To be a Met fan there are many questions that will keep you up late at night. Most of these questions begin with the two words … What if. These questions might include ” What if Yogi let George Stone start game seven of the ’73 World Series?” Or ” What if Carlos Beltran swung at that Adam Wainwright curve ball during the ’06 NLCS ?” I’m sure one of the most frequently asked ones is ” What if Timo Perez ran hard after that Todd Zeile blast in game one of the ’00 World Series?” But this last question pertains to number 21 on this list of the top 50 Mets of all time. That Question is ” What if the Mets never traded Nolan Ryan?” Great question indeed, I’m still wondering how he didn’t place in the top 10 of this list.
Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. was born in Refugio Texas on January 31, 1947. After graduating from high school in Alvin, Texas, Ryan was drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 1965 Major League Baseball Draft.
The Mets immediately assigned him to the Marion Mets – their Appalachian League affiliate, which was located in Marion, Virginia.
In 1966 Nolan was promoted to the majors. At the time he was the second youngest player in the league. He ended the ’66 season with a record of 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA. He had six strike outs in 3.0 innings.
1967 was a lost season for Nolan. Between illness, shoulder problems and his commitment to the Army reserve, he would only pitch seven innings for the Mets minor league affiliate in Jacksonville Mississippi.
Nolan would finally make the majors for good in 1968. But even with his blazing fastball, he was unable to get a spot in the Mets starting rotation. He would go 6-9 in 18 game starts ( he appeared in 21 games overall), with 133 strike outs and a ERA of 3.09.
In 1969, Nolan was used primarily as a reliever, but he did make the occasional spot start. Throughout the season , Nolan dealt with painful blisters on his throwing hand, and he used a homespun remedy that consisted of him soaking his hand in pickle brine to toughen up his callouses. He ended the ’69 regular season with a record of 6-3 with 92 strike outs and a ERA OF 3.53.
Ryan pitched lights out during the ’69 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Ryan threw seven innings of in game three, giving up two earned runs. It was his first career playoff win.
In the 1969 World Series,would make his lone appearance in game three. He pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings to record his first post season save.against the Baltimore Orioles. That would be the only World Series appearance of his career.
In 1970, Nolan would finally break into the starting rotation.He was rather inconsistent with his pitches and he was notably wild. He would go 7-11 for the season with 125 strikeouts and a ERA of 3.42. Ryan often credits pitching coach, Rube Walker and Tom Seaver for becoming a pitcher and not a thrower. However,
by 1971 Ryan had become increasingly frustrated with his roll on the team and had threatened to retire from baseball entirely. His unhappiness reflected in his performance , and he ended the season with a record of 10–14 with a ERA of 3.97. After the season ended , he demanded to be traded , and on December 10, 1971,the Mets granted his wish by trading him to the California Angels along with pitcher, Don Rose, catcher Francisco Estrada and outfielder Leroy Stanton for shortstop Jim Fregosi , who the Mets tried to convert into a third baseman. Needless to say the trade blew up in the Mets faces, Fregosi was washed up by the time he joined the Mets, and he would in just about 150 games for us. Meanwhile Ryan would thrive in California, throwing three no hitters in his eight years with the Angels. He would have four more no hitter withboth the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. He was a eight time All Star and he hold the Major Leaguer record in strikeouts with 5,714. In 1999 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame, and he is currently the co-owner of the Texas Rangers.
In 2009 he made his first appearance in a Mets uniform since being traded in ’71, when he was on hand to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the ’69 World Series. The Mets faithful gave him a standing ovation as he along with Seaver and Koosman threw out the first pitch to Berra, Grote and Dyer.
Yes trading Ryan was and forever will be a black eye on this franchise, but when you think about it it might have been the best thing to ever happen to Nolan Ryan.
Tomorrow we will lift the veil of on number 20 of the top 50 countdown. He is a important member of this current Mets roster.
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today includes:
One time Major League catcher for the Cubs, Barry Foote is 59 (1952) . Barry was employed as the Mets third base coach from ’92-93 under manager Jeff Torborg.
Utility infielder from the ’92 team, Bill Pecota is 51 (1960) .
The York Mets signed free agent pitcher, Clem Labine on February 16, 1962. Clem would less than a month in a Mets uniform. He would be released on May 1st, 1962.
And while you try to find any and every tidbit of information that trickles out of Port Saint Lucie, just remember that there are just 44 David Cone Days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and just 51 more days until their Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn is planning on strong arming J.P Ricciardi for a chance to make the team. He has brought a duffelbag full of chocodiles to bribe Ricciardi with !!