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Two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy called Nolan Ryan “the only pitcher you start thinking about two days before you face him.”
Ryan’s career spanned four decades and when all was said and done, he retired with 324 wins and a major league-record 5,714 strikeouts.
Ryan’s career began with the Mets organization in the mid- 1960s, but his commitment to his country, through military reserve service, prevented him from really hitting his stride in New York. It was not until the completion of his military service, and his trade to the California Angels, that the real Nolan Ryan emerged.
During his time with the Angels, he hurled four no-hitters and broke Sandy Koufax’s modern-era single-season strikeout record. Reggie Jackson, one of the most dominant sluggers of the generation, explained what it was like to face him. “I love to bat against Nolan Ryan and I hate to bat against Nolan Ryan. It’s like ice cream. You may love it, but you don’t want it shoveled down your throat by the gallon. I’ve never been afraid at the plate but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable. He’s the only pitcher who’s ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap.”
As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, Nolan Ryan returned home to Texas, signing with the Houston Astros and becoming baseball’s first one million dollar per year player. The 1980s were a decade of milestones for Nolan Ryan as he passed Walter Johnson’s all-time strikeout mark, broke Sandy Koufax major league-record four no-hitters, and struck out the 5,000th batter of his career.
Before hanging up his spikes at age 46, Ryan topped the 300-win mark and hurled a record seventh no-hitter as a member of the Texas Rangers.