Nolan Lynn Ryan
Born: Jan. 3, 1947 in Refugio, Texas
Debut: 1966 | Pos: P
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 195 | B: R | T: R
>> Visit the Nolan Ryan biography on Baseball Almanac for complete statistics.
By Rob Olds
Hall of Fame
Nolan Ryan, one of the most dominating and intimidating pitchers the game has ever seen, enjoyed the longest career of any player in major league history. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 10th round of the June 1965 free agent draft and, like most power pitchers, had trouble mastering his high octane fastball. His first few years in baseball were marred by frustration due to a lack of consistency in his throwing routine.
The Mets used him mostly out of the bullpen and allowed him to start occasionally. At the conclusion of the 1971 season, Ryan had a mediocre 29-38 record along with a 3.58 ERA in 105 games (74 starts) with the Mets and, as a result, was traded to the California Angels (along with pitcher Don Rose, catcher Francisco Estrada, and outfielder Leroy Stanton) for Jim Fregosi on December 10.
A change of scenery was all Ryan needed to prove to his critics that he had what it took to succeed at the major league level. He would go on to win 138 games for the Angels, throw 4 no-hitters, win 7 American League strikeout titles in 8 seasons, and lead the league in shutouts twice. After the 1979 campaign, Ryan left the Angels after setting franchise records for wins, strikeouts (2,416), complete games (156), and shutouts (40). He led the Halos to their first ever divisional title in 1979.
The Express signed with the Houston Astros, and became baseball's first million dollar man, on Nov. 19, 1979. During his 9 seasons in Houston, Ryan joined Cy Young as the only other pitcher in baseball history to win 100 games in both leagues (138 with the Angels, 106 with the Astros), threw his record-breaking fifth no-hitter, and won two N.L. strikeout (1987-88) and ERA titles (1981, 1987).
In the twilight of his career with the Texas Rangers, Ryan won his 300th game (July 31, 1990), threw his final two-no hitters, and achieved his 5,000th career strikeout (August 22, 1989), which earned him a place in baseball history as one of the game's greatest pitchers.
He was voted onto Major League Baseball's All Century Team in 1999 by the fans, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 25 of that year. Prior to Game Four of the 2002 World Series, his 7th no-hitter was voted one of baseball's Ten Greatest Moments.
Key events in Ryan's Hall of Fame career:
1972: Ryan takes the American League by storm with a 19-16 record, 2.28 ERA, 9 shutouts, 20 complete games, and a league-leading 329 strikeouts; also set the single season record for fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.26).
1973: Won 20 games for the first time in his career (21), while setting a single season record for most strikeouts (383), throwing two no-hitters, 26 complete games, and 4 shutouts. On September 27, Ryan went 11 innings vs. Minnesota and posted 16 K's to top Sandy Koufax' single season strikeout record.
1974: The Express became the first pitcher in baseball history to post three consecutive 300 strikeout seasons while leading the league with 367 K's; Ryan struck out 19 hitters in a game 3 times (June 14 and August 12 vs. Boston and August 20 vs. Detroit). On the final day of the season, he threw his third career no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins, while striking out 15.
1975: On June 1, Ryan won his 100th career game (and threw his 4th no-hitter) in a 1-0 decision against the Baltimore Orioles in Anaheim; was only campaign with the Angels in which he did not lead the A.L. in strikeouts (186).
1976: Off year for The Express (17-18 record), but led the league in shutouts (7) and won his fourth strikeout title (327 K's).
1977: Ryan struck out 19 hitters in a game for the fourth time in his career (June 8 vs. Toronto), won his fifth strikeout title (341 K's), posted a 2.77 ERA, and tied for league lead in complete games (22).
1978: Went 10-13, but won his sixth league strikeout title (260 K's) and threw 14 complete games.
1979: The Express led the Angels to their first divisional title in franchise history with a 16-14 record, a league-leading 223 strikeouts, 17 complete games, and 5 shutouts; signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent on November 19.
1981: In his second season with Houston, Ryan won his first ERA title (1.69) and threw his record-breaking fifth no-hitter. Pitching before a national television audience against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryan threw a 5-0 shutout and fanned 11.
Prior to the start of the players' strike, Ryan faced Pete Rose in a classic confrontation. Rose had predicted before the season began that he would break Stan Musial's National League hit record against Ryan. In his first at bat, Rose singled to tie the record at 3,630. However, in his final three at bats, Ryan fanned him each time to deny him the record. After striking out in his last at bat, Rose looked toward the mound and tipped his hat at Ryan.
1987: Ryan became the first pitcher to lead his league in strikeouts (270) and ERA (2.76) and not win the Cy Young Award (he had an 8-16 record). On September 8, he posted his 4,500th career strikeout against San Francisco (16 K's in the game); lost 8 straight decisions from June 2-July 29, during which the Astros scored no more than 4 runs in a game (once, on June 28 in an 8-4 loss at San Francisco).
1989: In his first season with the Rangers, Ryan went 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA, 6 complete games, 2 shutouts, and a league-leading 301 strikeouts in 239.1 innings. He fanned Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's with a 94 mph fastball on August 22 to reach 5,000 career strikeouts.
1990: Ryan won his 300th game on July 31 at Milwaukee and won his 11th, and final, league strikeout title (232 K's).
1993: On August 4, was involved in mound altercation with Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura; hampered by injuries all season, Ryan threw his final pitch in the major leagues on September 22 at Seattle.
1999: Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown on July 25.