The Making of a Pitcher
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NOLAN RYAN - The Making of a Pitcher ($26.95)
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If you’re a power pitcher, you’re gonna be a little wild. You’re going to throw out of the strike zone when you throw that hard. And it was acceptable. Ryan might have walked a bunch of people, but it really doesn’t matter how many people you walk—it’s how many you strike out in situations when you need a strikeout. And in strikeout situations, nobody got any more out of them then he did. He had the ability to tune it up a little, and that’s rare. His mantra was, ‘Bring your game. I’m gonna throw it and if you hit it, congratulations. If you don’t, sit the [bleep] down!
You just couldn’t replace a Nolan Ryan, he was one of a kind. He put fear into the hearts of the other team. You always knew when we came into town, in one of those three games we’d be playing you’d probably be facing the strikeout leader of the league. He carried a presence with him that we couldn’t replace. I think everybody, to a man, did not want to see him go. He was the anchor of our rotation, and we knew with him gone we would be weaker.
You wanted to play with him and behind him, and you were going to defend him. Even if he knocked somebody down, you were not going to let anybody get near him. I remember one time after I got hit, Nolan asked me, ‘Who do you want me to get?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll get somebody on the double-play or something. You pitch your game.
Nolan was a .500 pitcher because of his teammates, and I know he won’t say that. But check his ERA when he was a .500 pitcher, or his complete games when he was 16–16 or 19–17. Nolan didn’t have much help. He was never on a dominant team.
Of all the pitchers I ever faced in my 13 years in the big leagues, Nolan had the biggest strike zone. Umpires just would bow to his command. With the 7,000 strikeouts, seven no-hitters, and the stare, he had a mystique and he could intimidate the umpires, and as his career was coming to a close it was something he took advantage of. I don’t think he did it consciously. It’s sort of like Clint Eastwood, who never knew he was tough and sexy until someone told him he was. And when Nolan was at the end of his career, he was kind of like Clint Eastwood.
-Andy Van Slyke
Nolan made me start looking at myself. When I came up to the big leagues, I would hold my hands straight up and hit anybody. But I couldn’t hit Nolan, because he’d overpower me upstairs. So I started crouching and noticed I could see the difference in his fastball when I was down better than when I stood straight up. From then on, I was able to handle his fastball a little bit better.
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