Nolan Ryan was a freak- and I mean that in the best of ways. Nolan Ryan played a record setting 27 seasons. His first season was in 1966 with the New York Mets. He played for four teams in his career- the Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. His final year was 1993 at the age of 46. His career was ended with by an injury. His last pitch by the way was 98 miles an hour.
During Ryan’s career he threw 7 no- hitters and struck out a record 5714 batters- both records that are unlikely to be touched. He also has the record for most batters walked. He won 324 games in his career against 292 loses with a 3.19 lifetime ERA. He was an amazing physical specimen. I saw him pitch many times with the Astros. If he was going to pitch in a series against my Pirates in Pittsburgh more often than not I’d make sure I saw it- you never knew what you were going to get with Nolan- who knows he may pitch a no-hitter or strike out 15 or 20 batters. Anything was possible. In his last season he pitched in Cleveland and I sensed it could be the last time I’d get to see him live so I made the drive up to Cleveland and in looking at the pitching logs- he pitched 7 innings, gave up 2 hits, a run and only struck out 2. It was win #324 in his career- his final victory. He only pitched 4 more games before his career ending arm injury.
I have always liked Nolan Ryan but where it gets tricky is some of his fans have drank the Jim Jones Kool-Aid- and believe that the 7 no-hitters and all those strike outs means that he was the greatest pitcher ever. Crazy. Is Nolan Ryan a Hall of Famer? Yes he is and is deserving of that honor without question but he is not among the Top 25 pitchers of all time in my opinion. Top 30 yes. I have no argument with that. Many baseball people have remarked that Nolan Ryan didn’t really learn how to pitch until the tale end of his career. For most of his career they say he didn’t pitch all that smartly. He was in love with strikeouts. He had a great great fastball and that at times he used it too much. That he lost games due to challenging good fastball hitters with his fastballs. He won some of those duels but also lost some. Also remember all the walks. He led the league in walks given up eight times. He also never won a Cy Young Award. Yes he was a great pitcher but nowhere near being the greatest of all time.
I bought a couple Nolan Ryan t-shirts in the early 1990’s on one of my trips to baseball ballparks. I didn’t see his 300th victory but I have the t-shirt!