If you could choose any Major League pitcher, retired or active, to pitch in game seven of the World Series during the dead-ball era or the steroid era with success, who would you choose? Without any hesitation I would choose Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. He was the most intimidating power pitcher of his era, for more than a quarter of a century. He pitched 27 years in the majors to be exact. In fact, his last major league pitch registered at 98mph on the radar gun. Mr. Ryan was a bulldog of a pitcher, who never fraternized with any opposing players because he wanted to keep his edge. He amazingly pitched in the major leagues in four different decades. Nolan Ryan is the only major league ballplayer outside of Jackie Robinson to have his number retired by three different teams (Anaheim Angels, Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers). It’s hard to believe that the Ryan Express has been away from the game since 1993. It seems like he would put up legendary stats each time he appeared in a game. I would like to share with you my top 5 most memorable moments in Nolan Ryan’s career.
(#5) July 15, 1973 – NO HITTER! California Angels vs Detroit Tigers
Nolan Ryan gets his second “NO-HITTER” of the season at Tiger Stadium. He struck out 17 Detroit Tigers that day, which at the time was two shy of the Major League record of 19. That year was golden for The Ryan Express as he won 21 games with a 2.87 ERA, broke the single season strike out record (383) by one, formerly held by Sandy Koufax, and after almost 40 years, that record still stands today. As puzzling as it sounds, Nolan did not win the Cy Young Award that year (losing to Jim Palmer who had one victory more than Nolan). In fact, in all of his 27 years playing, he never brought home the trophy. Nolan ended up with seven no hitters, three more than his closest rival (Sandy Koufax).
(#4) August 22, 1989 – #5000! Texas Rangers vs Oakland A’s
Who better to be at the plate than The Greatest! Not Ali, but this individual was the greatest lead-off hitter of all time in Ricky Henderson. The Ryan Express, at the age of 42, threw a 3-2 pitch fastball down the pipe……and a WHIFF by Mr. Henderson! Ricky graciously quoted, “If you haven’t been struck out by Nolan Ryan, you’re nobody.” Although Nolan Ryan is in elite company, he is the only pitcher to top 5,000 strikeouts in a career (5,714total). He has 938 more strikeouts than second place Randy Johnson, a record that probably will never be beaten.
(#3) July 31, 1990 – 300th Win! Texas Rangers vs Milwaukee Brewers
After failing to win number 300 at home in Arlington, Texas, Nolan traveled to Milwaukee where he went out and pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, one earned run, and eight strikeouts, to record his 300th career victory. That was one month after recording no-hitter number six. Nolan is the fourth oldest player behind Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro and Early Wynn to have won 300 games. He finished his career with 324.
(#2) August 4, 1993 – Don’t Mess With Texas! (The Lesson) Texas Rangers vs Chicago White Sox
After five years in Texas, Nolan had recorded his 300th victory, 5000th strikeout, and his sixth and seventh no-hitters as a Texas Ranger. In the final season of Nolan Ryan’s illustrious career, he showed why you ”Don’t Mess With Texas”! The 46 year old Ryan hit Robin Ventura’s backside with the ball. Like most ballplayers, they take exception to getting hit by the ball and he charged the mound. Nolan is 20 years Robin’s senior. I am sure when Ventura ran toward the old timer, his plans were to even the score. This is when keeping it real goes wrong! Robin learned a valuable lesson that day. Little did he know, Nolan, who placed the young Ventura in the same head-lock he used on steers, struck Robin in the head six times before Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez pulled Robin away! After the brawl occured, Robin Ventura was ejected from the game, and somehow Nolan dusted off his cap and remained pitching. Why was he allowed to remain in the game you might ask? After the can of whoopin he gave Robin, who’s going to tell him he can’t pitch?! By the way, Ryan didn’t give up another hit the rest of the way.
(#1) August 5, 2010 – Nolan Ryan delivers the Texas Rangers
Not many people can stack their credentials next to the legend Nolan Ryan. He can literally be compared to the stories you hear of Babe Ruth. 5714 strikeouts, 324 victories, and 7 no-hitters are marks that may never be reached. He won a World Series in 1969 with the New York Mets. He has had a full career pitching in the Major League. There is no other ballplayer in the history of the game that has made such a significant impact on the field, and now he is calling shots as an owner. A little bit past midnight on August 5, 2010, Nolan Ryan and his investment group swooped in and saved the Texas Rangers franchise by purchasing a team that had filed Chapter 7 under owner Tom Hicks. Since Ryan’s arrival as president and owner of the Texas Rangers organization, the atmosphere of the last place team has changed full circle. No longer are the Texas Rangers the laughing stock of the American League West. His presence has made pitchers tougher, and their endurance to pitch deeper in the games has increased the team’s chances at victories. With shrewd business moves in free agency, building up the farm system that is the best in baseball, the Texas Rangers have enjoyed success in the last two years by winning back-to-back pennants for the first time in Texas history and a trip to two World Series. Although the franchise has yet to win the World Series, the future of Texas Rangers baseball is positive.
I am pretty sure at age 64, Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr’s passion for baseball still exists. If by chance the Texas Rangers need an out with the bases loaded, a 3-2 count and a one run lead, I bet he would deliver a strikeout to win the game. Who is going to say he can’t take the mound? He owns the team now!