Former Astros pitcher and pitching coach Vern Ruhle passed away at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Saturday night. Ruhle, 5 days short of his 56th birthday, was a pitcher for the Houston Astros from 1978 to 1984.
In a pitching career that spanned over 13 years, Vern Ruhle was known as a control pitcher, evidenced by his amazing count of only 15 wild pitches over 1400 innings pitched.
1980 was by far his best season as an Astros pitcher–That year, Ruhle went 12-4 with an impressive 2.38 ERA, helping to lead the Astros to their first ever playoffs against the Phillies.
Ruhle was on the mound at the Astrodome during Game Four of the League Championship series during a very controversial play that eventually cost the Astros a chance to play in their very first World Series. He ended up being the center of a controversial play that should have netted his team a triple play–Instead, Phillies plays ran out of the dugout to argue the play and said Ruhle had trapped the ball and after 20 minutes of arguing back and forth, it was established as a double play, and Art Howe’s stepping on 1st base to complete the triple play was ruled completed after time had been called and therefore disallowed. Ruhle ended up with a no decision in the game as the Astros lost the game in the 10th inning.
Ruhle joined fellow Astros pitcher and new manager Larry Dierker as part of the Astros staff as pitching coach from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure as pitching coach, Vern was instrumental in the development of great pitchers like Darryl Kile and Mike Hampton.
He went on to coach the Phillies and Mets pitchers before he joined the Cincinatti Reds organization in 2004, where he served as pitching coach from 21 June 2005 until the end of the 2006 season. Ruhle discovered he had cancer during a routine physical in February 2006 and took a leave of absence from the team to get treatment and rehab until his return to the Reds in August 2006.
He will be sorely missed by everyone whose life he’s touched in Houston, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, and California–from his playing days to his coaching days.
Rest in peace forever Vern and know that fans, pitchers, and fellow coaches in all of baseball will always remember you fondly.