Sunday, September 18, 2016


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We lived in Los Alamos, NM from 1974 to 1980. I could not find a basketball group, but there was a fast-pitch softball league in town. With the advent and growth of slow-pitch, fast-pitch was loosing its preeminence in the softball world.  We purists scoffed at slow-pitch, noting that any beer-guzzling lard-butt could play slow-pitch, but fast-pitch required real talent.  Also, it is fairly well accepted that pitchers dominate in fast-pitch, with many games decided by only a run or two.  I made it on to a team with pitcher Tony Lujan, a most excellent pitcher.  However, our league of just six teams had a team with an even better pitcher, Bun Ryan.  I had heard anecdotes about Bun, but never really did any research on his background.  With a couple of outstanding pitchers in my family, Claude and Larry Swartzendruber, I had been given some inside tips on hitting.  Having played a lot of baseball, I was used to seeing curves and sliders, all of which go down.  Good fast-pitch revolves around the rise-ball.  Claude said "Roll over your wrists when you swing and that will raise your bat to the ball."  It works really well.  I think that I hit around .500 in fast pitch, and every time that I got a hit against Bun, he would scowl because he often threw no-hitters.  As will be noted below, he could throw over 100 mph, which is amazing for softball - plus the mound is 30 feet closer than in baseball!!  After each game, Bun was always a gracious gentleman, even on the rare occasions that we would win.

Several folks have written about Bun, so I will just cut and paste here. This is from the Leadville-Lake County Hall of Fame page - Bun was a native of Leadville, and is an inductee:

Bernard Bullet Bun Ryan was known nationally as one of the fastest softball pitchers in the country. He had been clocked throwing a softball faster than 100 miles per hour. Raised in Leadville, Bun was a 1941 graduate of Leadville High School. He started his playing days on Leiter Field during Leadville's infamous fast-pitchdays.

Pitching for the Varsity Cleaners in 1947 and 1948, Bun's team won the district tournament and advanced to the Colorado State tournament both seasons. Bun pitched in about 35 games per year from the age of 18 to the age of 65. He pitched in seven World Softball Tournaments, every State Tournament in New Mexico from 1949 to 1988, and he played in twelve different states.

 He rarely missed the opportunity to return to his hometown to play in the annual tournament in Leadville, where he often pitched for the Silver Dollar Saloon. Bun won numerous MVP awards throughout his career. 

On several occasions, games were called by the ten run rule in the fifth inning when he had struck out all fifteen opponents batters. During the 1951 New Mexico State Tournament, Bun pitched 29 straight innings for the S-Site; he gave up only one run and six single hits. At one time in his career, Bun held the lowest earned run average in the nation.

Perhaps the highlight of Bun's career was serving as the star pitcher of Pierotti's Clowns for 25 years. Known as the "Globetrotters of Softball", the five-man team toured the Rocky Mountain states in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable organizations.

The Clowns were recognized in several magazines, including the very first issue of Sports Illustrated on August 16, 1954. In 2002, the Town of Los Alamos erected a mural as a permanent memorial to the Clowns whom they consider the "Goodwill Ambassadors of Los Alamos".

Bun will forever be known as a life long historian and ambassador of the sport of softball. In 1984, the softball field in Los Alamos was named Bun Ryan Field in his honor. In addition, he is a 1991 New Mexico Softball Hall of Fame inductee. "It all started in the place that will always be my home town." states Bun.

Here is an extensive story about Bun and Pierotti's Clowns from Veterans Today some of which is copied below:

Over 25 years, The Clowns won 177 games and lost only 23. The success of the team was due in part to Bun’s exceptional pitching. During his heydey, “Bullet Bun” was one of the most feared pitchers in the nation. His fastball was clocked at better than 100 mph.

With Pierotti’s Clowns, Bun was nearly unhittable, so much so that Lou Pierotti, the team’s third baseman, and the other players would often be seen throwing dice in the infield to pass the time when batters were struggling to make contact with his pitches.

Bun said in an interview that the team would constantly have to recruit catchers for him. “I changed catchers like socks,” he quipped.

One of the final catchers to try to stop a Ryan fastball was Alan Kirby. Kirby caught for him for two years and said that, even in his 60s, he could fire pitches as hard as anyone, to the point where Kirby had to keep his hand in an ice bucket between innings.

