Nolan Ryan hasn’t thrown a pitch since 1993, when a fastball in the Kingdome finally ended a remarkable career. That doesn’t mean his reputation has diminished on a major-league field.
Ryan was in the Ballpark at Arlington on Wednesday as the Rangers honored him on the fifth anniversary of his seventh no-hitter - and the Seattle Mariners were acutely aware of his presence.
Norm Charlton walked over to the Rangers dugout, shook hands and chatted for several minutes with Ryan, then walked away beaming. Bob Wells sent over a few baseballs to be autographed.
And third baseman Russ Davis, still in the minors when Ryan’s career ended, was absolutely awed.
“I’d love to meet him,” Davis said, “but I think if I went over there he’d throw me out of the dugout.”
Even manager Lou Piniella had an attitude of respect toward a pitcher he faced many times.
“When Nolan had the curve and the fastball working, it was a long night,” he said. “You’d go to the plate as a right-handed hitter, and your heart was in it - but your butt wasn’t. He could buckle you.”
Ryan owns 53 major league records, but the most amazing stat may be this: Along with his seven no-hit games, Ryan threw 12 one-hitters.
As for Ryan, he has a personal-services contract with the Rangers that will pay him $200,000 a year for the rest of the decade. Noting all the high scores this season, Ryan smiled and said: “Looks like I got out just in time.”
Seattle opens a 10-game homestand Thursday night against the team that ousted the Mariners from the postseason - Cleveland. Thursday night, it’s Orel Hershiser (2-2, 5.65) vs. Bob Wolcott (1-3, 6.33) in a 7:05 p.m. game that will be televised on Prime Sports cable.