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Former Yankees pitcher Ron Klimkowski dies at 65

Ron Klimkowski, a former pitcher for the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics, has died at the age of 65.

Klimkowski died Friday of heart failure at Plainview Hospital, said his brother, Gary Klimkowski, 53, of Westbury.

Longtime friend Tom Reilly Jr., 53, of Huntington, called him "a charming and very gregarious individual. If you met Ron, you'd never forget him. He had a pretty overwhelming personality."

As an avid Yankee fan, his brother called it a "boyhood dream" for Klimkowski to be able to play for the team.

Reilly said Klimkowski cheered as his former team won the World Series this year. "It was kind of a blessing that he got to see one more before he passed on."

Born in Jersey City, N.J., Klimkowski's family later moved to Jamaica, Queens, and then to Westbury in 1956, his brother said.

In 1962, Klimkowski graduated from W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, where he had played football, basketball and baseball. "He was the first pro athlete out of Clarke High School," said his brother.

Klimkowski then attended Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., where he pitched for the Eagles one season before he was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1964.

In 1967, he was traded to the New York Yankees. He pitched for the AAA farm club, the Syracuse Chiefs, in 1969, where he was named MVP with a record of 15-7, his family said.

Klimkowski's first big league game for the Yankees was Sept. 15, 1969, in relief against the Detroit Tigers. His first major league start was against the Boston Red Sox.

In 1971, Klimkowski was traded to the Oakland A's. The team won the American League West Division.

The following year, he returned to the Yankees, but a knee injury from spring training hampered his final season.

After his baseball career, Klimkowski was a car salesman for different dealerships and worked on Wall Street, his brother said.

In addition to his brother Gary and his wife, Donna, whom he married in 1978, survivors include a brother, Charles Klimkowski, of Lebanon, Pa.; sons Ron Klimkowski Jr. and Scott Klimkowski, both of Cincinnati; daughters Erin Brewer, of Columbus, Ohio, and Lindsay Klimkowski of Syosset; and 11 grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be offered Monday at  St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church in Syosset at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to an organization of the giver's choice.

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