Duren, known for his very thick glasses, had issues with his eyesight. Some made the correlation between his inability to see well and his excessive drinking, but it is inconclusive whether one had anything to do with the other. He threw 100 MPH, something that was not as common in the 1950s as it is right now. While Duren was in the minors, like most power pitchers, he had a propensity for walking a ton of batters. Drafted originally by the St Louis Browns in 1949, he would walk 114 batters in 85 IP in 1949, 157 in 190 IP in 1950, 194 in 198 IP in 1951, 138, 148 1/3 in 1952, 159 in 202 IP in 1953 and 144 in 220 IP in 1954. In addition to the improvement with his walk numbers per innings pitched, he won 15 games in 1950 and 17 in 1951. He would make his MLB debut for the Orioles in 1954, pitching in one game in relief. It would be until 1957 when Duren made it back to the majors, pitching 14 games and starting 6 for the Philadelphia Athletics.
The turning point in Duren's career came in 1957, when he was traded to the New York Yankees in a several player trade which sent Billy Martin to the Athletics. While Duren spent the remainder of the 1957 season in the minors, he became a force as a late inning reliever in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he was 6-4, 2.02 with a league leading 20 saves with 87 strikeouts in 75 2/3 IP. He was also very good in the 1958 World Series against the Braves, pitching to a 1.93 ERA in 3 games, while striking out 14 batters in 9 1/3 IP. 1959 was just as good for Ryne, as he went 3-6, 1.98 with 14 saves. He saw his strikeouts go up to 96 in 76 2/3 IP that season. Even though he pitched in the 1960 World Series, 1960 was not a good season for Duren, as he went 3-4, 4.96, but giving up just 1 run in 4 innings of work in the World Series against the Pirates.
Duren refused to use the bullpen gate, as he hopped over it coming out of the bullpen each game. He would walk very slowly to the mound, with his jacket covering his pitching arm, even if the temperature was approaching 100 degrees. His first pitch generally hit the backstop on the fly, with the proceeding pitches getting closer and closer to the plate. It was his way of seeing where the ball was going and commanding his fastball.
In 1961, Ryne Duren was traded to the expansion Los Angeles Angels, joining his former Yankees teammate RHP Eli Grba with the Angels. LA moved him back into the starting rotation, something that seemed to not work out. In his two seasons in LA, Duren pitched to a 4.86 ERA, but maintained his career average (9.6) in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. After losing a couple ticks off his fastball, Duren had decent seasons in 1963 with the Phillies (6-2, 3.30) and 1964 with the Reds (0-2, 2.89). He finished off his career at age 36 in 1965, splitting the year between the Phillies and Washington Senators.
After his career was over Duren did great things with Alcoholics Anonymous and helped with the recovery movement. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandburg was named in honor of Duren. The Yankees would later honor him for conquering his alcohol addiction. He passed away in January of 2011 at the age of 81.