Yesterday, I was feeling down about the Texas Rangers and their 66-89 record so I watched Facing Nolan on Netflix.
Facing Nolan is a documentary about Nolan Ryan, the Texas icon who played in the Major Leagues for 27 seasons and who proved himself to be the greatest pitcher who ever played the game. He started his career with the Mets, working as a relief pitcher until he saved the Mets from losing Game 3 of the 1969 World Series. (Somehow, it would be his only World Series appearance as a player.) He was traded to the Angels, where he finally worked with a coach who was able to get wild pitching style under control. After his son was nearly killed in a car accident, Ryan returned to Texas and played first for the Astros and then for the Rangers. After he finally retired from baseball, Ryan became a businessman and a rancher. He was President and CEO of the Rangers during the two seasons that we made it to the World Series. I can remember Ryan being interviewed during those exciting playoff games as the Rangers made their way to their first two World Series appearances. I’ll always associate Nolan Ryan with my two favorites seasons of baseball.
Ryan holds a total of 52 MLB records, including:
5,714 career strikeouts
215 career double-digit strikeout games
7 career no-hitters
12 career 1-hitters, tied with Bob Feller
18 career 2-hitters
31 career 3-hitters
15 200-strikeout seasons
6 300-strikeout seasons
6.555 career hits per nine innings
5.26 single-season hits per nine innings (1972)
Lowest batting average allowed, career (minimum 1500 innings) .204
26 seasons with at least one win
2,795 career walks
10 grand slams allowed (tied)
757 career stolen bases allowed
How did Nolan Ryan set all those records? According to Facing Nolan, he did it by just being naturally better than every other pitcher in the game. From his childhood on, Nolan Ryan was a powerful pitcher and a natural leader. At first, he didn’t even realize how good he was. When he was drafted into the Mets after high school, Ryan thought he would just play for four seasons, get his pension, and then return to his hometown of Alvin, Texas and work as a vet. It took the Mets a while to realize how good he was too. Up until his World Series performance, he was considered to just be a relief pitcher who was as likely to hit the batter as to get the ball over the plate. When he was with the Mets, he got paid $7,000 a season and, after the Mets won the world series, Ryan still had to get a job installing air conditioning units to support himself during the off-season. Ryan kept playing as he moved from team to team and, by the time he threw his second no hitter in 1973, everyone knew how good he was. Ryan also knew how good he was and made sure he got paid a salary that reflected it. There would be no more installing air conditioners to make ends meet!
Facing Nolan features interviews with Ryan’s family, his former teammates, and his former managers. George W. Bush is interviewed and it’s obvious that Nolan Ryan’s time with the Rangers is one of his favorite things to talk about. Facing Nolan was made by a fan for the fans and watching it, I was transported back to those days when the Rangers were winning every game and it seemed like our first World Series victory was just one strikeout away. Hopefully, all of us fans will get to reexperience that feeling someday soon and, when the Rangers do finally win a Series, Nolan Ryan will sitting in the stands watching.