SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT HE HAD a hard time seeing home plate. wether it was real or imagined, Ryne Duren's allegedly poor eyesight added to the mystique that made him one of the most feared pitchers in baseball history.
With a 100 mph fastball rivaling that of Nolan Ryan's and Randy Johnson's, he was a three-time All-Star who helped the Yankees win a pair of world championships during his brief but glorious career in New York.
"In my opinion, he was the hardest thrower that I've ever watched pitch," said Bob Turley, a starter on great Yankee teams of the late 1950s and early '60s. "I don't think anybody threw the ball as hard as he did."
A Wisconsin native, Duren's fastball was so explosive that his coaches at Cazenovia High School made him play second base. "I was very strong and wild," he said. "Nobody wanted to be responsible for me hurting anyone. I did pitch batting practice one day, I hit this kid and broke two of his ribs. So that was the end of my pitching in high school." (Duren was the model for Ricky Vaughn "Wild Thing" in the movie “Major League.”)
"They wouldn't let me play short or third in high school, because I threw the ball so hard across the infield I might have hurt somebody in the stands. Even maybe hurt the first baseman," Duren explained.
"I couldn't play the outfield because my eyes weren't good enough to pick up the ball. So they had me play second base, where I could flip the ball underhand to first base."
Friday Jan 7th, 2010....Ryne Duren, an all-star pitcher known for a 100 mile-an-hour fastball, occasional wildness and Coke-bottle glasses that created a most intimidating presence on the mound, has died at his winter home in Florida. He was 81.
But it was Duren's blazing 100 mph heater — and 20/200 vision in his left eye, 20/70 in his right — that always attracted attention. The look was very much like Ricky Vaughn, "Wild Thing" from the movie “Major League.”
Duren 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. Either way, opposing batters took notice, and Duren's reputation grew.
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