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On This Date in Sports: August 22, 1989: Nolan 5000

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Needing six strikeouts to make history again, Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers fans Rickey Henderson of the Oakland Athletics, to become the first pitcher in baseball history with 5,000 strikeouts. Ryan would finish the game with 13Ks, pitching a complete game, but losing 2-0 at Arlington Stadium. Nolan Ryan would pitch four more years, finishing his career with 5,714 strikeouts, more than 800 more than anyone else.

Lynn Nolan Ryan was born on January 31, 1947, in Refugio, Texas. Growing up in Alvin, Texas Ryan enjoyed throwing things from the time he could walk and was encouraged to take up baseball. By the time he was in Junior High School, he was already throwing 100mph and throwing No-Hitters. In the first year of the MLB Draft in 1965, Nolan Ryan was selected in the 12th round by the New York Mets.

Nolan Ryan would make his major league debut with the Mets at the age of 19 on September 11, 1966. The first batter he faced Pat Jarvis would naturally be a strikeout. He would miss much of the 1967 season dealing with injuries and serving in the Army Reserves. Nolan Ryan would make it back to the majors in 1968 but spent much of his early career being a swingman out of the bullpen. Though he had two important postseason appearances with the 1969 Mets, winning the pennant clincher in the NLCS, and earning a save in Game 3 of the World Series. It would be the only World Series appearance of Ryan’s career. Much of Nolan Ryan’s Mets career can be marked by fast pitching that was not always accurate as he notched 493 pitches in New York before being traded to the California Angels after the 1971 season.

The Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi trade would become one of the most infamous deals in Mets history as the Ryan Express got on track in Anaheim. Nolan Ryan would credit much of his success with the Angels to coach Jimmy Reese, whom he would name his first son after. With the Angels, Nolan Ryan had a breakout season in 1972, leading the American League with 329 strikeouts. A year later he tossed the first two No-Hitters of his career while setting a single-season record with 383 strikeouts as he finished second in Cy Young voting behind Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles. The 1973 season also saw Ryan reach 1,000 strikeouts against Sal Bando of the Athletics. Nolan Ryan enjoyed some of the finest seasons of his career with the Angels, as he tossed four no-hitters in three years. In eight seasons total with the Angels, Nolan Ryan had 2,416 strikeouts in eight years, earning his 2,000th strikeout against Ron LeFlore of the Detroit Tigers in 1976.

Going home, Nolan Ryan became the first player to make a million dollars in a season when he signed with the Houston Astros in 1980. The Ryan Express continued to run in 1980 as he got his 300th strikeout against Cesar Geronimo of the Cincinnati Reds. A year later he set a record with five career no-hitters against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1983, Nolan Ryan broke Walter Johnson’s all-time strikeout record of 3,508 by sitting down Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos. Over the next year, Ryan would battle Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies for the all-time strikeout lead. However, Carlton faded away in 1985, as Ryan fanned Danny Heep of the New York Mets to become the first pitcher with 4,000 strikeouts. In nine seasons with the Astros, Ryan 1,866 strikeouts.

With his career looking to be nearing an end, Nolan Ryan joined the Texas Rangers in 1989 and enjoyed a resurgence at the age of 42 as he topped 300 strikeouts for the first time since 1977, winning it was the tenth time he led the league in Ks. Ryan would continue his remarkable success in Texas as threw no-hitter number six in 1990 and number seven in 1991 while surpassing 300 wins. Nolan Ryan’s career would come to an end after 27 seasons in 1993, with 5,714 strikeouts. Of those 5,714 strikeouts, 939 were with the Rangers, the final of which came on September 17, 1993, against Greg Myers of the California Angels. At the time of his retirement, Ryan had nearly 1,600 more strikeouts than Steve Carlton was ranked second at 4,136. He still is the only pitcher with 5,000 strikeouts as Randy Johnson ranked second all-time has 4,875.