“He was the best teammate you could ever have,” Kirby said. “He was a leader… everybody respected him. Not only our team, but on other teams.” Bun was honored to be named a Los Alamos Living Treasure in 1999.

In September 2014, Bun Ryan passed away. He is now a treasure for the ages and currently — we suspect — greatly “ups the game” on the heavenly Fast-pitch Softball Team. The community and his family, through the tears, celebrate and share our memories of his life… Erica P. Wissinger ]

One of our favorite and beloved residents since 1949, Bun Ryan has passed on to eternity. Known as a “full-blooded Irishman”, he was nicknamed “Bullet Bun” and became famous nationally as one of the fastest softball pitchers in the country, able to throw more than 100 mph.

During his softball career, he pitched in seven World Softball Tournaments; every State Tournament in New Mexico from 1949 to 1988; and played in twelve different states.

Born in Leadville Colorado, Bernard “Bun” Ryan was drafted in the US Army in 1943, serving in Field Artillery during the WWII Pacific campaign; he was awarded the Bronze Star for his service and promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant at the age of 22, something that was a rarity at the time.

In 1945, he was part of an invasion force on the island of Luzon in the Philippines that was occupied by Japan that made significant headway for the Allies before it was halted because the force was getting too near a POW camp that the Army feared would lead to the death of several American prisoners.

Despite his service in the Army, Bun was repulsed by the idea of war. “War is so stupid,” he was quoted in an interview. “Nobody wins. Everybody loses.”

After World War II, Bun returned to Colorado to work at the JC Penney Corporation. He married his wife, Jean, a nurse, and moved to Los Alamos in 1949.

Four years after moving to the small mountain town of Los Alamos, he became a pitcher for Pierrotti’s Clowns, a five-man exhibition all-star fast-pitch team created by Lou Pierotti. Their clown antics, performed during regulation softball games, became a favorite form of entertainment in the community.

Pierotti’s Clowns was featured in six national magazines, including the first issue of Sports Illustrated published in 1954. One of the few games Bun lost as a pitcher with the Clowns came the day Sports Illustrated snapped a photo of him and his teammates for the first edition of the magazine, making the Clowns among the first victims of the SI Curse.

Bun was inducted into the New Mexico Softball Hall of Fame, and the Leadville Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

He was an active member of the Democratic Party, and played a pivotal role in bringing President John F. Kennedy and President Bill Clinton to visit and speak in Los Alamos during their terms. Mr. Ryan was the Democratic candidate for State Representative in 1994.

In retirement, and volunteering as a member of the non-profit Los Alamos Education Group, Bun worked to bring the Army veterans, the Navajo Code Talkers, to a conference in Los Alamos, where the town honored the Code Talkers by officially declaring it as “Los Alamos Navajo Code Talkers Day.”

This occasion ended up being an indelible and dignified community event honoring all WWII veterans — a rediscovery of so many unheralded men and women living among us, who had put their lives on the line in contributing their diverse skills to the American war effort.


If you get knocked down … Get back up

Bun joined Alcoholics Anonymous in February, 1966. He served as a substance abuse counselor and public speaker throughout his life and was dedicated to assisting others on their road to sobriety.

Bun’s son, Michael, related that when he was ten years old, he wasn’t sure if Bun was going to live. “Dad rescued himself from alcoholism, and then spent the rest of his life rescuing other people from alcoholism.”
During the latter part of his career, he received a Distinguished Performance Award from Los Alamos National Laboratory for his work in establishing their Employee Assistance Program — a confidential and structured program which focused on individuals’ recovery from substance abuse.

He worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 40 years, from 1949 until his retirement in 1990.
Bun was a published author, having written a book “My Cat-Skills,” which chronicled the adventures of his adopted cat, Big-A-Boy, and donated the proceeds from the sales of the 2009 book to Felines and Friends. Bun was preceded in death by his wife, Jean Ryan. He is survived by his son and daughter and a large and loving extended family. Always a soft touch for animals, Bun requested that any memorial contributions be made to an animal rescue service of the reader’s choice.

Bun in has latter years

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