Remembering Ryne Duren, 1929-2011

Ryne Duren, former pitcher for the New York Yankees, died on January 6 aged 81. In memory of this great American sportsman, Cecilia Tan has shared a 2003 interview with Mr Duren on her ‘Why I Like Baseball’ blog, where he fondly recalled meeting Marilyn Monroe at team practice with his friend, Joe DiMaggio.

“Highlight of my career was meeting Marilyn Monroe.

CT: Not on the golf course…?

No, she came to spring training with Joe. There she is, sitting outside the clubhouse on the bench, I walk up the first day and it’s Marilyn Monroe. And I don’t know why but I guess it’s just me, I sat down and made small talk with Marilyn Monroe. Joe and I always had a good relationship. We always talked, especially in later life when after she had died and everybody knew I had gotten on top of the problem and was running a hospital and I had been quoted in the papers a lot, a lot of people had done stories on me, Joe wanted to spend some time talking with me and we did about the mixtures of different drugs and alcohol and so forth. I don’t care what anybody else says, she died from Valium mixed with alcohol. I truly believe that.

CT: But people always want to make a conspiracy theory out of it when it’s an American icon who dies.

Oh yeah.

CT: So tell me some more about Joe DiMaggio. A lot of the guys don’t really say much about him.

Well, everybody sees him differently. I went down to the batting cage one day, and he had been down there helping guys hit. We were in St. Petersburg at the old Miller Huggins Field, way down in the corner we had a batting cage with a pitching machine. So I went down there and Joe was down there just kind of hanging around, and the last honest batter came out and got through, so now I say, hey Joe, can you help me some? And he kind of laughed and said why? You can’t hit. You’ve got to have good eyesight and coordination. So I said aw, c’mon Joe, at least help me with my stance or something. And he says Ryne, it’s a waste of time! Please, why would you want me to do that. So I said, you know, Joe, if I could at least look good striking out, that’d be a help, right? And it just cracked him up. But he did finally tell me how to stand and swing and so forth. So now, I’m down there hitting balls and he went back to the bench. So evidently he was proud of the fact that he had me with a pretty good looking swing, so they’re sitting up in the dugout and he’s playing a game with someone down there. He’d make a little bet with you and so on. So he says, who is that guy hitting down there? He looks pretty good. They can’t see my number from there. Joe then says, well, that looks like Ryne Duren to me. And they laughed at him. No, I think it really is. So then they made a little bet, and sure enough I finally turned around to pick up the balls and it’s me. So he did make me look good anyway, and he always got a kick out of that.”