Ron Perranoski, the lefthanded reliever who helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win two World Series in the 1960s and then two more as a coach in the 1980s, died Friday night at age 84.
Perranoski, who led the AL in saves while pitching for the Twins in 1969 and ’70, died at his home in Vero Beach, Fla., of complications from a long illness, his sister Pat Zailo told the Associated Press on Saturday.
“He was a ballplayer and he loved that life, he thrived on it,” Zailo said.
Perranoski played in the major leagues from 1961 to ’73, going 79-74 with 178 saves and a 2.79 ERA.
“Perranoski was an end-of-game guy that today’s analytical people wouldn’t have liked,” former Twins pitching great Jim Kaat said Saturday. “He relied on a slow curve and a sinker; didn’t really throw anything hard, but he got a lot of ground balls and, boy, he loved that ninth inning.”
A New Jersey native, Perranoski signed with the Chicago Cubs out of Michigan State in 1958 and was traded in April 1960 for Don Zimmer. He was the ace of the Los Angeles bullpen in the early 1960s, leading the NL in relief appearances three times.
His best year for Los Angeles came in 1963, when he went 16-3 as a full-time reliever and earned a save in relief of Johnny Podres in Game 2 of the World Series vs. the Yankees. He had 21 saves to go with a 1.67 ERA. Perranoski also pitched twice in the 1965 World Series, when the Dodgers beat the Twins in seven games.
In November 1967, Los Angeles dealt Perranoski, righthander Bob Miller and catcher John Roseboro for two of the Twins’ stars from 1965: shortstop Zoilo Versalles and righthander Mudcat Grant. Perranoski was the most impactful of the newcomers, pitching in 244 games from 1968 to ’71.
In 1969, he led the AL with 31 saves. He made 75 appearances that year, going 9-10 with a 2.11 ERA in 119⅔ innings as the Twins won the AL West.
The following year, the Twins repeated as division champions and Perranoski again led the AL with 34 saves, going 7-8 with a 2.43 ERA in 67 games and 111 innings.
Kaat recalled golfing with Perranoski 50 years ago, saying: “We played Pebble Beach one morning late in September in 1970. We had a night game in Oakland and Dave Boswell was scheduled to pitch, and Ron … he wouldn’t have to pitch until the late innings, so it wasn’t going to be a problem.
“Then, we walk in the visitors clubhouse and there are two baseballs in my glove. That meant you were the starting pitcher. I said to our pitching coach, Marv Grissom, ‘What’s this?’ and he told me Boswell had a sore back and they moved me up a day.
“I wound up going five innings, and Perranoski pitched three-plus to finish it, and we won the game 5-3. And that one clinched the division title for us. Little did they know where the guys who did most of the pitching had spent most of the day.
“Pebble Beach. Win the division. That was a good day.”
In the spring of 1971, Perranoski held out in a contract dispute before reporting late and out of shape. His numbers declined, and on July 31 the Tigers claimed him off waivers. He retired in 1973.
Perranoski served as Dodgers minor league pitching coordinator from 1973 to ’80, then was their pitching coach from 1981 to ’94, including Los Angeles’ 1981 and ’88 championship teams. Both those seasons, the Dodgers produced a Cy Young Award winner: Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Orel Hershiser in 1988.
“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,” Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten said.
Star Tribune staff writer Patrick Reusse contributed to this report.