Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Texas Rangers signing of Hall of Fame hurler, Nolan Ryan. To say that he had an impact on the organization is a huge understatement. He is the inspiration for the name of this very website, but his contribution to Rangers baseball obviously goes much deeper than that. It is hard to believe that it has already been 35 years since we added the Ryan Express to the roster. My 10-year-old self still feels like it was just yesterday, and yet my 45-year-old self knows that it was not.
Ryan came to the Rangers at a time when the club was underappreciated outside of Arlington, and he immediately put the national spotlight on Texas. He was 41 years old when he signed with the Rangers and would pitch his 42 through 46-year-old seasons in Arlington. Those five seasons saw many records being broken and lots of highlights. Many Rangers fans my age and older remember those days fondly and still cherish the opportunities that we had, to be able to see him pitch at the old Arlington Stadium.
Nolan Ryan helped take the Texas Rangers into the national spotlight
In four of the five seasons that Ryan pitched for the Rangers, the team would finish the season above .500. While that isn't making the playoffs, for a team that had struggled for most of the 1980s, this was an exciting time for Rangers baseball. And even though Ryan would retire at the age of 46 after the 1993 season, it would only take three more years before the team would have its first playoff appearance in 1996. Ryan had a hand in that as he helped build the stage for those mid to late 1990s playoff teams.
From reaching the 5,000 strikeout milestone in 1989 to recording no-hitters number six and seven in 1990 and 1991 respectively, Ryan had more big moments with the Rangers than just about any stop along his illustrious career. And the toughness of the tall Texan was unparalleled. After taking a line drive to the chin off of the bat of Bo Jackson, Ryan would stay in the game and pitch with blood all over his face and uniform. He was a baseball player everyone loved and respected.
Robin Ventura's gaffe was a hit with Rangers fans and himself
Well, almost everyone respected Ryan. A young Robin Ventura would find out the hard way what it was like if you didn't respect the hard-nosed rancher who wore #34. In his last season, the 46-year-old Ryan would pound some sense into the 26-year-old Ventura after he charged the mound. There was some bad blood between the Rangers and the White Sox at the time, but I think in hindsight that Venture should have picked a softer spot!
Nolan Ryan is a legend that is as big as the state of Texas itself. He left his mark on the club first as a player and then as an executive. Rangers fans, young and old, should be thankful for the team taking a risk and signing the aging pitcher on December 7, 1988. The Texas Rangers are better still today, because of that one free agent acquisition.
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