Ryne Duren – Fastballs and Highballs

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 3:10 am

Ryne Duren passed away the other day. Duren was a fireballing right handed reliever for a host of major league teams from the mid- 50s through the mid-1960s. In the days before speed guns, Duren was one of the legendary hard-throwers in the game, known for the fear he struck into opposing hitters with a combination of good velocity and poor control. That he wore a pair of coke bottle glasses every time he took the mound added to the trepidation hitters felt as they stepped into the box to face Duren. As his manager on the Yankees, Casey Stengel, once said: “I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head you might be in the past tense.”

Duren was a mainstay on the Yankees 1957 and 1958 World Series teams but was traded in the middle of the 1961 season because of alcohol-related excesses. He chronicled his struggles with alcoholism in the book, I Can See Clearly Now. The opening of the book is memorable. Despondent over the downward spiral of his life – both his baseball career and marriage derailed because of alcohol abuse – Duren had decided to commit suicide. Accordingly he walked into a lake in Michigan intent on drowning himself ( needless to say he was drunk at the time) but decided he needed another drink and headed for the nearest tavern….drenched in the waters of the lake.

I Can See Clearly Now is a wonderful book, probably the most inspirational baseball book I have read. It recounts the glory days of the Yankees and baseball in America and the unfolding plot of Duren’s surrender to alcoholism and his eventual recovery. In Duren’s day the worst a player did was to show up at the ball park drunk or hungover unlike today when hardcore recreational and performance enhancing drugs have have invaded and severely tainted the game.

Duren became a spokesperson for AA and helped many players who faced similar problems with alcohol. He was a truly inspirational figure to hundreds of people.

Thanks for the memories, and for all the people you helped, Ryne. You will be missed.


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