Red Ruffing’s Death in 1986

On February 17, 1986, three years to the day before the death of once-Yankee teammate Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing died. A New York Times obituary said:

At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 200 pounds, the brawny Ruffing was regarded as an overpowering natural pitching talent when he joined the Boston Red Sox in 1924. But for all his natural abilities as a pitcher, it was a position Ruffing had come to by accident. He had started out as a power-hitting outfielder, but when he lost four toes [from his left foot] in a mining accident as a teen-ager in Illinois he switched to pitching and stayed with it.

For all the promise the Red Sox had seen in his physique, Ruffing’s career got off to a slow start and he did not emerge as a star until he was acquired in a trade by the Yankees during the 1930 season.

The transformation was immediate. Ruffing, who had never had a winning season in Boston and who had actually led the league in losses two years in a row (25 in 1928 and 22 in 1929) had begun the 1930 season with an 0-3 record with the Red Sox. After he joined the Yankees he posted a 15-5 record, the first of 14 winning seasons in his 15 years in New York.

Ruffing remained with the Yankees through 1942, then went to war, came back to New York in 1945, and was traded to the White Sox for his final season in 1947.

A Los Angeles Times obituary noted:

Ruffing, 80, died Monday at Hillcrest Hospital in suburban Mayfield Heights [Ohio]. He suffered a stroke 13 years ago and had been in poor health.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967 and thereafter attended induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y, until two years ago, when his failing health prevented him from traveling.

He had a career earned-run average of 3.80 and was an outstanding hitter, with 36 home runs and a batting average of .300 or better in eight seasons.

After his death, Ruffing’s widow, Pauline, told an anecdote about her husband, who was wheelchair-bound the last 13 years of his life, to a newspaper:
[An argument] wound up with Ruffing telling her she couldn’t talk to him that way, and she wanted to know why.

“Because I hit over .300,” he snapped.

“I don’t care if you hit 1.000,” she said.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. She went out and bought him the smallest trophy she could find, and gave it to him after having his batting average engraved on it.

“He loved it,” she told Richman. “You should have seen the kick he got out of it.”

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Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 5:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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