On this date in 1988, the Texas Rangers signed one of the most prolific pitchers in franchise history. The Texas native, left the floundering Houston Astros to join the team up north.

In a move that today some would criticize, the Rangers brought in “The Ryan Express” for his age 42 season after he posted a 12-11 record with the ‘Stros. It was just a 1-year deal at the time but ended up being 5 of the most memorable years for a player to wear the Rangers uniform.

For the Record

During his time in Arlington, Rangers fans were able to witness the all-time records in strikeouts (5,714), no-hitters (7), 1-hitters (12), 2-hitters (18), 3-hitters (31), seasons with a win (26), 300 strikeout seasons (6) and 200 strikeout season (15).

On Ryans’ 5,000th strike-out, the victim Ricky Henderson is quoted saying “If he ain’t struck you out, then you ain’t nobody”. That speaks volumes for his legacy, having struck out numerous Hall of Famers, All-time greats, and fan favorites over his incredible 27 seasons and 5,386 innings. As a comparison, Clayton Kershaw (who some fans will incorrectly call “washed”) has only pitched just over HALF that in 14 seasons with 2454 innings pitched. Fun fact about Nolans’ longevity, in his last season as a Ranger, Darren Oliver made his debut. Oliver’s  DAD had been Ryan’s teammate in California.

Cementing his status

Of course, pitching statistics and incredible performances weren’t the only memories Rangers fans were able to make with the great Nolan Ryan. In his final season, a young and naïve Robin Ventura decided to grant us with one of the greatest posters of all time. Ventura charged the mound and was quickly placed in a headlock as the 6-2 Ryan began waylaying blows to the face. Ventura would be ejected for charging the 47-year old while Ryan would go on to not allow a hit for the rest of the game. 

Nolan originally signed with the Rangers to finish his career on his own terms. Unfortunately, that was ruined when he tore his UCL ( that would’ve led to Tommy John) 2 starts before the end of the ’93 season. In true legendary fashion, he attempted to pitch through the injury but could not. At 47 years old, after over 5,400 innings and a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament, Ryan’s final pitch was still clocked at 98 mph.

Though his playing career was over, Ryan’s effect on the organization would continue. In 2008 Ryan, Chuck Greenburg, and company would outbid Mark Cuban for ownership. Being given the title of CEO and President of Baseball Operations, he would help construct the Rangers teams that would eventually lead to the 2011 and ’12 world series births. 

In 1999 Nolan was elected into the Baseball hall of fame during his first year on the ballot. It was tarnished by 6 rather brash writers who failed to vote for one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He does still hold the mantel of 5th highest percentage (98.79%) to be elected.

 

 

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