The Ryan Express: Top 5 Moments

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The Express!

The Ryan Express!
If you could choose any Major League pitcher, retired or active, to pitch Game 7 of the World Series during the Dead-Ball Era or the Steroid Era, who would you choose? Without any hesitation I would choose Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. He was the most intimidating power pitcher in 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 98 mph. 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 Tigers 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 strikeout record (383) by one, 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 finished with seven no-hitters, three more than his closest rival (Sandy Koufax).

As this MLB video will show, the Tigers didn’t stand a chance!

(#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 age 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 (5,714 total). He has 938 more strikeouts than second place Randy Johnson, a record that probably will never be surpassed.

(#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 pitched 7.2 innings, giving up six hits, one earned run, and eight strikeouts, to record his 300 career victory. That was one month after recording his sixth no-hitter. Nolan is the fourth oldest player behind Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, and Early Wynn to win 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, 5,000th 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 many ballplayers, he took exception to getting hit by the ball and charged the mound. Nolan is 20 years older Robin. 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. Nolan, placed the young Ventura in the same head-lock he used on steers and struck Ventura in the head six times before Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez pulled Robin away! After the brawl, 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 “whoop ‘um” he gave Ventura, 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.

Here’s the full MLB video of the old-school rhubarb.

(#1) August 5, 2010 – Nolan Ryan delivers the Texas Rangers

Not many people can stack credentials next to the legend Nolan Ryan. His tales can literally be compared to the stories you hear of Babe Ruth. Ryan amassed 5714 strikeouts, 324 victories and seven no-hitters are marks that may never be reached. He won a World Series in 1969 as a member of the New York Mets. 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.

Back to the World Series!

After suffering from financial struggles and bankruptcy under owner Tom Hicks, Nolan Ryan and his investment group swooped in and saved the Texas Rangers franchise by purchasing a team on August 5, 2010. Since Ryan’s arrival as president and owner of the Texas Rangers organization, the atmosphere of the last place team has come full circle. For instance, his presence has made pitchers tougher, and their endurance to pitch deeper in the games has increased the team chances at victories. With shrewd business moves in free agency, with General Manager Josh Daniels, and building up the farm system that is the best in baseball, the Texas Rangers have enjoyed success the past two years by winning back-to-back pennants for the first time in Rangers history. Although the franchise has yet to win the World Series, the future is surely bright.

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!

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