Born: April 1, 1936
Died: October 2, 2020
Towns: Fair Lawn & Paterson
Ronald Peter Perranoski was born April 1, 1936 in Paterson. His family name was actually Perzanowski. He grew up in nearby Fair Lawn and attended Fair Lawn High School. His live fastball and sharp breaking pitches made him nearly unhittable as a teenager, and attracted the attention of several college baseball programs. He eventually accepted a scholarship to Michigan State.
Ron was a starting pitcher for the coach John Kobs’ Spartans from 1956 to 1958. Among his teammates was Dick Radatz, who like Ron would go on to enjoy success as a big-league relief specialist. As a senior, Ron was one of three Michigan State players to be named First-Team All-Big Ten in 1958. He had been a Second-Team pick as a junior.
In the spring of 1958, the Chicago Cubs signed Ron and sent him to the minors. At the start of the 1960 season, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in a trade for Don Zimmer. The Dodgers converted Ron to a relief pitcher, and he went 7–5 with 6 saves as a rookie in 1961. Never much of a strikeout pitcher, Ron used his fastball to set up his sinker and curve, He was a master at inducing double plays.
Ron saved 20 games in 1962 and 21 in 1963, as the Dodgers won the World Series. He led the National League in appearances in those two seasons. He was also LA’s closer in 1965, when they were crowned World Series champions again.
Ron was a key man in a trade with the Twins after the 1967 season. In 1968, he served as the set-up man for Al Worthington. In 1969 and 1970, Ron moved into the closer’s role with the Twins and helped them win AL West titles both years. He led the league in saves with 31 in 1969 and 34 in 1970, and was named Fireman of the Year by The Sporting News twice in a row.
Age and injury began to catch up with Ron after that. He continued to pitch in the majors with the Tigers and Angels, and briefly returned to the Dodgers. He retired as a player after the 1973 season with 179 career saves and got into coaching. He served as Tommy Lasorda’s pitching coach with the Dodgers throughout the 1980s, and in the 1990s he performed the same duties with the Giants.
“Perry” gained a reputation for spotting tiny flaws in a pitcher’s delivery and making minor tweaks to get them back on track. Among his many success stories were Orel Hershier and Livan Hernandez—both of whom mastered the Perranoski sinker. He passed away in Florida at the age of 84.