The Ryan Express: How Nolan Ryan became a Texas baseball legend

This Date In Baseball History- November 19, 1979- The Houston Astros signed free agent pitcher- Nolan Ryan to a four year contract- worth a total of 4.5 million dollars. This would make the future Hall of Famer not only the highest paid player in baseball history- but also the first to earn $1,000,000 in a season. Ryan who had pitched for the California Angels from 1972-79 became a free agent at the end of the 1979 season. He would spend most of the 1980’s with the Astros [1980-88] before finishing his career with the Texas Rangers. Was Ryan worth the money? He was worth every dime. Not only was he a great pitcher- but a big gate attraction. If he was pitching against the Pirates in those seasons- I made sure to be there. You never knew what you could see- a lot of strikeouts- and who knows- maybe a no-hitter- he had seven in his career. I also got the see what would be his final pitching win- of his career on August 15, 1993. I saw he would be pitching against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland- a friend and I made the trip knowing this could be the last opportunity Ryan- he was 46 at the time. He pitched seven innings and gave up only 2 hits- and 1 run- and only 2 strike outs- winning his 324th and final major league victory. Late in September he tore a ligament in his arm and that was the end of his 27 year career [ a record ]- Note- the final pitch he threw- the one he was injured on- was clocked at 98 MPH. Keep in mind Ryan was 46 at the time. He was a freak. Note- Ryan made headlines becoming the first $1 million dollar man in baseball – in 2021 the highest paid player in the game was the Angels Mike Trout- he made $37.1 million.


  1. great piece! I didn’t know he was first into the $1M club (actually thought it was Pete Rose but might have even thought Andy messersmith before them both) . He was incredible, like you say. 27 years! and pitching hard… no 75mph knuckle-curves or “take me out coach! I’ve thrown 60 pitches already!’ games.

    • I think the first $1 million year regular player was Dave Parker- which caused him a lot of grief in Pittsburgh at the time.

  2. He was a freak. His 7 no hitters record has to be pretty safe…to pitch to your 46 is unbelievable but to have velocity at 98? That is incredible.
    Just imagine facing Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard in the same series…unfortunately that only lasted a half season.

    • One of the few predictions I have ever gotten right- as Ryan went into his 40’s- I remember saying that he would go on strong- and it wouldn’t be ineffectiveness that would end his career but as injury. He was a freak- like Bo Jackson was in baseball and football.

    • His DNA was just perfect from throwing a ball. No way you can use him as a guide for another pitcher or their arm might fall off.
      I wonder how many pitches the man threw in his lifetime?

    • That would be a fascinating stat to know wouldn’t it… there was a game with the Angels in the early 70’s where he threw something like 250 in one game. .. If he only had better control… not only the strikeout king but the walk king.

    • I’m sure someone has that stat.
      Yea he was raring back and trying to strike out everyone…and it worked for the most part! Whew…250 lol…I can’t imagine!

    • I looked it up- i was off by a few in a game on june 14, 1974 he threw 235 pitches … they started tabulating this stat in 1988 record since then Wakefield 172 in a game as a Pirate in 1993- of course he could have thrown all night with that knuckleball..

    • That is crazy still. I’m glad you got to see him.
      Yea the knuckleball is like playing catch in the backyard. Some when they were tired it was better.

  3. What little I understand of baseball, I did like watching him…when I caught some games. I have a much younger paternal cousin that, by three years of age, was a baseball nut…if you can actually imagine a three year old calmly lying in front of a TV and taking in baseball games like he was studying ants or something. He was born in 1983 so, by 1986, I knew who Ryan was.

    As a side note, I lived just outside of the limits of the city that holds his namesake…Round Rock Express. My ex and I went to one game, as I recall (he was not a baseball fan by any stretch of the imagination) and it is a cool place.

    I did grow up going to Burlington Indians games…unsure if they were A, AA or AAA. They still exist as Burlington Royals, now. Heh, even my small hometown rated a team.

    Over the last few years, I’ve had a blast at Durham Bulls games. Not anymore, tho…😠😡🤬😭

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s