The Nolan Ryan Express Was Always on Time
For baseball fans it was a moving moment as
baseball's immortals who were part of the All-Century team assembled on
the field before Game 2 of the World Series. For me, seeing Nolan Ryan
standing there was an especially moving moment.
As an author who was privileged to have the
opportunity to get to know him and his family while writing "Throwing
Heat," his autobiography, I became intimately aware of how he began
and what he has accomplished. The life and times of Nolan Ryan is truly
the story of the realization of the American dream.
He grew up in the small town of Alvin, Texas, and
still makes his home there. As a teenager Nolan delivered the Houston
In "Throwing Heat," he said, "Some
people claimed that I developed my arm throwing the Houston Post. That was
not the case. It was a short throw from a car, and I made the throw
Back-handed with my left hand wile I steered my '52 Chevy with my right
hand. But I did develop the knack of being able to roll and tie fifty
newspapers in just about five minutes, and that probably helped me develop
strong fingers and wrists."
The strong fingers and wrists were part of the reason
for Ryan's great success. A tremendous work ethic was another. Nolan had
992,040 votes to rank first among all pitchers on the All-Century team. He
was followed by Sandy Koufax (970,434), Cy Young (867,523), Roger Clemens
(601,244), Bob Gibson (582,031). That's elite company.
One can only wonder what went through Nolan's mind
out there on the field next to Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, and Sandy Koufax.
Aaron was one of Ryan's idols in his growing up years, and Koufax was a
pitcher he truly admired.
"One Sunday between my junior and senior years
in high school we went to see the Houston Colt .45's play the Los Angeles
Dodgers. Sandy Koufax was pitching, and I was a big Koufax fan. It was the
first time I had ever seen Sandy pitch. I was truly amazed at how fast he
was and how good a curveball he had. I think he was the most overpowering
pitcher I had ever seen."
The all time strikeout record belongs to Nolan now.
But once upon a time, and for a long period, it belonged to Walter Johnson
who finished in sixth-place in the voting for pitchers with 479,279 votes.
One day early in the 1969 season, Nolan was sitting
in the Mets' dugout when Jim Bunning recorded his 2,500th strikeout. He
asked Tom Seaver what the all-time record for strikeouts was and was told
that it was 3,508 and held by Walter Johnson.
"That Johnson record will probably stand
forever," Ryan told Seaver. Baseball fans know it didn't. Nolan broke
it, and is the all-time strikeout leader with 5,714. That Ryan record will
probably stand forever, as will a few other records Nolan picked up along
He holds the record for most strikeouts in a major
league season with 383, which he set while playing for the Angels in 1973.
He struck out 100 in a season 24 times, another record. He also set the
record for most consecutive seasons with 100 or more strikeouts, doing it
23 time in a row. He also holds the record for most career no-hitters with
It is the records that are most associated with the
man they called "The Ryan Express." For me it will always be his
character. He's a great family man, a person who extends kindness to
strangers, a guy who always remembers his friends.
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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