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.

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker