Hard-throw­ing but er­ratic All-Star pitcher

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS -

Ryne Duren, an All-Star pitcher known for a 100 mph fast­ball, oc­ca­sional wild­ness and Coke­bot­tle glasses that cre­ated a most in­tim­i­dat­ing pres­ence on the mound, died Jan. 6 at his win­ter home in Lake Wales, Fla. He was 81. The cause of death was not dis­closed.

An All Star in three sea­sons, Mr. Duren helped the New York Yan­kees reach the­World Se­ries in 1958 and 1960.

Mr. Duren’s blaz­ing heater — and 20/200 vi­sion in his left eye, 20/70 in his right — al­ways at­tracted at­ten­tion. He was known for com­ing out of the bullpen and throw­ing at least one of his warmup pitches to the back­stop on the fly. He later kid­ded that he some­times did it on pur­pose. Re­gard­less, op­pos­ing bat­ters took no­tice, and his rep­u­ta­tion grew.

“Ryne could throw the heck out of the ball,” Yan­kees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra said Fri­day. “He threw fear in some hit­ters. I re­mem­ber he had sev­eral pair of glasses but it didn’t seem like he saw good in any of them.

Mr. Duren played for seven teams dur­ing a big league ca­reer from 1954 to 1965. He went 27-44 with a 3.83 ERA in 311 ap­pear­ances, all but 32 in re­lief.

“He added a lot of life to the Yan­kees and it was sad his drink­ing short­ened his ca­reer,” Berra said.

Mr. Duren wrote about his al­co­hol prob­lems in his books “I Can See Clearly Now” and “ The Come­back.” He spent many years work­ing with ballplay­ers, help­ing them with their ad­dic­tions, and was hon­ored by the Yan­kees for his ef­forts.

“Ev­ery­body knew Ryne,” for­mer Yan­kees team­mate Bobby Richardson told the As­so­ci­ated Press by phone. “He was a leg­end.”

“But I can tell you, it was no fun to hit against him. Ev­ery­one was afraid he was go­ing to hit them.”

Richardson, the 1960 World Se­ries MVP who later worked for the Base­ball As­sis­tance Team and Base­ball Chapel, praised Mr. Duren’s ef­forts off the field.

“He helped so many for­mer ballplay­ers, coun­sel­ing them and do­ing fol­low-up work,” he said. “He re­ally made a dif­fer­ence in so many lives.”

In 1986, Mr. Duren tes­ti­fied in New York at a state Assem­bly hear­ing that was con­sid­er­ing a bill re­quir­ing an al­co­hol-free zone at sport­ing events with 250 or more spec­ta­tors.

Ri­nold Ge­orge Duren was born in Cazen­ovia, Wis., and was a prep star. His fast­ball was so over­pow­er­ing, his youth coaches of­ten had him play the in­field, rather than risk hav­ing him hurt some­one with his pitches.

He made his ma­jor league de­but with Bal­ti­more in 1954. He led the AL with 20 saves for the Yan­kees in 1958. That fall, he won Game 6 of the­World Se­ries with 4 2-3 im­pres­sive in­nings against the Mil­wau­kee Braves. The Yan­kees then won Game 7 for the cham­pi­onship.

Mr. Duren was 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in five World Se­ries games. He was with the Yan­kees from 1958 to 1961 and played for Bal­ti­more, the Kansas City Ath­let­ics, An­gels, Cincin­nati, Philadel­phia andWash­ing­ton.

Hall of Fame sec­ond base­man Ryne Sandberg was named for Mr. Duren.

1958 FILE PHOTO/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitcher Ryne Duren, who played for the New York Yan­kees and sev­eral other teams, was known for a 100 mph fast­ball, oc­ca­sional wild­ness and thick glasses that cre­ated an in­tim­i­dat­ing pres­ence on the mound.

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