reliever in the 1950s and 1960s known for his blazing fastball, coke-bottle glasses, and effective wildness, has passed away at age 81.

Duren didn’t get his first extended opportunity in the majors until he was 28, but he pitched nine seasons for seven different teams and was a dominant force in the Yankees’ bullpen in 1958 and 1959, combining to post a 1.95 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 152 innings while leading the league in saves.

Duren also walked 86 batters in 152 innings during that span, and control problems plagued the 6-foot-2 right-hander for his entire career. Not always knowing where the ball was going combined with thick glasses and a high-90s fastball made Duren awfully tough to hit, and he famously played up the wildness even further by often intentionally firing his first warmup pitch over the catcher’s head.

  1. uyf1950 - Jan 7, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I remember seeing Duran as a kid growing up in NY. There were some games that the batters feared for their lives he so so wild. RIP

  2. RickyB - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Heard a story about him at the All-Star Game one year. The A.L. was taking batting practice, and he was hanging out with some other players watching the proceedings. Opposing players were never sure how well he could see, but they became even more alarmed when he squinted at the current hitter in the cage and asked who it was. The other players thought he was joking, but quickly realized he was quite serious. The batter was Ted Williams.

  3. Old Gator - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    Death of a legend. I seem to recall that he had some serious issues with alcoholism as well. I didn’t even know he was still alive.

    • Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Jan 7, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      He just looks like someone who can kick ass.

  4. spudchukar - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    A legend. R.I.P. Great Card too. By the way does anyone know the full/actual name of a baseball card book called something like “The Great-All-Star(maybe American)-Bubble Gum-Flip-Card-Book. I think it was written by a couple of SI sportswriters? It isn’t new, must be about 25 years old, kind of a table book, more wide than tall. Each page showed actual cards, predominantly from the ’60s. It was fabulous but I cannot seem to locate it, due primarily that I don’t know the title or authors. Help, please

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      Is this the droid you’re looking for? Is this your huckleberry?

      • spudchukar - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:48 PM

        Sounds like it thanks. I think. I had tried to keyword this a number of times, just not lately. Again, thanks.

  5. proudlycanadian - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Thank you for informing us. He was a favourite of mine when I was young. Batters were scared of him because of his velocity and his wildness.

  6. ditto65 - Jan 7, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    Looks like Hunter S. Thompson in disguise.

  7. Professor Longnose - Jan 7, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    Duren was indeed an alcoholic. He wrote an autobiography that describes some of what he went through. As I remember, in the 1960s he reached a low point and tried to commit suicide by driving his train onto a railroad track. He sat there drinking beer and waiting for the train.

    Eventually, he got the help he needed and for a while went around teaching kids about the dangers of alcohol. He was able to show them how much you stand to lose–including a major league career.

    Ds are not always PE.

    • Old Gator - Jan 7, 2011 at 10:23 PM

      Drivin that train, high on…eh…he was just lucky that he was waiting for a Long Island Rail Road train. Like most commuters, his wait was going to be a long one.

      I assume you meant he drove his car or feeftyseven Chevy peeckup onto the tracks, right?

  8. Professor Longnose - Jan 8, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    Car, check. Thanks, Old Man.

    Let’s drink a toast to Ryne Duren and his fastball. A diet cola will do nicely.

  9. mrznyc - Jan 8, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Once saw him walk to the baseline, call the bat boy over and hand him his glasses, then walk back out to the mound. The batter refused to get back in the box while the entire stadium, including the rest of the players almost fell down laughing.

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