You may remember sometime back, Major League Baseball pulled a promotional stunt called “The All Century Team”. This was basically, the fans voting on who they thought were the best players of all time at each position. Well, the results showed how much the average fan knows and well, they know little. The most telling item of their folly was Nolan Ryan being voted as the best pitcher of all time.
Now the case against Ryan is strong. His walk totals, failures in the post season, never won a Cy Young award, etc. The case for him is like Swiss cheese (it has holes in it and it stinks). The strikeouts are impressive, but does the fact that he is the all time leader in strikeouts (and walks) really make him the best pitcher of all time? Would you call Bert Blyleven the 5th best pitcher of all time? He threw 7 no hitters. Impressive, but even Dick Bosman threw a no hitter. I would say Ryan belongs in the vicinity of number 40, somewhere near Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton, on the “All Century Team”.
So instead of quoting the facts of Ryan’s mediocrity (only 2 20 win seasons, all time leader in walks, 3rd all time in losses, etc.) ad nauseam, I will recollect one game in which he showed his true colors.
The date is October 12, 1980. The place is the Astrodome. In the final game of the National League Championship Series, where the winner wins the NL flag and the loser goes home, Ryan showed his true colors.
The score was 2-2. In the bottom of the seventh, Ryan’s Astros plated 3 runs giving them a 5-2 lead and the NL Championship in their sights. All they needed were six outs. The top of the eighth opens with the fans choice for greatest pitcher of all time on the hill, and the rest is history…..
Ryan gave up three hits and a walk to the only four batters he faced that inning. All 4 runners scored and the Phillies went on to win the World Series.