Ryne Duren - The Real Wild Thing
August 13, 2010
by William Szczepanek
Ryne Duren's most current claim to fame is that Hall of Fame second baseman, Ryne Sandburg is named after him, but in the late 1950s he was one of the most feared relief pitchers. Not that his fastball was in the 90s, or like many relief pitchers that he was a little wild. No, Rinold Duren could be very wild. In games his control was still a problem, but he still recorded many more strikeouts (630) than walks (392) and his innings pitched to walks ratio (589.1/392)was not bad. Ryne Duren was his wildest during warm ups.
It was not uncommon for the first warm up fastball to be over the catchers head and slam against the backstop. By his 8th warm up pitch his control was generally pretty good. He wore thick glasses and sometimes sun glasses. He would squint to get the catcher's signs. Put all of these things together and batters were very nervous once they entered the box. Legend has it that he hit a batter in the on deck circle, because he thought it was home plate.
Not atypical of the day he would walk to the mound from the bullpen with his jacket slung over his pitching arm even on hot days and nights. He had a habit of jumping over the bullpen fence rather than opening the gate.
With the Angels against the Red Sox he once struck out seven consecutive batters. Duren was a 3 time all star and had his best years with the Yankees in 1958 and 1959 when he had ERAs of 2.02 and 1.88, respectively. His 20 saves led the American League in 1958.