Nolan Ryan - The Strikeout King
The Strikeout King
In 1971, Ryan was traded to the California Angels. It turned out to be a godsend. As he told Hohlfeld, "I went to a team that was in the building stages and I got to pitch every fourth day. My military obligation was over that year, and I went from pitching 130 innings with the Mets to 300-plus innings each year with the Angels. At that point in my career, really, that's all I was looking for." Ryan stayed with the Angels for eight years, playing from the 1972 season until 1979. These years formed the foundation of his career. It was during that time that he learned to hone his pitching skills to a razor sharpness, in 1972 leading his league in strikeouts (329). As in his early years, he developed a reputation for aggression on the mound. Of the batters who faced Ryan at this time was Tom Grieve, then a player for the Texas Rangers. He later said of Ryan to Hohlfeld, "He was the only pitcher I faced … that fear entered into the
at-bat. He was throwing so hard, and he was wild, and you knew he was mean. He'd knock you down, and you never knew whether it was on purpose or not."
In 1973, Ryan pitched the first two of what was to be a total of seven no-hitters during his career. By 1974, Ryan's fastball was being clocked at 100.9 miles per hour. Also in 1974, he pitched his third no-hitter. He pitched his fourth no-hitter in 1975. In 1979, Ryan moved his family back to Texas, where he signed a 4-year, $4.4 million contract with the Astros. This made him the best-paid athlete in history. Ryan pitched his fifth no-hit game with the Astros in 1981, earning him the distinction of being the no-hit champion. Then 34 years old, Ryan wasn't sure that he would have the stamina to pull off this feat. "It was the one thing I wanted," he told the Houston Chronicle's Bill Sullivan. "I'd had a shot at if for a long time, but because of my age, I thought I wouldn't get it." Get it he did, and he repeated this remarkable performance two more times, in 1990, playing a no-hit game with the Texas Rangers, with which he signed in 1988, and a final time less than a year later, in 1991, to complete a record series of seven no-hitters.
Ryan finished his playing career with the Texas Rangers. In his first season with the Rangers, Ryan won 16 games and struck out 301 batters It was also with the Rangers that he pitched his sixth and seventh no-hitters. Other milestones he passed with the Rangers were his 300th win and his 5,000 strikeout. "The years I spent with the Rangers were the ones that put me over the top," he told the Houston Chronicle's Bill Sullivan. In particular, Ryan was proudest of his 5,000th strikeout (of the Oakland A's Rickey Henderson). As he told Sullivan, "It represented that many innings pitched and being able to maintain that style of pitching my entire career." Ryan retired from playing baseball in 1993, at the remarkable age of 46. He was the oldest player ever to play for the Texas Rangers.
In all, Ryan's career as a major league baseball player spanned 27 years. He played for four teams—the Mets, with which he made his pro ball debut, the California Angels, the Houston Astros, and finally, the Texas Rangers. Four decades as pro saw Ryan set or break 51 major league pitching records. Among these were seven no-hitters, and 5,714 strikeouts during the course of his career. He also played longer than any other player. He won a total of 324 games.
Ryan has had his uniform number retired by three teams, also a major league record. His number was retired by the Angels, the Astros, and the Rangers. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility. The same year, he was elected to the All-Century Team.
Ryan still lives in his hometown, Alvin, Texas, with his wife Ruth. After retiring from baseball, he entered into several business ventures, among them ownership and management of a bank based in Alvin, two restaurants, and a group of cattle ranches. In 1997, Ryan and his son Reid headed a group of investors that bought a minor league team affiliated with the Houston Astros, moving it from its Jackson, Mississippi base to Texas and renaming it the Round Rock Express.
- Nolan Ryan - Awards And Accomplishments
- Nolan Ryan - Related Biography: Baseball Player Reid Ryan
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