Duren came to the Yankees in 1958 at age 29 with a blazing 95-mph fastball. He quickly became the most feared reliever in the league. “Blind Ryne,” who had uncorrected vision of 20/70 and 20/200, would frighten hitters when he entered the game, squinting toward home through bottle-thick glasses. He enhanced the effect by intentionally throwing his first warm-up pitch back to the screen. Initially, it may not have always been planned; while in the minors his control was so erratic that he once hit the on-deck batter.
Duren’s career peaked quickly. In 1958 he won six and saved a league-high 20 games in just 44 appearances. He was often brilliant in New York’s World Series victory over the Braves, going 1-1 (1.93) with a save. He saved 14 in 1959, at one point going 18 games — 36 innings — without allowing a run. In those two seasons he allowed only 89 hits, fanning 183 in just 151 innings.
But drinking did Duren in. Though he continued to record more strikeouts than innings, his downhill slide was swift, as his records show. His decline, despair, and hard-won recovery are chronicled in his autobiography, The Comeback. He retired with 57 career saves.