From the Annals of MLB – In 1991, in his 25th major league season and at age 44 Nolan Ryan pitched his record-setting 7th career no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. Ryan was not particularly happy about pitching that evening on four days rest, but he agreed to pitch because it was Arlington Appreciation Night and he felt he owed something to the Texas fans. Before the game, Rangers’ pitching coach Tom House was less than optimistic.
“Nolan was bouncing his curveball, huffing and puffing on his fastball. He had no location, and his changeup was non-existent. I’m thinking, Whoops, this is not real good.”
Despite warning House and Rangers’ manager Bobby Valentine to have some warming up before he even took the mound, Ryan cruised through the game with only a couple of good defensive plays required. He struck out Roberto Alomar to close out the game.
Ryan retired after in 1993 with the all-time MLB of 5,714 strikeouts and the less desirable career record of 2,795 walks. His 324 career wins has him tied for 14th on the all-time list. But the record of seven career no-hitters may be unbreakable. Sandy Koufax is second on the list with four. Among active players, Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, Jake Arrieta, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Homer Bailey each have two no-hitters.
Most baseball fans remember the game in August of 1993 where Nolan Ryan nailed Robin Ventura square on with a pitch in the back. The Rangers and White Sox had been in something of a beanball war for several seasons which perhaps explains why Ventura charged the mound to attack the future Hall of Famer. Moreover, Ryan had a reputation as a pitcher who would throw at hitters. But no one had ever had the temerity to challenge him until Ventura charged the mound back in 1993. The standard narrative is that Ryan punished Venture by putting him in a headlock and land some punches to the noggin with Ryan coming away the big winner.
Some dedicated White Sox fans have reexamined the footage and determined that the Ventura actually got the better of the Ryan Express in the ensuing brawl. The video clearly shows Ryan’s initial move that put Ventura in a headlock. He holds him there with the help of Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, but what happens next is never told. As the scrum grows, Ventura turns it around on Ryan, has him in an armlock and body slams him to the ground. The still from the video above shows that Ryan has completely lost control of the fight and is – to put it mildly – looking somewhat distressed. Ryan never landed a decent punch and by his own words was in trouble.
“All I remember is that I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to black out and die, when all of a sudden I see two big arms tossing bodies off of me. It was [Chicago’s] Bo Jackson. He had come to my rescue, and I’m awful glad he did, because I was about to pass out. I called him that night and thanked him.”
After the brawl, Ventura looked unscathed and its was Ryan who looked beat. Still most of the stories reminiscing about the incident give the standard narrative that the fight was all Ryan – when it clearly appears that Ventura gave as well as he got.
From the Annals of Heat – In 1983, Nolan Ryan playing for the Houston Astros set a new major league record with after recording strike-out number 3509 against Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos. Ryan broke a 55-year-old major league baseball record with the K. Ryan would go on to strike out a total of 5714 batters in his remarkable career and record a MLB record seven no-hitters. Less noted is the fact that he also is the all-time leader in bases on balls – but that is the price of longevity. Ryan is the only player to have his number retired by three different ball clubs – the Angels, Astros and Rangers. Among the stranger records he holds is his claim to have been the only pitcher in MLB history to have struck out seven pairs of fathers and sons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1999. Sadly, he is depicted wearing a Texas Rangers cap on his hall of fame plaque.
From the Annals of the National Pastime – In 1990, Nolan Ryan posted his 300th career win. Pitching for the Texas Rangers, Ryan threw 7 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts in an 11-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. His historic 300th victory came in his 24th season in the majors, his second with the Texas Rangers. Ryan had failed in his first bid for a 300th win the week before, pitching at his home stadium in Arlington, Texas. His second attempt came against the Brewers in front of a friendly crowd in Milwaukee. Ryan improved as the game went on, and by the fifth inning, the Rangers had taken a 5-1 lead. Ryan rung up two strikeouts in the fifth, one in the sixth and two more in the seventh inning. With two outs in the eighth, a defensive error put two runners on base, but with a crowd of 55,000 rooting him on, Ryan once again summoned the fastball that had won him 299 previous games. The talented young Gary Sheffield popped-out on a 96 mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning. After the Rangers tacked on insurance runs and the bullpen closed it out for an 11-3 win, Ryan became the fourth-oldest 300-game winner in baseball history after Phil Neikro, Gaylord Perry and Early Wynn.