I remember Ruhle’s pitching days, particularly his best over-all season, 1980 as part of the pitching staff of the Houston Astros who faced the Phillies in perhaps the greatest National League Championship Series ever played. That year, Ruhle finished with a 12-4 mark with 6 complete games, a 2.31 ERA with 159 1/3 innings pitched. He was on that staff of Joe Niekro who went 20-12, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan and included fine relievers Joe Sambito and Dave Smith.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com gives further background on Ruhle’s battle with cancer and his Major League career;
Pitching coach Vern Ruhle, who missed the 2006 season while being treated for cancer, lost his battle and died on Saturday night.
Ruhle was five days shy of his 56th birthday. The former Major League pitcher passed away at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of complications from a donor stem cell transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Ruhle is survived by his wife Sue, daughter Rebecca and son Kenny.
“It’s something you never want to hear,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said from his home in North Carolina. “I know Sue has been with him the entire time. My thoughts and prayers are with his entire family.”
Ruhle pitched for the Tigers, Astros, Indians and Angels from 1974-86 and was 67-88 with a 3.73 ERA. From 1997-2003, he was a pitching coach for the Astros, Phillies and Mets, and he joined the Reds organization in 2004 as a pitching coach with rookie level Billings. Ruhle was promoted to Minor League pitching coordinator before the 2005 season.
On June 21, 2005, after manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett were dismissed, Ruhle became the Reds’ pitching coach on Narron’s staff.
For the 2007 season, Ruhle had been reassigned to work as the organization’s pitching rehabilitation coordinator at its Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla.
“Last year at this time, he was [at the camp] with guys coming in early,” Narron said. “I thought it was great how hard he wanted to work. He gave his heart and attention to each of the pitchers. He’ll definitely be missed.”
Last February, doctors discovered Ruhle had cancer after he underwent his annual physical at the start of Spring Training. After he took a leave of absence from the team, he spent the summer splitting time between his home in Sarasota and the hospital in Houston while bullpen coach Tom Hume assumed pitching coach duties on an interim basis.
In August, Ruhle was able to rejoin the club for some home games after he was informed by doctors during a checkup that he was showing improvement.
Reds reliever Todd Coffey worked with Ruhle at both the Minor and Major League levels.
“We definitely always got along,” Coffey said from his home, also in North Carolina. “I was so happy to see him near the end of the season. I thought he was over the hump. I hate that he passed away, but maybe now he won’t be in pain. He was a great pitching coach and a great man. The organization, we lost a good person.”
While he underwent cancer treatments last spring and summer, the risk of infection kept Ruhle confined to his hospital bed for three months. But during that difficult time, it was baseball that helped keep him upbeat. Ruhle monitored games over the Internet and on television, and he regularly received phone calls and e-mails from the coaching staff, especially Hume.
“[Baseball] was something that really helped me throughout the summer in the healing process,” Ruhle said on Aug. 18. “I always had something to talk about that was very neutral in the eyes of the doctors, the nurses and the visitors. We could always talk about something other than my medical aspect of what’s going on and what was and wasn’t working.”
General manager Wayne Krivsky had been with the Reds less than a month when Ruhle was diagnosed. But Krivsky was impressed with the coach’s dedication to the organization.
“Everybody is really saddened by the loss of Vern,” Krivsky said. “He was very committed to the Reds. I didn’t know him very well, but I got to know him over the past year. He gave it his all to make the Reds better. My heart goes out to his family and to Sue.”