Thursday, January 20, 2011

Texas Tidbits; The Ryan Express

Nolan Ryan beats the hell out of Robin Ventura
Any Texan that is a sports fan knows to whom the nickname "The Ryan Express" refers. Folks, we are talking about one of the most amazing athletes of our time. The records he set during his baseball career are beyond reach for probably another 50 years, if not unbreakable. From a skinny kid born in Refugio, Texas to the most dominating pitcher in the history of baseball, Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. is in a class of one. Here's a short list of the records Nolan Ryan set during his 27 year Major League career:

  • Most strikeouts, lifetime: 5714
  • Longest service: 27 years
  • Most no-hitters, career: 7
  • Most strikeouts, season: 383 (AL, 1973)
  • Most seasons, 200+ strikeouts: 15
  • Most seasons, 300+ strikeouts: 6
  • Most consecutive strikouts, game: 8
  • Most low-hit (0/1 hit) games, career: 16
  • Most low-hit (0/1 hit) games, season: 3 (1973)
  • Most walks, career: 2795
  • Most seasons leading majors, walks: 8
  • Most strikouts per 9 innings, season: 11.48
  • Most strikouts per 9 innings, career: 9.57 (as of 1990)
  • Fewest hits allowed per 9 innings, season: 5.26 (1972)
  • Fewest hits allowed per 9 innings, career: 6.41 (as of 1990)
  • Oldest to pitch a no-hitter: 44 (5/1/91)
  • Fastest pitch (as listed in the Guiness Book Of World Records): 101.9 MPH
I was lucky enough to have seen Nolan Ryan pitch on several occasions, for both the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. When Ryan took the mound, some opposing players who feared his 100mph fast ball, suddenly contracted various ailments like "a tight hamstring" or "food poisining", that would keep them out of the lineup that day. Ryan was fearleass and was to be feared. To watch a Major League Baseball player's knees buckle and his face contort when The Express forsook his bullet-like fast ball to throw a curve ball that literally broke about 18 inches, was a thing beauty.

Nolan Ryan was a fierce competitor. That competitive nature plus a 100mph fastball induced fear into many opposing hitters, often prompting temper tantrums that would challenge any two year old. On one occasion, Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox was yet another strike out victim of Ryan's, when all of the sudden, for some inexplicable reason, Ventura charged the mound to confront The Express. Ventura was about 25 or so and Nolan was in his mid-forties, if I recall correctly.  Bad. Move. Robin. The Old Man kicked his ass. Instant baseball classic and the stuff of which legends are made. Not that Nolan Ryan needed any help in the legend department.

Before you move on, take another look at the records that Nolan Ryan holds. The numbers are simply astounding. Ryan retired long ago, and is now President/Owner of the Texas Rangers, but left behind the kind of legacy that only extraordinary athletes can. And believe you me, Nolan Ryan was an athlete that comes along once in a lifetime, maybe two lifetimes. Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. Baseball Hall of Famer, Texan, Legend.


  1. A great read, Toby, about a great Texas legend. Ann and I are avid Ranger fans. We are fortunate enough to be able to see 99% of their games on television, and we rarely miss any of them. And we can't wait to see them begin the new season in April, now that Nolan Ryan is now the official new owner.


  2. Thanks, Bob! I am a big Rangers fan as well. I saw the third game they ever played here when they left Washington,DC for Texas. Old Arlington Stadium was called Turnpike Stadium before the Rangers moved here. I went to dozens of games when the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs were the Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles and played at Turnpike Stadium.

  3. I remember seeing that fight from the image on a replay. What was Ventura thinking about?

    When I was stationed in the Philippines in the mid 70's, one of my cousins sent me a photo from a newspaper clipping of Nolan throwing the pitch as an Angel setting the strikeout record for a season.
    I had told them I could have anything carved in wood, just send a photo. So I went to the woodcarver that I did business with, he was a true artisan. I showed him the photo and he looked at it from every angle and smiled, he wanted to do it. We discussed what size it should be, and after making the "I caught one this big" hand gestures, we settled on a fairly tall carving, which he said it needed to be so he could get the scale and capture the motion.
    He sent word to my office that it was ready, so I stopped by to pick it up. I was so blown away by it, that I almost kept it. It was a perfect representation of the photo, right down to the shadow effect on his face and neck from Nolan's ballcap.
    It was with immense pride that I mailed it to my cuz in Baton Rouge, and to this day he keeps it oiled and clean, perched on a shelf in the living room of his 7,200sq.ft. abode.

    As for the Rangers, I just can't get into them, but I wish them well.
    It goes back to my childhood. When I was a kid, the biggest insult you could hurl on the playground was to tell some one they played like a Washington Senator. The Senators were the epitome of bumbling, bungling, buffoonery. I was in the RPI when I heard they had been moved to Arlington and renamed, and must admit I felt embarrassment. They couldn't fool me.
    I was a devoted Colt45/Astros fan, as they were the original Texas MLB team and still are.

  4. n2l...i am an Astros fan as well. I used to listen to them on radio at night when I was a little boy. I an AM transistor radio that I turned down real low and put it under my pillow at night. If I had to choose between the Astros and the Rangers, I gotta go with Houston.

  5. Those years with the Killer Bees were the best, though they had some good teams in the 80's.
    I wonder about the fast ball speed record, though. They must have never clocked J.R. Richards in his prime, he was scary fast and I believe well above the mark set by Nolan.
    I used to do the same thing with my AM radio, slip it under my pillow and listen to Wolf Man Jack broadcasting out of a rogue station in Mexico, putting out a couple of gazillion watts.
    The Astros had an interesting year last year. Started off awful, then after the All-Star break and the last of the World Series players was traded away(Berkman/Oswalt) they had the second best winning record in the second half of the season in all of MLB.
    Sure hope they have a good season this year.
    I'm still coming down from football season and can't wait for Sep.


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