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Relief ace Ron Perranoski, two-time World Series champion with Dodgers, dies at 84

Dodgers reliever Ron Perranoski poses for a picture in April 1965.
Ron Perranoski, pictured in 1965, was a standout left-handed reliever for the Dodgers in the 1960s and helped them win two World Series titles. He died Friday night at his home in Vero Beach, Fla.
(Associated Press)

The Dodgers have lost another legend of their past.

The team announced Saturday that Ron Perranoski, a two-time World Series-winning reliever with the club in the 1960s who went on to serve for 14 years as its pitching coach, died at age 84 on Friday night.

The news came less than a week after the deaths of fellow former Dodgers players Jay Johnstone and “Sweet” Lou Johnson. Born on April 1, 1936, in Paterson, N.J., Perranoski died in his Vero Beach, Fla., home from complications of a long illness, his sister Pat Zailo told the Associated Press.

Nicknamed “Perry” during his 13-year major league career, Perranoski broke into the big leagues with the Dodgers in 1961 and quickly earned a key role in their bullpen, helping the team to three National League pennants and two World Series titles between 1963 and 1966.

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In 1963, he recorded a 16-3 record and 1.67 earned-run average in a league-leading 69 appearances, finishing fourth in NL MVP voting behind Sandy Koufax, Dick Groat and Hank Aaron.

In the Dodgers’ World Series sweep of the Yankees that October, the team’s second championship following its relocation to Los Angeles, he recorded the final two outs of Game 2, the only time the Dodgers’ bullpen was used.

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Perranoski led the league again with 70 appearances in 1967 before being traded to the Minnesota Twins the next season and leading the American League in saves in 1969 and 1970. He joined the Detroit Tigers in 1971 but was released midway through the 1972 campaign, enabling him to return to the Dodgers as a free agent for the remainder of the season. He retired a year later as a member of the Angels.

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Perranoski’s coaching career with the Dodgers began soon after, first as their minor league pitching coordinator from 1973 to 1980, then as their major league pitching coach from 1981 to 1994.

“Ron Perranoski played a major role in the success of the Dodgers as a great reliever and a mentor to many great young pitchers over his 30-year career in the organization,” team president and chief executive Stan Kasten said in a statement.

Early in his coaching tenure, Perranoski helped mold such young arms as Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser. He became especially close with Hershiser, helping the eventual Cy Young Award winner develop a trademark sinking fastball that made him one of the best pitchers in the game.

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“Ron Perranoski was my Gepetto,” Hershiser told The Times in 1998. “He was the originator of my repertoire. He gave me the sinker.”

Entering his final start of 1988, Hershiser was nine innings away from matching Don Drysdale’s major league-record scoreless inning streak. Out of respect for Drysdale, Hershiser considered intentionally leaving the game early.

It was Perranoski and manager Tommy Lasorda who convinced him otherwise. Then, when that night’s game against the San Diego Padres went into extra innings, the coaches left Hershiser on the mound. After Hershiser completed his record-breaking 59th straight scoreless inning in the 10th, Perranoski was one of the first people the pitcher embraced.

“I really didn’t want to break it,” Hershiser said that night. “I wanted to stop at 58. I wanted me and Don to be together at the top. But the higher sources [Lasorda and Perranoski] told me they weren’t taking me out of the game, so I figured, what the heck, I might as well get the guy out.”

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The Dodgers and Padres might have been the best teams in the National League during the regular season, and now they meet in the NLDS in Arlington, Texas.

Perranoski’s time with the Dodgers came to an unceremonious end in 1994, when he was informed via phone call he was being replaced by the club’s minor league pitching instructor because the next season’s roster would feature a lot of young pitchers who had come through the farm system.

Disappointed but understanding, Perranoski jokingly told a reporter soon after, “It’s too soon to say what I am going to do. Maybe I will take over a young pitching staff somewhere and develop it.”

He did the next best thing, joining the San Francisco Giants’ organization as their minor league pitching coordinator before eventually being promoted as their MLB pitching coach for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. The following year, he moved into the Giants’ front office as a special assistant to the general manager.

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“He was a ballplayer and he loved that life,” Zailo said. “He thrived on it.”

Perranoski is survived by Zailo, sons Ron, Brad and Michael, and four grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.


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