Nolan Ryan Isn’t The Greatest MLB Pitcher Ever, But His Resume Is Unmatched
For four decades, the “Ryan Express” rolled full speed ahead through Major League Baseball. From the first time he took the mound as a 19-year-old rookie in 1966 with the New York Mets until his final pitch in 1993 as a member of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan was one of greatest pitchers in baseball history.
So why doesn’t Ryan get as much attention as some of the other players to take the mound, like Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens or Jim Palmer? One of the biggest reasons is that while he has a World Series ring, it came early in his career, during his third season with the Mets. Unfortunately for Ryan, he would fail to add a second championship to his resume during the twenty-four seasons that followed. However, that does not mean that the remainder of his career would not go without a number of jaw-dropping performances.
While Ryan would have team success with the 1969 Miracle Mets, his individual highlights would begin once he was traded from New York to the California Angels. In his first season with the Angels, Ryan would lead the league in strikeouts, the first of his eleven years of accomplishing such a feat. Ryan would also be named to the American League All-Star team, an honor that he would repeat three more times during his eight years with the club. Despite Ryan’s individual dominance, which included four no-hitters and two 20-win seasons, the Angels would reach the playoffs only once during his time with the team.
In the fall of 1979, Ryan would sign with the Houston Astros as a free agent because he wanted to head back to his home state of Texas. With yet another achievement to add to his resume, Ryan would be the first player in MLB history to sign a contract that paid him more than $1 million per season. During his eight years with the Astros, the team would reach the playoffs three times but never go further than the National League Championship series. Ryan would earn two more trips to the All-Star game and finish the 1981-82 season with a league best 1.69 ERA.
At the age of 42, Ryan signed with the Texas Rangers, and went on to play for them for five seasons, finishing out his career in 1993. In 1989, during his first season with the Rangers, Ryan, became the second oldest pitcher in league history to play in the mid-season classic. That same season, Ryan struck out a league-high 301 batters. Although the Rangers would fail to qualify for the playoffs during his five years with the team, Ryan would find individual success by throwing his seventh no-hitter at the age of 44.
Six years after he threw his final pitch, Ryan would be enshrined in Cooperstown as part of the class of 1999 Baseball Hall of Fame. With his jersey retired by three different teams, a no-hitter record that most likely will never be broken, a strikeout record that has no chance of being touched (Justin Verlander is the only active player with 3,000+ strikeouts) and 324 victories, Ryan was one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of baseball.